The Spirit of Fear

By Jim Allen

God has not given us the spirit of fear and yet fear continues to assault the Christian experience. Why is that? What are we missing? All of us, on occasion, war against the spirit of fear, but now more than ever it seems. Shouldn't we be walking blissfully through life with peace oozing out every pore of our being? Is fear always a bad thing?

Fear is an emotion resulting from thinking that someone or something is dangerous, a threat perhaps, capable of causing harm or pain or worse. Fear is not always a bad thing if what you fear is real. I want my children to fear certain things in life. I want them to fear strangers and stray animals and unfamiliar places. I want them to fear the street because there are few second chances after a mistake. When they were young I used to tell them repeatedly, "Look left and look right and then keeping looking both ways until you cross safely."

Living one's faith is like a crossing a street. We need to look and keep looking, always on guard.

Fear can be good if you use it to protect yourself and others. Several years ago I stepped off a morning commuter bus in down-town Minneapolis and walked down a corridor leading to the back entry door of an office tower. A few days earlier a woman was attacked in the same corridor by a man who took her attaché case and then pushed her violently backwards down the cement staircase. She suffered extreme head trauma. I never heard what became of her.

Approaching the same staircase a few days later, I didn't see anyone at the top landing near the door going into the building. Halfway up the staircase I notice the "tips of a pair of black shoes" barely visible. Someone was standing behind a wall in wait. Aware of the recent attack, it became clear this was not going to be a good day. I sensed fear. It was the good kind of fear. Stopping in midstride, I slowly descended the staircase and made my escape.

Some would call my escape pure luck. I call it divine protection (Psalm 91).

While fear based on real evidence in life is good, it can be bad when based on false evidence. A pastor once said FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Is fear a growing reality in the body of Christ? Are believers allowing their imaginations to run away, taking over to conjure up all manner of false evidence appearing real? Some are because it's easy to do. I've done it.

We don't want to develop a faith based on feelings and emotions and happenstance. Fear is an emotion; and the kind of fear I'm talking about is the bad kind that makes the unreal appear real. It will ruin your day.

Believers write asking questions around all kinds of things including doubting one's salvation. In these instances, the problem is nearly always the same. We tend to forget Jesus is our Sabbath [1] rest and that we can trust in his performance and not ours. Our undone state can never be the measure of salvation because we tend to look upon our failures and short comings instead of his victory and faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1:9).

Overlooking this truth is easy to do, and we struggle. Focusing on our performance leads to False Evidence Appearing Real. Yes, we are to pray and avoid sin but also understand that even on our best day of living for Jesus we come short of perfection. Then what? We seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and go on living by faith (Romans 1:17).

Feelings, emotions, and happenstance are not faith. They are unpredictable thoughts and events that play no part in defining who we are in Christ; they have no part in faith and no part in salvation. Our confidence is in the One who is above all and did all. Our part is holding up the shield of faith to protect against the piercing arrows of doubt (Ephesians 6:16).

In closing, there is good fear [2] and bad fear. The kind of fear we don't want is the one adding nothing to our walk with God. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

I read an interesting book written by John MacArthur that deals with fear and doubt. In one of his closing chapters John insightfully writes,
"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6 NIV). Can there be any more encouraging reminder for the struggling Christian than that? Therefore, be assured of your salvation no matter how incomplete or imperfect you are right now. [3]
I wholly agree with John that a child of God can rest firmly in this truth by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8). Shalom!

1. There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God's plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. We dare not reject this one-and-only Way of salvation (John 14:6). (Source)

2. For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer's fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire. (Source)

3. MacArthur, Jr., John; Saved Without A Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation; John MacArthur Study; p. 171; David C. Cook. Kindle Edition; 2010.

Image Credit: tookapic; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Eternity-Forever

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Published 5-3-16