I recently had the opportunity to speak at a local church for their Sunday services. I spoke about fear, including why we fear, the problems it causes, and how to overcome our fears. I would like to share some of that message here with the hope that you will find it helpful and encouraging.
What is Fear?
Before I get too far, I want to describe what I mean when I talk about fear. I’m sure we all know what fear is and have experienced many types of it in our lives. But not all fear is the same. You see, God created us with some natural instincts—fear being one of them—to help us survive. The fear of physical harm is what keeps us from walking out in front of a truck traveling down the highway. Fear of other physical, emotional, or social pain can help us think twice about our actions and words and help us avoid hurting ourselves and others. A healthy fear of God can keep us humble and help us honor Him in what we do.
However, in addition to these healthy forms of fear, we often experience much more troublesome types of fear that lead to anxiety, depression, phobias, and ultimately a timid spirit and a life defined by inaction. These fears can be based on evidence from past experience, or can be completely irrational. Either way, if left unchecked this unhealthy fear can overtake our lives, steal our joy, and hold us back from living in freedom. For our purposes today, when I talk about fear I’m referring to this second, unhealthy and unfruitful type.
What causes us to fear in the first place?
Believing lies that are told so often and so loudly that most people believe them.
You will fail.
You’re not good enough.
Making money is the most important way you can provide for your kids.
You alone must provide for ALL of your family’s needs.
You NEED to have or do or get ______ fill in the blank.
We say we believe God—that He is our provider, that He is all-powerful, that He is good—but we live our daily lives as if none of that is true.
We worry about today, tomorrow, and next week
We worry about making enough money for us/our family
We get anxiety about our health and that of our kids, family and friends
Deep in our hearts we may believe that God is good and that He cares for us, but we get distracted by our worldly troubles and forget the Truth
John MacArthur commentary: Phil. 4:6 do not be anxious. (See notes on Matt. 6:26–33.) Fret and worry indicate a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, sovereignty, or power. Delighting in the Lord and meditating on his word are a great antidote to anxiety (Ps. 1:2). in everything. All difficulties are within God’s purposes. prayer and supplication with thanksgiving . . . requests. Gratitude to God accompanies all true prayer.
What good things might we be missing?
When we give in to fear in our lives, letting it determine our thoughts, attitudes, and decisions, we miss out on many good things that God may have for us.
1) You may be afraid of losing your job, but there might be a better job waiting for you.
2) You may be afraid of going to away to college or moving to another town, but if you don’t go you may be missing new friendships, experiences, and opportunities
3) You may be afraid of submitting every area of your life to God because you’re not sure what He may ask you to do or where he may ask you to go, but you might be missing His purpose for your life and the important good works He has prepared for you to do.
4) You may be missing the Peace of God
John MacArthur: Phil. 4:7 peace of God. See note on v. 9. Inner calm or tranquility is promised to the believer who has a thankful attitude based on unwavering confidence that God is able and willing to do what is best for his children (cf. Rom. 8:28). surpasses all understanding. This refers to the divine origin of peace. It transcends human intellect, analysis, and insight (Isa. 26:3; John 16:33). guard. A military term meaning “to keep watch over.” God’s peace guards believers from anxiety, doubt, fear, and distress. hearts . . . minds. Paul was not making a distinction between the two—he was giving a comprehensive statement referring to the whole inner person. Because of the believer’s union with Christ, he guards his inner being with his peace.
What can we do to keep fear from holding us back and stealing our hope?
1) Confront lies in your life and find evidence that proves them wrong (write it down)
Start: Punch fear in the face, escape average, do work that matters by Jon Acuff
Jon talks about confronting the voices of fear and doubt by writing them down whenever they get loud in your mind
he says actually getting them out of your mind and down on paper takes away some of their power and helps you confront them with the truth
Note from John MacArthur Phil. 4:8 true. What is true is found in God (2 Tim. 2:25), in Christ (Eph. 4:20–21), in the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and in God’s word (John 17:17).
2) Prayer and Supplication, with thanksgiving
supplication: to ask humbly and earnestly; appeal, implore, petition, plead; earnestly just means to be sincere and serious
when we appeal to God humbly and share the desires of our hearts, along with our fears and anxiety, we need to remember and give thanks for all the good things God has already done in our lives; remembering what God has already done and being thankful for everyday blessings will help take away the power of our fears to control us
Pray in the Spirit, seeking God’s will above all else
3) Meditate on scripture and remember God’s promises
I have found it helpful to study a Bible passage and write down some observations, applications, and prayers that I can go back and read over when I need encouragement.
When you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, whether its focused on a decision to be made or just your daily responsibilities and relationships, remember to:
- think about what problems living in fear causes in your life
- Consider what good things you might be missing by giving in to fear
- identify lies that you’re believing about yourself, your life, and God and confront them with the truth
- Read the Bible and focus on God’s character and promises
- Submit yourselves—your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your children, your health—to God through continual prayer and supplication, asking him to give you His peace, guarding and guiding your heart and mind in Jesus
- Remember who God is and who you are
What fears are you struggling with today? What fears have you already overcome?