One of our biggest problems in life is our tendency to foster fear, even getting specific with what fears we possess. We have fear of heights, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, and the list goes on. What we often forget is fear of “anything” comes out of our imagined perception of reality, not reality itself. Fear is the preamble to negative emotions like worry, anxiety, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and envy. Yet, it is simply an anxious feeling caused by anticipation of an imagined event or experience.
That’s not to say we won’t feel fear! We will! But the problems really get going when we choose to own, befriend, embrace, or decide we should live with fear. We often convince ourselves fear can work “for” us instead of against us. We believe there is such a thing as positive fear! Or we think fear is necessary for protection or to shield ourselves “just in case” we get bad news. For example, maybe fearing a doctor’s report before going in helps us handle or not be surprised by bad news or we’ll be relieved when our worst fears are put to rest.
The Bible is chock full of truths about fear! Other than the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, we are told NOT to fear! Unfortunately we forget we have nothing to fear when we have faith in God. However, the Word DOES speak boldly to the reality of feeling afraid of people and circumstances! Then it tells us NOT to fear!
Psalm 56:3-4 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
Fear is ALWAYS overcome by faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t and won’t do it alone! One of the simplest things we can do to help ourselves out is be careful not to parade what life, people, the devil, and even “we” do to bring fear into our lives. Instead we need to boast in faith in Jesus Christ and His blood and how He overcame fear so we can overcome it today! Remember there is no way God will ever forsake, abandon, or leave us and though He won’t take trials from us, He will walk us through them, take us to higher heights, and make us more than conquerors through Jesus!
Fear is simply not a good motivator though it is the one we often turn to. For example, people scare their kids into staying out of the street by saying they can get hit by a car and killed. Or scare their kids into staying close to them in a store saying if they don’t, someone might take them. Though it may be true fear will keep them on the curb or next to us, it does far more damage than good. They don’t need fear to be kept safe. They need to know the potential dangers of running into traffic or being out of sight of parents, but they need to believe their parents love them and always have their best interests in mind, and then trust and obey.
And though we certainly can use fear to motivate, it is extremely unhealthy and our minds get messed up when consumed with thoughts of fear! Thinking on what COULD happen in any given situation gives birth to words. If we believe fear is helpful we’ll attend to THAT belief, followed with words and actions founded in fear, not faith. How much wiser it is for us to fear God knowing He loves us and has our best interests in mind all the time! He doesn’t scare or threaten us to protect. He simply tells us the truth we need to trust and obey Him. Hearing how He loves us cause us to attend to THAT belief, followed with words and actions founded in faith, not fear.
And let me tell you here, there are no loopholes in the Word about fear, no suggestion we should learn how to live with it, and no implication fear works “for” us! Instead the Bible shows when the people of God feared anything in this world they were overcome by those things. When they feared only God then they trusted only in Him. They also acknowledged fear when exposed, believed God when He said “Do not fear”, embraced this truth, and obeyed Him! They overcame fear!
If we know all this, what can we do when fear happens, when it fills our senses? First, we acknowledge and call fear, fear! Second, we believe fear is not of God. And third, we agree with God that His perfect love casts out fear by faith in His truth and let it happen! 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Christmas is our time to celebrate perfect love coming to earth as our Savior, Jesus was born! In His birth narrative, some of the people had troubled thoughts, and they were all fear related. They just didn’t know it was fear until God sorted out their thoughts by telling them the truth. When their worst fears were exposed they were set free from fear words and the unknown.
Zacharias was father to John the Baptist! He was troubled hearing he was going to be a Dad and his son was going to prepare the way for the Lord! That would trouble most people. Luke 1:12-20 “And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ And Zacharias said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.’ And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.’”
Notice fear FELL on him! That happens! We don’t always open a door for fear and say “Come on in!” It often just drops on us unexpectedly though it almost always STARTS with a troubled heart. When we hear something questionable, we start entertaining troubled thoughts, try to figure out what’s going to happen, and maybe feel anxious, or worried, and THEN, fear falls!
Zacharias was immediately warned not to be afraid and he had a choice to make at this point – believe the angel and let God’s perfect love cast out fear OR not believe and let fear stay. Even though he was told straight out not to be afraid, he doubted and said “How?” He DID NOT believe! Fortunately, his unbelief didn’t keep God from fulfilling His plan though Zacharias did have to deal with the consequences of fear leading to doubt and unbelief.
Friends, when troubled thoughts come and fear falls, listen for God to say “Do not fear” and then listen and believe Him. Doubt and unbelief have no place in our lives because if our Father in heaven says something, we can trust Him!
Then there was Joseph! He was in a predicament and was giving a lot of thought about what to do about it. He found out the woman he loved and planned to marry was pregnant, not something any man wants to hear when he knows he is not the father. We have a hard time imagining how disgraceful this was because of what we’ve done to sex, intimacy , and the marriage bed today, but this was not good news for Joseph nor would it be for any of us. Mary’s pregnancy was scandalous so though Joseph loved her, he tried to figure out a way to disengage from Mary without it being embarrassing for either of them, and without publicly humiliating her.
Matthew 1:20-25 “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
We can only imagine the thoughts flooding Joseph’s mind in discovering Mary was pregnant. But I’m guessing Joseph didn’t think it was fear motivating him to disengage Mary. Maybe anger, hurt, betrayal, rejection, humiliation, or embarrassment, but not fear! Yet, the angel of the Lord would not have said “do not be afraid” in a dream if Joseph was not afraid. So when the angel said he should not let fear keep him from pursuing the one he loved, he listened, believed fear was the root of his thinking, and came into agreement with God by acknowledging fear and being willing to get rid of it. God’s perfect love cast out fear.
Though Joseph knew what the Old Testament said about the virgin being with child and bearing Immanuel, we can be sure he never imagined that virgin would be his beloved Mary, nor that the man to raise Jesus here on earth was none other than himself. But the amazing truth is when Joseph was aroused from his dream, he woke in faith. He left fear behind and walked right into truth! We overcome fear by listening, hearing and doing what the Lord says! We stop our own contemplations of fear and pay attention to what God says to us and then we walk by faith not by sight!
Then there is Mary, mother of Jesus! We read her story in Luke 1:29-35 “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”
Mary was troubled by the angel’s words but he immediately told her FEAR was at the root of her trouble. She let the perfect love of the Holy One cast out her fear. Like Zacharias, Mary questioned how this would come about but unlike Zacharias, her question was not with unbelief. He was well advanced in years but he and Elizabeth were still having sex so the “how” was obvious even though she was past child-bearing years. But Mary had never slept with a man so for her to ask how she was going to conceive in her womb was inquisitiveness, not unbelief.
We learn once again fear is not of God and so to overcome it we simply need to listen carefully FOR and TO God and then believe and do what He says. Inquiry is cool with God, doubt or unbelief is not!
Finally we look at the shepherds in Luke 2:9-15 “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’”
What beautiful imagery! They were told not to be afraid because of joy, plus they were given a sign when a multitude of angels suddenly joined the one. Fear was swallowed up in awe! After the shepherds enjoyed an angelic praise service they said to each other “Let’s do this” heading to Bethlehem to find this baby in a manger. The great news friends is we get to celebrate life with the same great joy because when the Lord makes things known to us, fear goes as perfect love casts it out!
As we prepare to once again to celebrate this miracle of the birth of Christ, we remember it is through Him only and always that we overcome fear. Perfect love casts out fear and always remember… perfect love has come!