Conquering Fear Through Faith
Fears of all kinds plague millions of individuals. In Psalms 34 there are two kinds of fears mentioned. One is a fear that is harmful, for the Psalmist rejoices that God has delivered him from it. There are many varieties of harmful fears, all of which the Psalms declare, "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." (Psalms 34:4) Later in this same Psalm, the Psalmist speaks of a fear that is wholesome and helpful – the fear of the Lord (Psalms 34:7, Psalms 34:9, Psalms 34:11). The fear of the Lord is a reverential fear – a respect and honor of Divinity.
Fear, like love, is a basic emotion of man which can be either helpful or harmful, depending upon what the object of fear is. There are fears which are helpful to man. "Fear in the form of caution has been one of man's stoutest allies in the long development of our race… Fear, moreover, is a guardian of morality… Fear has moved man to some of the greatest discoveries he ever made. Fear of the dark led him to make the candle, the oil lamp, am the electric light. Fear of pain pressed him on to the discovery of anesthetics. Fear of disease drove him to discover or devise the healing drugs." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 81) There are also many harmful fears, such as the fear of the future, the fear of failure, or the fear of death.
It is that fear which is harmful and destructive that we want to consider for the next several days. The Psalmist makes it clear in the Psalm which you read today that the way to overcome destructive fear is to trust in the Lord. We must conquer fear through faith (See Psalms 34:5, Psalms 34:8, Psalms 34:10, Psalms 34:15, Psalms 34:22).
Faith releases, but fear ties up. Faith in God releases one, but terrifying fear of God ties on up. Faith in the character and nature of God releases one from despair and convinces one that life is inherently good. He who believes that God is who the Bible says He is – a God of infinite love, wisdom, and power – is the person who sees Reality as ordained for good purposes and not for bad purposes. Thus, his whole outlook on life is positive and happy. On the other hand, he who sees God as one to be avoided and feared is the one who has a most dismal and terrifying outlook on life. Luther was only released from his terrifying fear of God and the consequent terror of life that it produced, when he came to his experience of justification by faith. Faith in God liberated him from his false conception of God and of life in general. Reverential fear is always appropriate when we approach God (Matthew 10:28, 1 Peter 1:17, Proverbs 9:10), but terrorizing fear of God only shows that our love for God is not yet perfected (1 John 4:18).
"God, to the extent that I put my faith in you, to that same extent am I delivered from my terrorizing fears. I ask two requests today: that I might be filled with reverential respect for you and that I might be emptied of terrorizing fear of you. Release me from my dismal fear and capture me with your bright love. In Jesus' name, Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is love – He wants what is best for me! God is wisdom – He knows that is best for me! God is power – He can give what is best for me!
Faith Releases – Fear Ties Up!
We said yesterday that faith releases, but fear ties up. This is a principle that applies to all relationships in life – whether that relationship is with God, or with nature, or with other people, or with one's self. One who believes that God is a God of perfect love, wisdom, and power, is one who has been released from the bondage of fear.
Think of this principle as it relates to one's relationship with Nature. Faith in Nature releases one to new discoveries while terrifying fear of Nature limits one in his experiences of new discoveries. All of man's discoveries in nature have depended upon man's faith in the predictability and consistency of Nature's Laws. Even before the planet Uranus was actually discovered, it's position in the sky was predicted on the basis of man's faith in the Law of Gravitation. On the other hand, terrifying fear of nature kept man for centuries from discovering Nature's secrets am using them for his advantage.
This principle applies to one's relationship with other people. Faith in people releases one, but fear of people ties one up. Fear of people causes suspicion, hate, betrayal, and war, but faith in people builds strong and enduring relationships. The foundation of peace is faith in people, while the foundation of war is suspicion and fear.
Faith in self releases oneself, but fear of self ties one up. The poised, positive and contributive person is the person who has faith in himself. The insecure, inferior, defeated person is the person who has lost faith in himself and has come to fear himself. Faith in oneself releases one to realize his fullest potential, but fear of self thwarts one's abilities and stunts one's growth. Many who have an inability to be alone, am yet an insecurity among people, are plagued with fear – the fear of self. Such are often defeated in the face of problems because the center of their personality – Self – is not intact. It was to such individuals that Christ so graciously ministered, inspiring confidence am imparting self-respect.
Further, faith is natural while fear is unnatural. "Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear and doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry my being is gasping for breath – these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence I breathe freely – these are my native air… The need of faith is not something imposed on us dogmatically, but it is written in us intrinsically. We cannot live without it. To live by worry is to live against Reality." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 85)
"Father, I am inwardly constructed to live by faith, not by fear. Fear paralyzes me, while faith relaxes me. I can breathe more deeply, see more clearly, feel more intensely, when living by faith. Every nerve, tissue, and brain cell in me is made for faith, not for fear. Help me to walk by faith, not by fear. In Jesus' name."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I must live by faith if I expect to live a long and abundant life!
