Faith Over Fear
What do we have to fear these days? Apparently a lot!
1. The unknown effects of a novel corona virus and its vaccine
2. Economic hardships caused by the shutdowns
3. The threat of hyper-inflation from all this money that has been printed to “help” us out the economic slump
4. An out-of-control government headed toward Marxism and maybe communism
5. The loss of freedom of speech for Christians and conservatives
6. The threat of Christian persecution and being canceled by the culture
7. The gloomy future for our children with all the debt our government has created
8. Ungodly beliefs being pushed on our children and grandchildren
9. The rising number of people getting Alzheimer’s and other diseases as they age
Oh my! And this is just a partial list of all the things out there that are terrorizing our thoughts and causing a great deal of anxiety and depression among people these days. What are we to do? How do we cope with mounting fear and anxiety that seems to coming at us from all sides? What is the Biblical answer for dealing with prayer and anxiety? God actually has a lot to say about fear in His Word.
Did you know that the most often stated command in scripture is, “Fear not?” We are commanded not to be afraid over 300 times! This tells me that God knows we are actually very fearful people and need to be reassured that our fear is unnecessary. This world has been a scary place in which to live ever since Adam and Eve hid in the garden. The devil works tirelessly to oppress God’s people in order to paralyze them into inaction and make them unfruitful servants in God’s kingdom. We see this tactic of Satan in the book of Nehemiah, when the enemies of God tried to frighten Nehemiah into stopping his work on the rebuilding the Wall. In Nehemiah 6:9 he says, “For they all wanted to frighten us thinking, their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done. But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” That needs to be our prayer today. The enemy is trying to frighten us into inactivity, but now, oh God, strengthen our hands!
Don’t we see this same tactic constantly used against us in this day and age? I’ve literally had to pull back from watching the news because of their incessant shock treatment referred to as “breaking news.” I realize a lot of that is for ratings, but it is also clearly one of Satan’s methods for filling us with so much fear that we cower in the corner. It’s hard to get out and serve God when you have no hope for the future and feel continual anxiety about the state of the world. It is imperative that we rise above this fear if we want to finish the race well, and bring glory to God and people into His kingdom. We need to see fear for what it is – Satan’s ploy – and listen to what God commands – “Fear not!” We need not allow the negativity of the world to cause us to lose hope for the future. God is still in control and we can courageously focus on the business of loving and serving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Easier said than done, right? Here is what Jesus said about fear, anxiety, and worry. It is from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-33…
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (ESV)
Jesus is reminding us that our real life and our real treasure is not here on earth. This life is short and filled with troubles. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world.” We need to keep our focus on our eternal life to come which will be in eternity with God. By seeking His kingdom first and working to serve others and bring them into the kingdom, we can alleviate our propensity towards worry and fear. We worry now because we think our lives will be difficult and we will lose the things that bring us comfort and security. If we worry about these things we are believing that God doesn’t know what He’s doing if or when He decides to take our conveniences away and allow us to experience difficulty. We are telling the world, and God, that we don’t have faith to believe that He can or will take care of us in the event that something negative happens in our lives. Granted, the thought of going through difficulties is not all that appealing to anyone, but we have a God who has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Even if we die for our faith, Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse that “Not a hair of our head will perish.” God’s in control and He’s got us in the palm of His hands. We can rest assured that nothing and no one can harm us. Nothing can touch our eternal soul because it belongs to Him. That removes anything that we could possible worry about!
Another passage that I committed to memory this past year when I was feeling overwhelmed by the state of things in our world is Philippians 4:4-9.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV)
When are we supposed to rejoice? When things are all going perfectly according to our plans? When we have everything we need? When the economy is good? When our party is in control of the White House? When evil is being restrained and good is triumphing? Well, technically we should rejoice when those things happen, but the word Paul used is “ALWAYS.” Are things always going our way? Hardly! We are told to rejoice even when things are looking bleak. When we have no money in the bank. When it looks like everything we love and cherish about our country and way of life is falling apart at the seams, we are commanded to rejoice. Why? Because God is on His throne and He is in control and in case you haven’t heard, we win in the end!
