Overcoming Fear

This morning, we’re going to take a look at an often misunderstood, yet very powerful emotion that God created within us – fear.
Fear in the Greek is the word phobos, which is where we get our word phobia from.  Fear has two definitions depending on the context.  It is either a strong and unpleasant emotion caused by the anticipation of danger, alarm, or concern or it can be defined as a profound reference and awe toward something.  These two definitions, in reality, aren’t really all that different from each other.
Fear itself is morally neutral just like money as we learned about last week; it is neither good nor evil on it’s own.  The context, however, in which fear exists can either define fear as good and healthy or evil and harmful.
All sorts of different things can cause us to fear, some of them are healthy and expected, some are unhealthy and need removed.
For example, if I’m walking alone through a large field in the middle of nowhere minding my own business and I see a lion on the horizon running my direction, I would be instantly placed in a state of fear.
I would be filled with fear because first of all I’m in awe and highly revere how large, strong, and ferocious a lion is and because of that, I fear secondly because of the danger that I’m in and concern that I have in being torn to shreds.  This is a healthy fear and an instance where God gave it to us to save our lives.  Either by fighting off the lion, or far more likely, running as fast as humanly possible to get to safety.  This nearly instant response to fear is known as fight or flight.
However, Satan, the great deceiver, seems to enjoy taking this strong emotion and perverting it so that this emotion that we were given to save our lives works to steal, kill, and destroy our lives.
For example, I can be filled with fear as I sit down in the seat of my car thinking of all of the things that could possibly go wrong as I drive down the highway.
Or I can be filled with fear as I move in full sprint up my stairs at night because I think that there is something chasing me when I know that there isn’t anything there at all.
Or I can be filled with fear as I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to speak with a stranger and to share with them how awesome God is and how much He cares for them because of what they might think of me.
These are all unhealthy fears that are controlling our lives in a destructive way and these are the fears that God desires to remove from our lives.
There is, however, what appears to be a paradox (which is a seemingly contradictory concept) that exists in scripture regarding fear.  Like we had looked at before, these Biblical paradoxes aren’t really contradictory at all once we understand and especially once we have experienced them.  This paradox is that we are to fear God and yet also allow God drive out fear from our lives.  In fact, Proverbs even reveals to us that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and understanding.
All through scripture, when we see heaven meet earth, the initial response is fear.  In fact, the first words out of angel’s mouths is normally ‘Fear not!’.  When we enter into the presence of God, we are faced with the reality of how perfect, awesome, and powerful He is and just how broken, sinful, and weak we are.  The response all through scripture is that of fear realizing the depths of our sin and how far our thoughts and ways are from His and how deserving we are of Hell.  However, a beautiful and miraculous thing occurs because God then quickly rushes in with His salvation, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  We enter His presence flat on our faces in fear and He in return, restores us to righteousness and lifts up our heads to see His glory.  We still fear God, but that fear changes and transforms us as His perfect love pours into our lives and drives out all of our other fears.  It’s a beautiful, humbling, and life transforming collision!
Scripture reveals Jesus as the Lion of Judah.  If you recall my earlier example of healthy fear, imagine that this lion is Jesus and initially, when we encounter Him, we are separated from Him by our sin; we are His enemy.  However, that relationship changes as He chases us down and makes that final pounce and overtakes us.  Instead of administering justice and tearing us apart as we deserve, He instead administers mercy and adopts us into His family and saves our lives.  After accepting His salvation, we become his cubs and although the lion’s cubs still fear Him and know full His abilities, the relationship changes and that lion now defends His cubs.  That same fear that the cubs have of their lion daddy becomes a place where they are safe and it drives out their other fears knowing that their daddy will come to their rescue anytime that they are in danger and need His protection.  That’s exactly what happens with us and God.
This is why we still fear God, but at the same time, His perfect love drives out fear from our lives.  It’s an awesome and wonderful paradox!
Now that we have that understanding under our belts, let’s take a look at how we can begin to overcome fear in our lives now that we have accepted Christ’s salvation and are a child of God.
It’s important for us first of all to understand and realize that it’s not wrong to feel afraid and experience the emotion of fear.  However, our response to the emotion is where we become either overcomers of fear or overcome by fear.  After all, the only Spirit that we should submit to and obey in our lives is not the spirit of fear, but only the Holy Spirit.
I’ve heard it said that fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear is often invoked by worries and anxieties.  Often, it stems from concerns that are not a reality and will not become a reality.  Fear often comes from that small, but provoking question ‘What If?’.  It sneaks in and can very quickly and powerfully take control of our lives and even paralyze us.  This is why it is a common tool of Satan in stealing, killing, and destroying us.  Unhealthy and destructive fear takes rare and improbable possibilities and our assumptions and presents them in our minds as a reality that we are facing.  Fear takes lies and deceit and presents them as truth.
Again, there is a healthy fear that we were created with to respond to real and potentially dangerous situations and that fear is good and should be embraced.  However, this unhealthy fear is perverted and twisted because it is invoked through deceit and not from reality and this is the type of fear that needs to be driven out of our lives so that we can live in freedom and wholeness.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
This is an awesome verse for us to memorize to help us drive out fear from our lives.  Praise God that He has given us everything that we need to overcome this unhealthy fear and stop it from overcoming us – His own presence dwelling with us – the Holy Spirit!  When we begin to fear, we should remember that the Holy Spirit gives us:
1. A sound mind
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and can break through any lies and deceit behind the fear that we’re experiencing.  He gives us a sound and undivided mind, which frees us from the slavery which fear can easily become.
Romans 8:14-15
14 Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
The Holy Spirit also gives us self control so that when we feel fear coming on, we can stop and get a proper perspective on our circumstances.  In an instant, He can reveal to us whether our fear is based on a reality of potential danger or if it is based on assumption and deceit.  If it is not coming from truth, then we can stop it there and drive it out, not giving it any place of control in our lives.  Christ said to cast all of our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us.  Just hand it over to Him and don’t change course or be shaken.  We can proceed with confidence and loose the chains of fear behind us.
Remember that initially, the emotion itself will not leave as we do this.  However, we have the ability to make the choice of whether to be paralyzed and overcome by the emotion, or whether to push through it and overcome it.  As we train ourselves to push through beyond the fear and to face them, the fear begins to lose the hold that it has over us. Over time, the things that we used to fear through deceit will stop causing us to fear as we stand on His truth with a sound mind.
2. Love
We are passionately loved by a perfect and powerful Father who will stand in our defense against any threat that comes against us.  When any fear begins to stir within us, either healthy or unhealthy, we need to remember who our Father is, the unconditional love that He has for us, and the promise that He has made to us to never leave us nor forsake us.  It’s He and His perfect love that is able to rush into our lives in our time of fearful need and to drive out and displace the fear that we’re facing.
1 John 4:16-18
16b God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
3. Power

With the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we can know with certainty:
1 John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
No matter what is causing our fear, we know that God dwelling inside of us, is greater than that which is causing fear.  We can drive out fear of any created thing because the Creator is supreme and has authority over everything created both in the physical and spiritual realms.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave lives inside of us – what awesome power!  The Spirit that could not be held back by sin or even death itself lives in us!  Fear deceitfully presents itself as greater and more powerful, however, we must keep a sound mind, standing firmly in His love and remain unshaken knowing that we have the power to overcome fear!