The Paralyzing Power Of Fear
Faith is contributive but fear is destructive in problem-solving. To have problems is not a sign of weakness. Norman Vincent Peale says somewhere, "Problems constitute a sign of life. I would go so far as to say that the more problems you have, the more alive you are." What is a sign of weakness is encountering problems with fear instead of with faith. To look at a problem with faith is to attack the problem and find and carry out a workable solution.
Fear in the face of a problem not only blocks one in finding a solution to the problem, but fear can actually complicate the problem. Fear over an imaginary problem can create a real problem. "A school teacher was suffering from heart trouble, her heart beating so loud and rapidly that at the least effort it 'seemed to jump out of her body.' The doctors could find no physical reason for her heart condition, but they discovered that she was worried over a lump in her breast; she was sure cancer was developing there. When she was assured that there was no lump and no cancer, she went home happy and relieved. The heart became normal, and she is happy and efficient in her work. The fear and worry had caused functional disturbance. The disturbance was real, but it had been caused by an unreal fear." (Abundant Living; pg. 86; E.S. Jones)
"An Eastern legend says that a pilgrim met the Plague and asked, 'Where are you going?' The Plague replied: 'I am going to Baghdad to kill five thousand people,' A few days later the pilgrim met the Plague again and charged him with killing fifty thousand instead of five thousand. 'Oh no!' said the Plague, 'I killed only five thousand; the others died of fear." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 82)
Said William James, the famous psychologist, "Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture." Jesus said, "All things are possible." The Christian must eliminate the word 'impossible' from his vocabulary. "Anxiety is like a magnet. It draws unhappy results to itself. But so also is faith. Indeed faith is a much more powerful magnet, one which draws to itself the most incredible blessings." (Norman Vincent Peale) Like a magnet, faith attracts people because faith in a man creates a winsome personality, while fear repels people because fear produces a withdrawn and self-centered personality. Faith solidifies relationships and makes one other-centered. On the other hand, fear and suspicion of others destroys relationships and results in a self-centered life. The person who lives only for himself will have no one to applaud him but himself!
"Father, heal me of the paralysis of fear, and help me to rise and walk straight into the face of life's challenges and problems, not with a screwed-up courage of my own but with a Spirit-wrought trust. I am calm in the calmness of Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is no problem too big but what Christ's power is bigger yet! I intend to tap that power today!
"Never Take Counsel Of Your Fears"
It takes real intelligence and effort to live by faith and courage. It is not hard to succumb to one's problems and to yield to one's fears. Norman Vincent Peale tells the story of General Stonewall Jackson. "One night during the Civil War Jackson was in conference with his generals. He was planning a daring sortie in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a brilliant plan, strategically. The odds were high, but the possibility of success existed. Only a genius could have conceived it and carried it through. At the conclusion of the meeting one of Jackson's generals said timorously, 'But, General Jackson, I'm afraid of this. I fear we can't quite carry it off.' Jackson, so the story goes, arose, put his hand on his subordinate's shoulder, and said, 'Never take counsel of your fears, General. Never take counsel of your fears.' Jackson was a man who took counsel not of fear, but of faith, and faith canceled out fear." (Overcoming Anxiety and Fear; pg. 16)
It is easy to take counsel of one's fears, and hard at times to take the road of faith. Practically speaking, how can we use faith to cancel out our fears? We must try to answer this question, both today and tomorrow.
First, face fear and determine to overcome it. "An old cowboy said he had learned life's most important lesson from Hereford cows. All his life he had worked cattle ranches where winter storms took a heavy toll among the herds. Freezing rains whipped across the prairies. Howling, bitter winds piled snow into enormous drifts. Temperatures might drop quickly to below-zero degrees. Flying ice cut into the flesh. In this maelstrom of nature's violence most cattle would turn their backs to the icy blasts and slowly drift downwind, mile upon mile. Finally, intercepted by a boundary fence, they would pile up against the barrier and die by the scores. But the Herefords acted differently. Cattle of this breed would instinctively head into the windward end of the range. There they would stand shoulder- to-shoulder facing the storm's blast, heads down against its onslaughts. 'You most always found the Herefords alive and well', said the cowboy. 'I guess that is the greatest lesson I ever learned on the prairies – just face life's storms.'" (Overcoming Anxiety and Fear; pg. 7) Theodore Roosevelt one time wisely said, "I have often been afraid, but I wouldn't give in to it. I made myself act as though I was not afraid, am gradually my fear disappeared." Joshua was doubtless afraid when the leadership over the Israelites was placed in his hands, following Moses' death, but God spoke to Joshua and alleviated his fears: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
"Father, what have I to fear when I know that you are right beside me, protecting me, correcting me, and guiding me through both life's troubles and life's triumphs! Like Joshua, with added responsibilities, give me added courage to obey and, strength to follow you."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will listen today to the calm voice of faith, not to the clammering voice of fear!
