1. The Longman Modern English dictionary describes fear as the instinctive emotion aroused by impending or seeming danger, pain or evil.1 Believe it or not, it also talks about awe and reverence in the fear of God.
2. Some people regard F.E.A.R as:
3. Others define fear as the body's natural response system that alerts us to the presence of danger and directs our focus towards self-protection.
4. I describe a fearful person as someone filled with an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. A person who lives in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day. My definition comes from Deuteronomy 28:65-67.
None of the above perfectly defines fear because some fears are induced by spiritual forces that originate from Satan (as with definition 4). Others are the body’s natural response designed by our Maker to protect us from impending danger (definitions 1 and 3). Yet there is a higher call to fear (respect), worship and obey God for who He is, as our Creator who made us perfectly in His own image. This is the fear of the Lord. Definition 2 challenges us to let our faith defy fear and continue to believe in the day of trouble, not letting what we see or feel define us. It is a challenge to use our faith positively to "crowd out" unhealthy fear and focus on the scripture that says, "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17).
In his book When Fear Seems Overwhelming2 Tim Jackson asserts that scientists have discovered some bodily cells called the 'amygdala', which function as a control-centre for our fear’s response. These cells activate almost every needed system within the body to deal with the danger at hand. He adds that, when the system misfires, medical intervention is needed to restore balance in the brain, and a failure to do so may lead to undue levels of fear, anxiety, panic, and depression. Whilst I believe that God uses doctors to treat people, it is important that we guard against thinking that fear or any other emotional response is simply a function of science. God has the final say on everything that concerns those who believe in Him.
Definition 3, above, fails to recognise that everything we are or have belongs to God (our abilities, talents, etc.) and is therefore not our own. So we have nothing to lose and as a result nothing to fear. The problem is that we think things belong to us.
In addition, definition 4, above, seems like fear that comes from a spiritual force induced by Satan. However, I must quickly point out that not all fear is a spirit; and that not all unpleasant emotions are wrong. We know that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV)
We also know that, our Lord is a good God and He works with our faith. Is it not said "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6)? Fear (like the devil) roars because it pretends to be like a lion; but when you confront it, it runs away! Jesus is the Lion of Judah.
How then do we build our faith in God? By seeking Him diligently and believing His Word, for it is written "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17). We also know that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). The author of the letter to the Hebrews defines faith as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" and then goes on to list the great deeds that the people of Israel had accomplished 'by faith' (Hebrews 11:1-40).
In the synoptic gospels faith is the operative factor in many of Jesus’ miracles. Jesus is impressed by the faith of the centurion and so heals his son (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus marvels at the faith of those who brought the paralytic man (Matthew 9:2). When Jesus tells the father of a demon-possessed boy that "all things are possible for the one who believes/has faith," the man responds "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24). John’s gospel emphasises having faith throughout and states its purpose as being to lead people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31).
God is the source of faith and every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He would not bless us today with a gift of 'faith' and take it back tomorrow, only to replace it with fear.
Faith in God will give us inner peace when all we see around us is turmoil. Scripture tells us that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). However, to get the best out of every gift, you need to use it. Likewise, we need to act out what we believe and obey His commands.
Did I hear you say, "For it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:8), and therefore no human effort can contribute to our salvation? This statement is not only true, but it is also profound and delivers us from dead works.
May I declare boldly that our world is full of people who God has been speaking to for a while: calling them, loving them, and yet they have resolved to harden their hearts or have allowed past experiences to cloud their judgment. All of us that fall into this category need to realise that no response to the love of God means no action. No action means the loss of an opportunity to be restored into a loving relationship with God.
What has that to do with fear? Well, some of us are anxious of the unknown and as a result we walk by sight. We operate by the worldly principle "seeing is believing". When the disciples of Jesus were facing the storm on the sea, they were very afraid. However, Jesus responded by saying "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26, New KJV). Like the disciples, Jesus wants us to believe that our boat will not sink if He is in it with us.
The writer of the famous book Feel the Fear But Do It Anyway classifies fear into three levels.
