I’m continuing the series on: How God Sees Us, which commenced here.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7
Some translations read: “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”
There is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear has an obvious cause. For something to cause us to fear, it must have two characteristics. It must be powerful in some way and it must be present. For example, I’m afraid of snakes but since there aren’t any present, I don’t experience any fear. On the other hand, anxiety, is feeling afraid without an obvious cause. It’s a general sense of fear for no apparent reason. If I’m feeling anxious or worried, I’ll ask myself what exactly is bothering me? because until I know what it is, I can’t deal with it and I can’t bring my thinking into line with God’s truth. It’s important we become aware of what we are thinking.
One of the common fear we have is, the fear of man. In Proverbs we read: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
We don’t have to fear other people, no matter how intimidating they may appear. Our security is in the Lord and when we trust him we can feel safe. Peter writes: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” 1 Peter 3:13-15
Again the antidote to fear is acknowledging that Christ is Lord. When we understand that he is in charge of everything, we have nothing to fear. Nothing is going to happen to us, that surprises God and he is able to sustain us through any challenge so we don’t have to be afraid of people. When my children were older teenagers, sometimes they would introduce a topic of conversation by saying, “I’ve got something to tell you.” Maybe it’s just me, but whenever one of my kids said this my mind would suddenly be bombarded with a multitude of negative thoughts. I’m sure they had no idea how much panic they could create with this simple phrase. I did learn at moments like this, to listen to the still, small voice that said, ‘Don’t panic’. But it’s not only our kids, it could our boss, our spouse, our parents who might say something that causes us alarm. But when we have God as our security. We can relax, knowing whatever they say and whatever happens, God is there to support us and enable us.
Another fear we might have is the fear of dying. Last week we spoke of not being afraid of death, but we also don’t have to fear the process of dying. Since this fear is not usually immediate present we are often unaware of it. But it might be lurking in the back of our minds. In his book, Fear No Evil, David Watson writes about his cancer diagnosis and came to this conclusion: ‘God doesn’t give dying grace on non-dying days.’ Meaning that God doesn’t give us grace in advance. We only get it as we need it. It’s like the manna God gave the children of Israel. God said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” Exodus 16:4
‘Enough for that day’ and believe that God would rain down bread the next day. They had to collect it one day at a time. God gives us grace to face each situation when we need it, but not before. We live one day at a time believing God will give me grace for this day, whatever it brings.
A further thing we might fear is the devil. The evil one cannot harm those who are in Christ. Sometimes evil might unsettles us, but it cannot ultimately harm us because it can’t harm our relationship with God. Peter tells us that we can stand in our faith and resist him. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
It’s a surprising analogy since lions on the prowl don’t roar. They keep silent so they can surprise their prey. It suggests the devil’s weapons are just a lot of noise. He’s an expert at using accusations, condemnation, and intimidation to eat away at our confidence as children of God. You may think that the devil making a lot of noise isn’t an effective strategy, but we only have to look around for earthly examples of how leaders use intimidation to get their way. I’ve seen whole leadership boards completely cave in to someone who presented their arguments in a domineering way. Other times, I’ve seen people succumb to repetitive advice or overwhelmed by negative comments. Spiritually, this happens, too. Satan will try to intimidate with an onslaught of negative thoughts. Our defense is in believing what God says about us. We are God’s children, forgiven, and dearly loved, despite what the devil may tell us.
Another one of Satan’s common lies is to make you think you have committed the unforgiveable sin. “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28-29
If you think you have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, it’s a sure sign you haven’t, because if you had you wouldn’t be concerned about it. The unforgiveable sin is rejecting the Holy Spirit who leads us to accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Rejecting Christ’s sacrifice is rejecting the only sacrifice there is for our sins. If you have acknowledged Christ as your Saviour, you have not rejected his sacrifice.
There ought to be only one legitimate and ultimate fear in our lives, and that is God. But fear of God is not feeling alarmed or panicked. It’s a reverent fear, as in awe. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
God is telling us is the only person or thing worthy of our fear is God. If we fear something else so much it is limiting or changing our behaviour we are assigning it a worth that it doesn’t deserve. If we fear something more than God we are making it an idol. William Eisenhower explains it this way in his article ‘Fearing God’:
“Unfortunately, many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God’s function is to offset it. How different this is from the biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world’s threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world’s equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. … Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and love from the Lord is its completion.”
If we have a holy awe of God there is no need to be afraid of anything else. And if we are afraid of something else we are giving it more power in our lives than God.