Fair warning: Today’s blog post is me attempting to think through things in a public forum. I’m thinking through this subject as we go. There will probably be no definitive answers to anything and you may completely disagree with where this goes. That’s okay. If you see me, pull me aside and let’s talk about it. I’d love to hear your opinion and use it to help me form mine.
After writing last weeks blog post I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. In that post I talked about “the fear of the new” and how fear always shows up no matter what. I gave the argument that everyone has a fear of something and that if you can name your fear then it becomes not so fearful after all. I mentioned that if you can recognize it, you can tell it to leave and defeat it.
I still believe this is true, but like I said, I’ve been doing a little more thinking and praying about this and I have some other thoughts.
First, Some Context
The topic of fear came up again last Friday night, right after I published that last post. Our church hosted a Men’s conference last weekend and on Friday night Jeremy Foster, pastor of Hope City Church in Texas gave a great message about how it’s time for men to step across the threshold from where we are and into the lives that God has for us.
Side note: Jeremy, if you ever read this, I know I am probably not quoting you exactly right. I feel like I have the gist of this section pretty well down though. Forgive me if it gets too far off course. Also, feel free to correct me. I can take it. 😄
Over the course of the message Jeremy mentioned a few reasons why we stay where we are instead of stepping into what God wants us to step into. One of those reasons was fear. You could probably think of a few fears right now that would hold you back from stepping up into what you know God wants you to do, couldn’t you? You can probably physically feel them. The fear of the unknown, the fear of what the people around you might think, the fear of letting other people down … these are some of them. There are most likely others.
At one point during this section of his message Jeremy sort of joked about an old preacher that said something to the effect of “If you have Jesus in your heart, you never have to fear again.” Reading those words doesn’t do justice to how Jeremy delivered it. Read it again, but think old southern preacher as you do. There … you got it now.
Anyway, the point Jeremy was making was that what the old preacher said just wasn’t true. We will always have fear with us. He said that if we ever want to do anything significant it will be full of fear. Taking unknown steps, doing big things … these will be fearful.
In the moment I agreed with him. We will always have fear. I said pretty much the same thing last week, didn’t I? I agreed that the old preacher was probably wrong and fear is just an inevitable conclusion to a life lived on the edge. Well then I started thinking about it some more over the course of the next few days and … well now I’m not so sure.
So What Changed?
I just couldn’t shake the idea that something about this whole fear thing was not quite right. Like maybe there was something to what the old preacher had said. Perhaps he wasn’t completely wrong.
I started wondering, thinking, and praying. I started asking questions. What if there was a difference between the fear we talk about having, and actual, deep-seated, real-life fear? Is it actually possible to live without fear?
I think there is a difference between actual fear and what we call “fear” on a daily basis. When I think about “fear” I think a “deep down at a soul level” kind of fright. When I think about the “fear” that I experience when I open up a new document to write, that’s just me being scared of what people might think about what I write. I believe more and more that there is a difference between fear and just being scared or nervous about something. That it comes down to the level of the soul. When the old preacher said that you never had to fear again, I believe he was thinking soul-deep, not skin-deep.
Maybe I’m just arguing semantics here. If you look up the definitions of “fear” and “scary” they are pretty much the same thing. But I don’t think that God defines them the same way and I think that distinction is a big deal.
Here’s why I say that. As I was thinking the things above I went to God to seek some clarity. Clarity on subjects that you find muddy is like cool water on a hot day. You know what I’m talking about right? You’re out there working in the yard and it’s hot, you’re sweaty and getting kind of tired. Then someone wonderful brings you a cold glass of water and you take that first drink … it’s like life has just been shot directly into your veins, isn’t it? It’s amazing what clarity can do for your life.
God and I were chatting about fear and I was asking Him about whether or not there was a difference between actual fear and just being scared about something. He reminded me of 2 Timothy 1:7, which says:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
A couple of things that He made sure I noticed:
God Doesn’t Give Us Fear
Fear is not from Him. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a). If it’s not love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control then it’s probably not from God.
Fear is a Spirit
If it’s a spirit, and it’s not from God, that means that we can cast it away from us. 1 John 4:18:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
God is love. There is no more perfect love than the love of the Father. There is no fear in His love. Perhaps this is where the old preacher was speaking from. If we have the love of the Father, what shall we fear?
Also notice that if fear is a spirit (it is) then the love of the Father (and some spiritual warfare) casts out that spirit of fear.
So the next time we are feeling fearful, we can remember that fear is just a spirit and we can tap into the Father’s love and in the name of Jesus tell that spirit to leave us and ask the Father who loves us to fill that “now-empty-of-fear” place with power, love, and a sound mind.
Wrap it Up, Rich
So at the end of the day, I’m beginning to believe more and more that there is a difference between “soul-deep” and “skin-deep” fear. Public speaking, anyone? That might be a soul-deep fear for me. But I also believe that fear, in whatever form it comes in, is just a spirit, a tactic that my enemy wants to use to keep me from doing the very things that God wants me to do.
These are just my raw thoughts. Maybe they’re right … maybe they’re not. I may have made the whole subject clear for you, or I may have muddied the waters a bunch. I apologize if it was the latter.
But perhaps both Jeremy and the old preacher were right. Maybe we will always have some fear as we tread through this adventure called “life.” But if we know that the fear we experience is not from God we can defeat it at the mention of Jesus’ name and then move forward without it.