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Fear

By David B. Crabtree

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Forget it. Fear has outgrown the old nursery rhyme to dominate the world scene.

Aldous Huxley wrote an essay, "Wanted, a new pleasure," and suggested that most of our problems would go away if someone could invent a drug that abolished inferiority, enhanced fellowship and affection, and imparted peace.

We search for a bodily cure to a spiritual malady.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." My generation is not buying a word of it. Tragedy, war and pestilence stalk the earth; doubt, cynicism and rancor seize the airwaves; calamity, atrocity and vulgarity are delivered nightly into our blue-lighted family rooms. Shock value means ratings, and the down-home newscast of yesteryear has now become our own private horror show.

Market Crash! Environmental Disaster! Power Brownout! Moral Blackout! Social Insecurity! Financial Insolvency! Political Extremism! Educational Meltdown! High School Shooters! Global Warming! Nuclear Threats! Melting Ice Caps! Recession! Inflation! Ebola! Cloning! Cancer! Flood! Toxins! The motto of the age might read, "Be afraid — be very afraid." We are living like a patient in ICU who notices that the respirator plug is about to fall out of its socket.

Bobby is 7 and afraid of the dark. Susan is 30 and afraid for her kids. Jim is 48 and afraid that life has passed him by. Tom is 36 and afraid of failure. Mary is 17 and afraid of getting pregnant. Sarah is 53 and afraid of being alone. Tommy is institutionalized … he’s afraid of everything. Cary is 42 and afraid of losing his investment. Henry is 84 and afraid he won’t be able to afford his prescriptions. Ashley is 8 and afraid of dogs, snakes and spiders. Ellen is 46 and afraid that the lump is malignant. Gary is 32 and afraid of success.

Where is the Christian in the age of fear? Too often he or she is trembling with the masses. Why? We know that love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We have been given a legacy of peace (John 14:27). God’s peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). The Psalmist leads us to the secret place (Psalm 91). Our faith does not bow to the world, but overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Through Isaiah, God gives a basis for casting down fear: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you" (Isaiah 43:1, NIV). From Genesis to Revelation, we are encouraged toward boldness, confidence, courage and triumph.

There is a massive "disconnect" here between God’s written will and God’s worried people.

To rise above fears, we must raise our sights.
Attention that should be lavished on the Lord is wasted on our fears. This world is a scary place for those who walk alone, but we are never alone — or have we forgotten? Paul’s prescription for good mental health involved "set[ting] your mind" — like setting a radio dial — on things above (Colossians 3:2). He even laid out appropriate mental pathways for the believer (Philippians 4:8). The power of fear in the life of the Christian is inversely proportionate to the power of the Holy Spirit within.

To rise above fears, we must be renewed in the inner life.
Like a diving submarine, an inner pressure must meet the pressure from the outside, lest we be crushed. Paul appealed to the Ephesians to be strengthened in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). Fear increases its pressure with every new crisis or threat. Have we forgotten that "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4, NKJV)? Paul faced staggering fears and pressures, yet he wrote: "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8,9). How could Paul stand when so many had fallen? He was made strong in the inner man.

To rise above fears, we must press in close to God.
As a young boy I enjoyed annual fishing trips with my father into the vast Canadian north lakes. We were joined by friends, making a party of six or eight on our adventures. On the last of those trips, we were crossing a massive lake when a sudden storm caught us in the middle. I was riding in the bow of a small boat. My father was in the larger craft. Our situation became critical within minutes. We turned our boat to the closest shore and battled and bailed. I wanted to be with my dad … I just knew if I could be with him, I would be OK.

When fears rise up like an icy tempest, we all need to be with our Father. Safety, comfort, courage and peace are only found in the Father’s embrace.

To rise above fears, we must rest in God’s promises.
Should the markets crash, have we not a promise from God that He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19)? Should the environment lay battered, is this not our Father’s world? Should disease roar in fury, is our Lord not also our Healer? For every phobia, God gives a promise. For every trauma, He holds a triumph. In days of terror, we have a Savior who will not let us fail or fall if we will only trust His Word.

In darkness, He is Light. In trouble, He is our Helper. In weeping, He is joy. In confusion, He is certainty. In suffering, He is hope. In poverty, He is our very great reward. In weariness, He is strength. In terror, He is our strong tower. In crisis, He is unshakable. In silence, He is a still small voice. And in fear, He is courage. The power we need to stare down fear is not to be found in us, but in Him.

Most things we fear never come to pass. Our worries are wasted, and our strength is sapped by the phantoms and illusions of an undisciplined mind, a restless soul, a wandering heart. We would do well to learn as the Psalmist did: "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea" (Psalm 46:1,2).


David B. Crabtree is pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Greensboro, N.C.

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