Using Faith To Cancel Out Fears
How can we use faith to cancel out our fears? We said yesterday that we must first face fear and determine to overcome it. Secondly, after facing fears, we must find out why we have these fears. This involves serious, objective thinking. Use the reasoning quality of the mind to attack the illusive emotion of fear. If necessary, list the fears individually and pray about each one individually. In seeking to understand the cause of certain fears, it may be necessary to seek the counsel of a wise friend or minister. Self-knowledge can lead to a cure. Try to identify those fears, for instance, which originate in your early childhood, fears that have long been suppressed in the subconscious mind.
Third, we must constantly affirm our faith in Jesus' power to overcome our fears. Relax, let go of your fears, and let God constantly fill you with His power and poise. God conquered all fears on the cross and through the Resurrection, and He is able to impart the benefits of that victory to you. You must be relaxed and receptive. "Do not go skulking through life, being timorous and afraid. Say to yourself, and mean it: 'In the name of God and by the power of Jesus Christ I hereby stand up to my fears with faith. I am no longer afraid.' If you do not weaken, your fears one by one will finally slink away. But you must be vigilant. If you let down your faith, your fears will try to return. You have given hospitality to them for so long that they feel at home in your mind. Sadly, you may even miss them. But deliberately become obstinate, gloriously obstinate. Tell yourself that with God's help you will not let them come back. Keep filling your mind so full of faith that there will no longer be any room for fears." (Faith Builders: Peale; pg. 20,21)
Fourth, practice faith every day in order to defeat your fears. Make faith affirmations during difficult circumstances, such as "I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me." (Philippians 4:13) Remember that He is able "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worked in us." (Ephesians 3:20) Exercise yourself daily in faith meditations. One man who was haunted for a long time with fears and insecurities, read through the Bible underlining in red pencil every statement relative to courage and confidence. Engage daily in faith prayers. Stretch your faith a little every day by asking God for a few things that seem impossible. Associate with people of faith. Involve yourself in faith actions and projects. This will enlarge your faith and drive away fears faster than almost anything else, for faith in action is God in action. To see God work miracles through your life, action will make your faith grow by leaps and bounds!
"Give me both knowledge of the source of my fears and determination to overcome my fears. Help me to affirm constant faith in Jesus' power to overcome my every fear. Help me to practice faith affirmations, faith meditations, faith prayers, faith associations, and faith projects. Then I shall become a man of faith!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When fear comes knocking on my heart's door, I will send Jesus to the door!
Facing The Fear Of Failure
Terrifying fear in the face of a problem or a responsibility can contribute to failure. "More people than might be supposed are deeply troubled by the fear of failure. It is a dangerous fear to have working against you, for it can cause the personality to freeze and therefore induce the very failure you fear." (Overcoming Anxiety and Fear; Peale; pg. 25)
Faith contributes to success. Jesus said, "All things are possible to him that believeth." The man of faith must eliminate the word "impossible" from his vocabulary. Let what William James said be implanted in our minds: "Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful I undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture."
Failure is almost certain in one form or another to come to all persons, but, depending upon how we react to failure, failure can be a means of exercising faith or of becoming more fearful. Many there have been who, after experiencing failure, were simply spurred on to increased effort which led eventually to a greater success than what they would have had if they never had experienced defeat. I recall one friend's attempts to have his writings published with so many failures that he had made a scrapbook of 'reject slips' from publishing companies. He persisted, year after year, and finally was successful in having nearly ten of his books published! It is said that 'Babe Ruth' struck out more times than he hit home runs!
How should we react to our fears of failure? Work and keep working, in spite of the fear of failure. Consistent involvement will not only reduce the fear of failure, but such involvement will bring the possibilities of success closer to reality! Says Norman Vincent Peale, "Honestly admit your fear and then act as though you were unafraid – and with the help of God go on and do your job with total neglect of fear. You will make the grade with the Lord's kindly help."
