Facing fear and finding freedom

Categorized as 06/01/09 Goshen News column

Truth or lies. Despair or joy. Hope or defeat. Belief or unbelief. So many choices for the child of God.

If ever we thought we were in for a trouble-free existence complete with an EZ pass when we said yes to Christ, we were sadly mistaken. This is no picnic, my friends. This is war.

To think it is anything else is naïve and dangerous. Throughout Scripture we are told of an enemy that is actively bent on our destruction. Peter likened him to a roaring lion prowling around, looking for someone to devour. Hating God, he lashes out, seeking to destroy us who are made in God’s image and called to do His work. Daily, hourly, and sometimes moment by moment, he comes, bringing the battle to our hearts, minds, families, offices, churches, and towns.

In war, a soldier knows that he must be on guard at all times. Sleepwalking through a battle is deadly. Denying the reality of the conflict doesn’t keep the bombs from falling around him. Huddling in a foxhole may protect him for a time, but in the end, if he stays, it will be his grave.

So what are we to do?

“Be self-controlled and alert,” Peter said in his epistle.

Paul added, “We are not ignorant of his devices. We are not unaware of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).” And what, exactly, are Satan’s schemes?

In my own life, fear, guilt, and shame are weapons he has used to great effect. I’ll bet he’s used them on you, too. With this ugly trio, he steals our joy, kills our hope, and destroys our effectiveness.

Fear is a particularly powerful tactic that has kept many of us in our foxholes. If you look closely, you will see that it’s usually based on a lie. Team that with unbelief, and it’s a one-two punch.

Take the fear of death, for instance. This used to be a big one for me. Satan would come with the lie, “You’re not really saved.” Because my faith was weak, I would agree with him. “Well then, I must not be.” And down I would go, taken out by the twins of fear and unbelief.

As I have become secure in my salvation, this fear (thank God) has abated. Now, I find myself eagerly anticipating Heaven, excited about going because I am learning to trust the Father who will take me there.

Popular Bible teacher, Beth Moore, suggests a simple exercise when facing fear. She recommends taking this statement, “If __(fill in the blank with the worst-case scenario), then __.” So let’s apply this to another common fear, the death of someone we love. “If my child dies, then __.” Then what?

Well, for me it would go something like this, “…then, though my heart is breaking and grief overwhelms me, I know that my baby is with the Lord. One day I will see him again. The Holy Spirit, my Comforter and Consolation, will strengthen me until then.”

Or how about this fear, which the Bible calls a snare – the fear of man? Perhaps it would sound like this, “If someone really dislikes me or disagrees with me or thinks I’m stupid, then __.” Think it through. “Then I know that I am loved by God and completely accepted by Him. He will never change His mind about me.”

But what if you really did blow it and did something that was wrong? “If I sin, then I will be quick to repent and ask forgiveness. God has promised to forgive and restore me. If there are consequences I must face because of my actions, He will give me the grace that I need.”

The next one is a tough one and has, I believe, been a familiar foxhole for far too many. This one’s called “fear of failure.”

Whether you know it or not, you’ve been endowed by your Creator with a certain set of gifts, talents, and abilities along with a unique personality. Ephesians 2:10 tells us why. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He has prepared in advance for us to do.”

Now that’s exciting. You – you! – have been gifted, called, and empowered. Is it any wonder that Satan would try to shut you down, to take you out of the game? He fears your effectiveness. He fears the fruit your life could bear, and so he sets about trying to paralyze you. “But what if you blow it? What will so-and-so say about you? You don’t have what it takes.” And on and on and on he goes.

One more time. “If I mess up and look like a fool, then __.” Then I will get back up by the grace of God and I will keep moving forward because “His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).”

So what’s keeping you in your foxhole? Chances are it’s a lie, so call it what it is, shine the light of truth on it, and get up out of there. Step into the sunshine and the fresh air of freedom. There are people up top who need you.

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