We’re commanded to be anxious for nothing, but instead of allowing anxiety to dominate our thoughts and actions, we pray and ask God for help. And notice also that we pray with thanksgiving. We’re not thankful that the world is in a mess, we are thankful that we have a God who sees and knows all and is in total control of every situation. Whatever He has allowed to touch our lives is for our own good – or if it’s terrible, because sometimes it is, He will work it out for our good. That’s a promise. How could we not be thankful for that?
The result of rejoicing and making our requests known to God is that He will fill our hearts and minds with peace beyond understanding. People will look at us and wonder how in the world we can be so calm and at peace when they are falling apart at the seams. This peace will guard, or keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. When God keeps our hearts and minds He makes us strong and keeps us from being overwhelmed by the circumstances around us. He helps us to stay focused on Him rather than on the storm. Remember Peter walking on the water? When He fixed His gaze on Jesus he stayed on top of the storm, but when he focused on the storm, he sank. That’s why it’s so imperative to stay focused on the Lord in prayer and through reading and meditating on His Word.
In the last part of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit tells us to think, or fix our minds, on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise worthy. A constant diet of Fox News or Covid-19 updates or even the local news about all the murders in our state capital is not going to fill our minds with peace! It’s fine to read the headlines and stay abreast of what’s happening in order to pray more effectively for those things concerning us, but don’t spend all day dwelling on negative and depressing news. Instead, think on things that build us up in the faith. Think about the greatness of God and all that He has done for us. Try to find Christian podcasts that focus on living by God’s Word. Listen to praise music and worship God. Read or listen to the Bible. There are lots of audio Bible apps that are free. When we do this, we are promised the peace and presence of God. In addition, Paul says that we should put into practice everything we’ve learned from Him. It’s not enough to read, listen, and meditate on Scripture, we need to actually live by it.
There are some other practical things I’ve run across from listening to Dr. Daniel Amen on the Brain Warriors podcast and other Christian health experts during the past several months that have been helpful to me in alleviating anxiety and motivating me to start living a more productive life. Here are some ideas you may also want to try:
1. Positivity Journal – In the morning write down one thing that is going to be good about the day. Maybe it’s something you’ve planned, or maybe it’s just something positive like, “Today is a good day because Jesus loves me and I know He’s going to be with me throughout the day.” At the end of the day write down one thing that was good about the day. In this way, you are beginning and ending your day on a positive note.
2. Clean up your diet. Start replacing processed foods with real vegetables, fruits, grass fed meats, whole grains, nuts, berries, and water or healthy drinks such as green tea and organic black coffee. I am following the MIND diet which was created to support brain health. You actually become the food you eat. Make sure you’re not eating junk that makes you sluggish and can cause brain fog and anxiety.
3. Go for a walk outside. The fresh air and sunshine helps to boost your mood and alleviate stress and anxiety. If you are able, add some exercise to your daily routine to boost the oxygen to your brain.
4. Focus on others and their needs. If you can focus your energy on meeting the needs of others and serving them in the name of the Lord Jesus, you will not have time to worry about your own fears and anxiety. Getting involved with other people is and building meaningful relationships is a key to a healthy brain and a healthy life. God made us to be social beings. You’ve probably experienced volunteering or going on a mission trip where you felt as if you got a bigger blessing from helping others than they got from your service.
Hopefully, these Scriptures and practical lifestyle choices can help us all to rise above the scary times in which we live so that we can be more fruitful as servants of God. The devil will continue to throw all he has at us, but we have the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to help us to defeat him and live victorious lives for our God. I’m praying that all of us will have the courage to look toward the future without fear, secure in our position in Christ, and with great faith that God is in control and we can face anything because of His great love and faithfulness to us.
We Will Not Be Silenced, By Erwin Lutzer
Fearless, By Max Lucado