Failure and success must 'not be the main consideration in confronting a task, but rather faithfulness in carrying out God's commands. There have been great missionaries who have labored for many years with very little apparent or visible success. Says John Wesley: "On every occasion of uneasiness we should retire to prayer, that we may give place to the grace and light of God, and then form our resolutions without being in pain about what success they may have." (Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection; pg. 130) "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)
"Father, deliver me from the fear of failure. When my terrestrial look is dark and forbidding, let me be assured that your celestial look is always bright and inviting. Your causes cannot fail, so when my cause is identified with your cause, I too cannot fail!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Love never fails, regardless of the tangible results of my loving!
Facing The Unknown Future
The unknown creates fears in many, and yet the fact of not knowing the future can add zest and anticipation to life. Who would want to know every detail of the future? It is an act of God's mercy to veil the future. If we knew the details of the future, we might become both complacent regarding effort and terrified regarding problems.
When Jesus said, "Take no thought for tomorrow" He did not forbid legitimate planning for the future. What He did forbid was hurtful worry in regards to the morrow.
What should be the relationship between the present and the future? First, the Christian must exercise faith in a God who is all-wise (He knows what is best), all-loving (He wants to give what is best), and all-powerful (He is able to give what is best).
Secondly, the Christian must claim the promise that Paul gave to young timorous Timothy: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) God gives the Christian power to cope with any circumstance of life. God gives the Christian love – love that is centered on others and love that is centered on God. The more that one becomes preoccupied with others, the less one becomes preoccupied with self. The less one becomes preoccupied with self, the less one is fearful of the future. God also gives the Christian wisdom in dealing with circumstances that will arise – be those circumstances favorable or unfavorable. God will open your mouth and put the words in your mouth to meet the challenging situations of life.
Thirdly, act with confidence, living life to the fullest today, planning reasonably for tomorrow, but not worrying about tomorrow. The God who took care of you in the past is the same God who is able to take care of your in the future. Take one day at a time. Don't borrow trouble from tomorrow. Divide and conquer. "Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day." (Matthew 6:34 Phillips)
Fourth, close each day thanking God for that day and open each new day with a prayer for guidance. "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God." Let that be your motto for life. Praise and confidence drives away fears!
Fifth, remember that love casts out all fear (I John 4:18) "Love delivers from self-attention, gives you other-attention; and therefore love, not faith, is the method of getting rid of fear. For love produces faith as a by-product of that love. You are not afraid of people you love." (Christian Maturity; E.S. Jones; pg. 230)
"Father, help me to live one day at a time, reflecting on the past to learn and planning for the future to prosper, but never becoming guilt-ridden because of the past or terror-stricken because of the future. Let me feel your comforting hand on my shoulder and see your guiding finger charting my future course in life. Calm my fears and help me to rest secure in your love."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who holds the unknown future in His mighty hands is He woo holds my hand today!
Conquering The Fear Of Death
Norman Vincent Peale, in his book 'Overcoming Anxiety and Fear', relates a most interesting story of a woman who faced what she thought was impending death with trust and calmness!
"Eleven minutes after take-off our beautiful high shiny jet went into a nose dive. We were 249,000 pounds hurtling through space. We went into the dive at 19,000 feet and forty seconds later the Captain pulled us out of it a 5,000 feet – just eight seconds before we would have crashed! As we pulled out of the dive the No.3 engine tore out of the wing and fell to earth. No. 4 was hanging on by a few bolts. We lost most of our hydraulic fluid and a lot of electrical power. Several other mechanical failures developed. But our Captain landed that powerful plane at an emergency field as gently as one would handle a newborn baby. If eggs had lined the runway they would hardly have been damaged. It was truly the greatest miracle I shall ever experience. When we started to encounter turbulence I ran to my jump seat in the tail of the plane but was thrown off balance. I grabbed onto a shelf as we nosed over. At first I just couldn't believe it was happening. I knew our pilots were superbly skilled. I felt certain they would pull us out of it. But it was an unmistakable fact: we were smoothly and quietly plunging through space. I became very close to God when I accepted this. I felt no fear. I thought of a beloved aunt who every night says a little prayer for me. I thought how happy I was to have been even a small part of my church. I thought how strongly I had endorsed the power of positive thinking and the Golden Rule. At no time did I experience fear. I was so happy about my life including religion. I did tell God there were so many things I wanted to do yet. I wanted to stay just a little while longer. I said; 'Lord, I never got my happy marriage and my happy family.' But we were still hurtling downward and I reluctantly terminated my conversation with God. I accepted the fact that we would be blown to bits upon impact. I added a little P.S. to God: 'If this is the way You want it, – Lord, I guess this is the way it's going to be.'" Then suddenly the plane righted! Jackie could hardly believe her senses. "But it was real. We were flying merrily along on a level!" Later this woman told Dr. Peale, "I found in this terrible experience that by positive thinking and right living from day to day you can develop an inner condition that will sustain you through life's worst ordeals and roughest moments." (pg. 14-16)
Wrote John Bunyan, "Let dissolution come when it will, it can do the Christian no harm, for it be but a passage out of a prison into a palace.'