Level 1 (situation oriented); level 2 (ego related); and level 3 (I can’t handle it!). I have used some of Susan Jeffers classifications below because I think we can all relate to them, and it is an established fact that simple and uncomplicated things are usually very effective. However, I need to mention that the levels described below are not in any particular order.
What do you fear? - Three levels of fear3
LEVEL "A" FEARS - Situation oriented
Almost certain to occur:
Possible actions in the face of change:
You are not alone if you identify with some or all of the above.
LEVEL "B" FEARS – What if?
This deals with the inner states of mind, rather than with exterior situations. This reflects our sense of self and abilities to handle this world. Fear of rejection will affect every area of your life - friends, intimate relationships, job interviews etc.
LEVEL "C" FEARS - The "I can’t" syndrome
Some of us may say, "I fear nothing or no one". My honest reply to that person is "Well done my brave heart". But can you really say, "I’ve never had a true encounter with fear in my life?" If your answer is still "Yes", please permit me to awaken your senses and remind you that you may have lost touch with the past or that the truth is not in you.
You may quote to me - "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV). Well done, you are well versed in Scripture. But I’m sure the Holy Spirit will remind you about the time when you feared for safety of your child, spouse, friends or loved ones!
In 1 Timothy 4:12, the apostle Paul had to build up Timothy’s confidence by encouraging him to be focused, not allowing anyone to intimidate him. Apparently, lack of confidence and experience, and the fear of intimidation had prevented Timothy from being effective at the initial stages of his ministry. Paul became an effective instrument in removing the gremlin of fear from Timothy by using the technique of love.
We all fear something and the Lord is well aware of our concerns. It is not a bad thing for us to feel the full fragility of our lives, providing it makes us turn to the Giver of light. We ought to remember that the Spirit of God gives us the power to face our foes, imparts in us the love to overcome evil with good, and the discipline to persevere through our trials. In fact, God is greater than the most severe threats we could ever face in life and in Him we have the power to turn fear into faith.
Some people say “I am fearless” and yet others declare without repenting that “we all fear something”. Irrespective of the school of thought you subscribe to, together we will identify the fear factors in our lives and apply divine wisdom to cast them out. Be resolved never to be a slave to fear any longer because you can master it!
Since The Fear Factor was published in March 2005, some people (friends included) have told me they are brave heart! I still maintain that a person who says he has never been afraid in his live is either a brave heart, suffers from amnesia or the truth has taken a permanent leave of absence in him! Brave hearts are usually ordinary people, like you and I, who have pushed through frightening and terrifying circumstances, conquered their fears and anxieties to achieve a particular result in spite of the odds being stacked against them. Some even use fear as the stepping stone to achieve greatness beyond their imagination - they have mastered fear.
Having spoken to a number of people about what stops them from pursuing their dreams and achieving God’s purpose for their lives, it is apparent to me that the fear of failure occupies a prominent position. Has the fear of failure kept you from trying or putting serious effort into your project? May I inform you that, the person who fails to start learning the job assigned to him because he is afraid has simply failed from the beginning. Such a person cannot take a step backward to trace the point of deviation from the original plan or find out where the original plan was derailed. The person who fails to start is the one who has really failed. Failure and false starts are a precondition, and a major contributor to success. We need to put failures behind us and strive forward to reach new goals ahead. Seek good counsel because there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 24:6). Be focused and determined to succeed irrespective of circumstances or limitation. Gaining victory over our fears is a matter of choice – therefore choose not to be a slave to your fears.
