What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid? Whatever it is that you fear, chances are it’s affecting you in both seen and unseen ways. Fear is a cancer in your life. Fear in your mind leads to stress in your body.
When you fear, you may be anxious, stressed out, or unable to sleep. You may develop a nervous eye twitch or a canker sore. You may have heart problems or stomach problems. And with such symptoms, you may begin to self-medicate with caffeine, junk food, energy drinks, gambling, sex, alcohol, or whatever it might be that brings you momentary comfort.
The #1 Command in the Bible
More than any other command, the Bible says, “Fear not.” You will find this command and its variations in the Scripture nearly 150 times.
And nearly every occasion of “fear not” throughout the Bible is accompanied by something important that God wants to say to us, not with an angry tone, but rather in the loving invitational way.
Consider just the following samples.
Adam in Genesis 3 says, “I was afraid.” And then what? God comes to be with him in his fear.
In Genesis 15:1, God says to Abraham, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield.” God’s saying he’ll protect him.
We read of Isaac in Genesis 26:24. God says, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you.”
God says to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, “I am with you.”
Moses was afraid in Exodus 33:14, and God says, “My presence will go with you.”
Elijah is on a battlefield, an obvious time to fear. God says to him in 2 Kings 1:15, “Do not be afraid.”
David says it well and legendary in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
We read in 2 Chronicles 20:17 that he tells King Jehoshaphat on the eve of war, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
In Isaiah 41:14 we read, “Fear not, you worm Jacob.” As you know, worms are not predators; they don’t even defend themselves. Why is Jacob the Worm not to be afraid? Because the Lord God declares, “I am the one who helps you.”
Jeremiah had a hard life as a prophet, but God declares to him in Jeremiah 1:8, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
Why We Fear
Despite this overwhelming biblical evidence that we are not to fear and instead trust God, we often find ourselves gripped by fear. Why?
Here are four reasons I believe we fear.
1. We Don’t Believe in God’s Sovereignty
Fear in your life is not always rational. In most cases fear is based off of what may or may not happen. In this way, fear gives you the impression that you see and know all. You create in yourself in the image of a functional god. It is God who is sovereign, not you. Stop fearing what you don’t know and start trusting the one who knows all.
2. We Create Our Own Vision Rather Than Seek God’s Vision
When we’re paralyzed by fear of the future, we’re basically envisioning the future without God. We say something like, “I see the future. God’s not in it. God’s not for me. God’s not going to help me.” But this is contrary to the words of God himself, who says later in Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
3. We Are Often False Prophets
To be a false prophet is to incorrectly predict the future. Fear in our lives can turn us into false prophets, predicting things that may not—and most likely will not—come to pass. This often not only affects us but others in our life whom we influence. Rather than speculate about an unknown future, we should dwell on Jesus’ words from Luke 12:22–31:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. . . . And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? . . . For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
4. We Follow False Gospels
When we fear, we betray our trust and comfort in things other than Jesus. We try to control our life. We hold on to our money. We remove ourselves from community. We rebel against authority. We sin. We self-medicate. We self-justify. We turn Jesus into a therapist. We do all of this to live in a view of heaven before the resurrection that we created in our own imagination.
That is a false gospel.
A Final Word
What’s holding you back from obeying Jesus?
Whatever is holding you back, fear is most likely at the root, which is why God has to tell us not to fear so much. Know that God comes to you and says, “Do not fear. I’m with you.” In his final words to his disciples in Matthew 28:20, Jesus says, “I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Don’t be afraid. By the grace of God persevere in Jesus, worship Jesus, serve the church, and give to the church.
For more on fear and faithfulness, see Pastor Mark’s sermon, “Persecuted in Smyrna: Faithful No Matter What.”