The Spirit of Fear

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

One of Satan’s more destructive weapons of temptation against the people of God is to cause us to be afraid.  We are tempted to view the continuing spiral into darkness of our modern society with fear and anxiety.  If Satan can cause us to fear, he knows we will not act in a manner in accordance to what our God requires.

Now to be clear, there is a fear that is right and proper.  We are to fear God because our righteous fear of the Lord will lead us to submission to Him in all things.  That is certain.  Obviously, Satan does not wish us to fear our God, but he does want us to fear other things.  Jesus spoke of these two contrasting fears in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

We are tempted to fear so many things in this life.  We see many things going wrong here in these United States.  We see basic morality crumbling.  We see the family structure under attack from so many directions.  We see lawlessness and corruption.  We see this ongoing war with militant Islam.  We see many things that are having a negative impact on our lives, and we are tempted to be frightened.  Often this kind of fear causes many to lash out in anger and resentment.  It can lead many to react in ways that are not godly, because, often times, anger is a mask for fear.

There are many examples in the Scriptures when the Lord’s people were afraid of things other than God, and it led to their faltering faith.  In Numbers 13 & 14, Israel had an opportunity to take what the Lord had promised them.  However, their fear led to their rebellion and eventual death.  In Matthew 14, after Peter had taken a leap of faith and actually walked on the water as His Lord was doing, he took his eyes off the Lord and saw the boisterous wind, and he grew afraid and started to sink.  An interesting point in this story is the wind was present at the beginning of his walk of faith, and as long as his eyes were on the Lord he was not afraid!  What a great lesson for us.  If we keep our spiritual eyes upon the Lord, we WILL NOT be afraid!  In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples feared for their lives and cried out to the Master.  After Jesus calmed the storm, He rebuked His disciples.  Apparently, they had it within them to at least not be afraid.  Imagine if Peter would have said, “Do not trouble the Master.” And what if he would have commanded the storm to be still in Jesus’ name?  I strongly suspect the storm would have ceased!  But their fear kept them from doing what was right.

Now what is really interesting is that if you consider these examples in light of the passage I opened this article with, you will note what God has for us.  Rather than fear He wishes us to have power, love and self-control.  In each of these previous instances, His people did not have any of these!  And that caused them to sin.

There are many passages of scripture that teaches us we should not be afraid and why:

“For God is with us” (Psalm 23:4)

Man can do nothing serious to us (Matthew 10:28)

“We did not receive the spirit of bondage to fear” (Romans 8:12-15)

“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)

To be clear, God does not wish us to be ignorant of our surroundings to the point that we do not care.  We are truly to have a godly concern of right and wrong, but we dare not let the cares of the world take control of our lives.  This is where power, love and self-control come in.  If we let the cares of the world control us, this will lead to thoughts and actions that are not godly, and eventually, it can lead to the damnation of our souls.  Why?  Because we have lost sight of what our God wants of us.  Brothers and sisters, let us not be of those who draw back from the Lord as warned in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  Indeed, fear causes bitterness and other works of the flesh.

In practical terms, what might we do to help prevent this type of fear?  If the news troubles you, maybe you do not need to watch or listen to as much of it.  Do some opinions seem to rile you up?  Tune them out.  Find things to help your spirit whether it means reading more of God’s Word, praying for strength, spending time with the brethren, or listening to things that edify rather than what tears you down.

Finally, consider an opposite to fear:  peace.  Peace will indeed be a help to our spirits.  If we are at peace with the Lord, we will be at peace with others.  Consider the godly example of Stephen in Acts 7.  Even while he was being ridiculed and stoned, he was at peace with his murderers because he was not afraid.  This gave him the power, love and self-control to say “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”  May we be as faithful while living in the midst of this “evil and adulterous generation” (Philippians 2:15)