"Father, help me daily to build up my faith in you, so that when the winds blow and the storms threaten, I will have a strong backlog of faith to draw upon. When physical death finally overtakes me, let me see the gates of heaven open wide for my entrance! In Jesus' conquering name! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Placing my faith in the Deathless One, I shall never die! (John 11:26)
1 Corinthians 2:9-10; Revelations 21:1-4
Assurance In The Face Of Death
Allow me to share a very intimate experience with you. On August 14, 1981, my brother's 15-year-old daughter tragically died as a result of an accident. Needless to say, my brother was deeply grief-stricken as a result of this unspeakably great loss. Two weeks later, on August 29, 1981, my brother had an unusual vision of his daughter, Sharla. The following account, written by my brother, describes that unusual vision.
"I have never in my life had an experience like this one. I have never experienced such intensity… First, I heard Sharla's voice. Her voice was clear, but seemed to be corning from far away. She was saying in her beautiful, distinct voice, 'Hello, dad. Hello, daddy. It's me — Sharla.' Then, I saw Sharla. Sharla was absolutely beautiful and striking. She was healthy, am so totally alive. And most striking of all was something I can only describe as an 'essence' — a halo of luminous light — a 'glow' — surrounding her entire body. She seemed to be 'floating' — so gracefully, without any rush; just totally there, yet so distinctly different am beautiful…
"Sharla said, 'Hi, dad. I can only stay for awhile; then I have to leave again. I have come back to say how very much I love you. I want to lie between you and Marsha' (her younger sister). Sharla then kissed, hugged, caressed, and expressed her love to Marsha and to me. She said, 'Daddy, don't be sad; I love you, daddy. I must go now. I love you daddy…' And then Sharla, in all her perfect beauty 'floated' off to Heaven.
"At that point I awoke screaming and screaming… 'Sharla! Oh, Sharla! I love you, Sharla. Oh, Sharla! I love you. Sharla, I want to go with you! Sharla! Sharla!!! And then she was gone…
"I was screaming out load — over and over again — for Sharla. I was totally shaken! I don't understand what happened; it seemed so totally real. Whatever it was, I am totally grateful to God. I shall never forget how alive, how totally healthy and beautiful Sharla was. How gracefully happy she was with eternity — yet how thoughtful and kind and beautiful she was to express her love and affection to Marsha and to me.
"We serve a perfect am loving God. How I love you, Jesus. Thank you for the assurance that I will see Sharla in all her glory again some day in eternity. Thank you, Sharla. I love you — and I am homesick for Heaven."
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them… He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'" (Revelations 21:3-4)
"Father, I thank you for your gift of unspeakable joy which I can experience even amidst life's overwhelming tragedies. You are the God of all comfort who comforts me in all my sorrows. Thank you for destroying all my enemies, even my greatest enemy of all – death. My faith is in a deathless Saviour!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and who gave Himself for me – in order that I may never taste eternal death!
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Terrorizing Fears'
Is fear, in and of itself, a right or wrong emotion? Why or why not?
How can one distinguish between a helpful and a harmful fear? Name examples of both.
According to Psalms 34 (Psalms 34:1-22), what is the basic way to conquer fears?
What is the difference between a reverential fear of God and a terrorizing fear of God?
In terms of one's relationship with God, with nature, with other people, and with one's own self, show how the principle 'Faith releases, but fear ties up' works out.
Illustrate what is meant by the principle! "Faith is Natural but Fear is Unnatural".
Illustrate how Fear blocks one in finding a solution to one of life' s many difficult problems.
Do you agree or disagree with William James' statement: "Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture." Why or why not? Can you illustrate this principle from an experience in your own life?
Share an experience from your life when you found it easy to take counsel of your fears and .hard to take the road of faith.
Share an experience in your life when you found victory over a difficult problem in your life because you exercised faith in God.
Practically speaking, how can you use faith to cancel out your fears.
How have you learned to cope with the 'fear of failure'?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement by John Wesley: "On every occasion of uneasiness we should retire to prayer, that we may give place to the grace and light of God, and then form our resolutions without being in pain about what success they may have."
What are the most effective ways in dealing with the 'fear of the future'?
What Scriptural help have you found in overcoming the 'fear of death'?