Death is the result of the fallen state of mankind and probably the cause of more secret concern than most of us probably care to admit. Repressing frank discussion about this subject is unhealthy. Life and death belong to God. Jesus suffered death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9) and His resurrection is a clear sign of our resurrection. Jesus transformed death into new life, which shows us Christians that we should not fear death because the power that resurrected Jesus is still available to us today. There is a real loss in death. We should not deny this; to do so is to create a delusion. It is the way we think about the loss that is most important. If we adopt a negative approach, a loss could send us to the edge of depression, to the extent that we find no reason to continue living. A positive approach involves accepting the loss, confronting it by grieving, and then moving on. Jesus victory over death delivered those who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying (Hebrews 2:14-14). As we enter into Christ’s finished work on the Cross, we begin to live beyond death: we begin to live eternally on this earth. It takes divine wisdom for us to recognize the wonderful life Jesus has given to us through His shed blood on the Cross. Christians should affirm the saying of Jesus, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet he shall live” (John 11:25, KJV).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is more than knowledge, more than understanding; it is more than the collection of facts and theology, and is the kind of insight and foreknowledge that the world cannot give us. The fear of the Lord springs from the recognition that my eternal God gave His beloved Son for me, taking upon Himself my sin and my misery. He gave His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins, and through our faith in Him we are saved and become joint heirs to the throne. This fear of the Lord emanates from the discovery that we did not merit this gift of sonship, but that it has nevertheless been given to us by race through the love of a wonderful Father. When we discover that fear of the Lord is a pre-requisite to a true relationship with the Father, we have embraced wisdom. The fear of the Lord should be very real to us individually. It should not be triggered by anxiety, intimidation, nor should the endless keeping of rules for it be inspired from our spirits and born of gratitude to Him. Fear of God is liberating and not restrictive, because it gives confidence about the true order of the world. When we fear Him we will choose to live by His commands, which bring true freedom.
My theology is simple: be aligned with the owner of heaven and earth rather than pursuing the created things. When you have jesus you become joint-heir to the throne and inherit everything by virtue of being a blood relation. Let praise come from your heart because God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). A heart full of praise cannot be a fearful one, because praise and worship brings us into the presence of our awesome God.
Fear can come from human intimidation and fuelled by irrational anxiety. We are paralysed by the thought of what man will do to us because of our failure or refusal to do certain things. Fear of man is one of the barriers of coming to God, hearing from him and doing His will. When we fear men we are putting them above God. Proverbs 14:27 admonishes us to fear the Lord because fear of the Lord is a life-giving foundation and it offers us escape from the snares of death. According to Job 24:20, the wicked are exalted for a little while but are gone and brought low in the next moment, cut off as the tops of the ears of corn. The psalmist said, they shall soon be cut down like grass, and wither as the green herb (Psalm 37:1-2). It is wickedness and spiritual witchcraft to put people under the bondage of fear. We have an assurance that the Lord will break the power of the wicked and uphold the righteous, whose future will be filled with peace (Psalm 37:35-37). It is important to know that we are blessed if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, and that we need not fear intimidation by the world (1 Peter 3:14).
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that man gets justice” (proverbs 29:25-26).
Change is taking place every day, whether we acknowledge its occurrence or not. In the midst of these changes, some people are still holding out for constancy, or finding it difficult to make lasting changes in their lives. Jesus has always been interested in our inward changes and our spiritual transformation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. It is comforting to know that God meets us in the midst of these changes. We need the help and presence of God to win victory against a multitude of credible oppositions and circumstances that seek to frustrate our journey with change. The first step to conquering the fear of change is to call on God for strength to confront it, rather than seeking temporary relief through avoidance tactics.
In 1 John 4:18, John points out that perfect love casts out fear. However it is also true that fear can cast out love if we have empowered anxieties, strife, envy, suspicion, and driven love and goodwill to the background of our lives. Most of us come up short in this and so need a fresh outpouring of God’s love. But this love can only be received if we are willing to be open to God and are ready to co-operate with His purposes. Our love-bank can only be filled and enriched when we surrender to the love of God, and remain in regular communion with Him. The love of God is the only solution for dealing with our pride and prejudices. Fear will not be driven from our hearts by resolution only, but willingly receiving the very Spirit of Love. The church must be conscious of and concerned about the needs of her people, and let love for them galvanise her to action. As we strive to rid ourselves of fear, we realise that it is a mighty challenge, so we are driven back to God, who is love. It is only from Him that we can draw our supply of compassion and attitude of self-giving. It is Jesus who can transform us from being people with a limited ability to love, into those who can feel real concern for the condition of others who are far outside our normal circle. It is through Jesus that we find courage to go into unpromising situations and see them redeemed through the power of His love.
“The more we fear, the less we love; the more we love, the less we fear; but love conquers all fears” – Akeem Shomade