One of those sins that Christians tend to address as “minor,” “little,” and “unimportant,” fear is often deemed, though unintentional as it may be, unnecessary to address. We don’t see it as a big deal, so we just stay fearful. Only, as time goes on, it becomes bigger and bigger until fear contols every aspect of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, fear is a God-given emotion. But that fact may be part of the reason we Christians don’t take it seriously as a problem.
Fear is good in certain ways because it protects us. Fear keeps us from driving extremely fast, from petting a lion, or playing with fire. It alerts us to dangers – not only physical, but even in human relationships. It also keeps our relationship with God balanced. Without fear of God, where would any of us be? We certainly wouldn’t recognize our sin and need for repentence and salvation, because we wouldn’t fear the power God has to throw us into Hell.
Fear becomes wrong [and sin] when we do not fear what God forbids. Obviously, we must fear God and do what he says – but we must also not to do what he forbids. We must fear doing wrong because 1)God forbids it, 2)He will know if you do it, and 3)He has the power to, and will, hold you accountable to it.
The other way fear can become sin is when we fail to follow through on God’s commands because of our fear. Can you think of a time when you failed to do something God commanded you because you were too afraid? I think this is the most common issue with fear today. When God commands you to do something, it’s very common to be afraid at first. It’s unknown, it’s uncomfortable. Some things are more scary than others, of course, but the question you always face when God tells you to something is: “Will I let my fear dictate how I respond to God’s commands?” Consciously, you may not spell it out this way, but anytime we fail to do what God requires (or even if we only do it partially), we are choosing fear over God. It becomes easier each time you do so. And the fear becomes bigger – the more you think about it, the more fearful you get, until it seems you have no choice but to give in to the fear and reject whatever it is you have become afraid of.
The question is, how do you overcome this fear? The answer is, as you might expect, right in the Bible. God knew that fear is a big problem so he made sure we would know how to overcome the wrong kind of fear.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Can you see it? Do you know what it’s saying?
A mother, afraid of even mice, will stand between a vicious dog and her children – out of love.
A fearful person can do God’s will out of their love for Him.
Here is a chart I’m borrowing from Donn Arms: It shows the contrast between fear and love.
What will I lose? What can I give?
Moves away from problems Moves toward problems
Secluded self Reaches out
Hesitates Moves ahead
Can be cast out Casts out fear
As you can see, the ultimate difference between fear and love is the focus on self versus the focus on someone else. When you put your focus on God, loving Him (love as action) will enable you to overcome your fear and do what He commands. The same principle applies to how you interact with other people as well. For example, there was a woman afraid of bridges. She would go out of her way and have to leave extremely early to go anywhere just so that she wouldn’t have to drive over a bridge. One day her daughter got in a car accident. As soon as she found out, she went straight to the hospital – and the quickest way was over the bridge. She said after that didn’t even notice. Her love for her daughter had overcome her fear and she was able to cross the bridge without having a panic attack. Her focus was on her daughter; not herself, not “what ifs.”
Practically, here a few things to keep in mind if you struggle with fear in obeying God:
- Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” If you are fearful because your guilt, make it right. Confess, repent, and make restitution.
- If you are required to do something God expects of you, focus on the obedience – NOT how you feel.
- Don’t try to stop the feeligns of fear from occuring, but instead focus on loving God and the fruit of that love, obedience.
Most of all, trust God when you experience irrational fear.He is all knowing, so He knows what’s best for you. He is all-powerful, so He can do what is best for you.
He is in control.
He can be trusted.
He loves you.
Do you love Him?
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.