Fear or Faith?
In my medical practice I once had a patient who described herself as a Christian. She was theologically sound, but her life was one characterized by constant worry about nearly everything. She was not only overly concerned about her health but about her finances and the future of her family as well. Her life was one of continual anxiety rather than dependence upon God. Her husband, a non believer, and I would have occasional talks together about Christ. At one point, he related that he was not interested in “religion” because of the absence of any effect it had on his wife. Although she knew the creed of Christianity, her life was one of fear rather than faith.
Born into a fallen sinful world, we exist in an atmosphere of fear. Having, as a race, rejected the governance of God, we have substituted our own governance for His. Since crowning ourselves as king, we regard self as pre-eminent and are in perpetual conflict with the rest of humanity, who, likewise, have enthroned self. Everyone looking out for “self” produces conflict in relationships, businesses, organizations and nations. The end product of this conflict is a pervading sense of fear.
Those coming to Christ have, theologically, replaced this fear by faith. This transformation however, is usually a process which is often slow and incomplete. God desires that our thoughts, attitudes, and actions be governed by faith, but fear sometimes becomes the controlling factor in our lives. This does so, commonly, in our relationships with God Himself, with others, with our concerns for our needs, and with those in authority.
If we do not have complete faith in what God has done and is doing for us in Christ, we replace this void in our relationship with Him with fear. This is not a reverential awe type of fear, but rather a cringing fear which keeps us away from God rather than drawing us to Him. This fear looks to the inadequacies of self and feels guilt and shame. Rather than looking to Christ alone as our righteousness and holiness, it looks to the performance of self to some degree to find acceptance before Him. Faith in His perfect love for us is the only factor that will drive out this fear. “We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.” (I John 4:18) The Living Bible
The fear of others may also replace the faith that the Lord desires us to manifest in our ministry to them. This fear may be evident in a lack of trust, which hinders our relationship with them. It may also be seen in a fear of rejection, which may prevent our sharing our lives and the Gospel with them. This fear has as its basis the possible threat to self. This fear is abolished by remembering that our trust in the Lord will keep us safe. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
Perhaps the most common fear of mankind, including followers of Christ, is the fear of the possible absence of the daily necessities of life. This is seen in the following statement by the Lord. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31-32) The Lord has also told us the following. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) Fear, perpetually focused on self, will compete with others to meet its needs. It will also use others to meet its needs. The needs of self will never be fully met and it will then accuse God of not meeting its needs! Faith, on the other hand, realizes that God is meeting its needs. Since God is the one who is responsible for meeting its needs, it does not need to be concerned about them. That would be a duplication of effort! This realization frees us up to help meet the needs of others.
Another common area in which we find fear is that of our response to authority. Fear may be prevalent in the workplace, our organizations, and with our local and national authorities. It may be a fear that our contribution is not recognized or appreciated. It may relate to a disagreement regarding some decisions in the workplace or organization. In regard to local and national authorities, we may fear the agendas, hidden or otherwise, that they bring to the office. Whatever the case, self is not rewarded or feels threatened. It commonly takes the posture of grumbling or complaining as the Israelites did in the desert. “And he called the place Massah and Mariah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:7) Faith, however, recognizes that all authority is from God. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) Faith looks to the future, and even though the governance in our workplace, our organization or nation is imperfect and creates trouble for us, it knows that the Lord’s promises to us are our confidence. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:17-18) The Lord also reassures us of His care for us under all possible present and future circumstances with the following words. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
In many respects faith is the opposite of fear. Faith is self-emptying. Fear is self protective. Faith exalts Christ. Fear enthrones self. Faith looks to Christ himself to meet our needs. Fear leads us to try to find solutions for ourselves apart from Christ. Faith recognizes Him as our security and as our significance. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1b) Fear drives us to try to find security and significance apart from Him. Faith trusts in God to control its life. Fear attempts to control all aspects of its life without reference to Him. Faith trusts Him as Jehovah-Jireh, the One who provides all that we need. Fear seeks the provisions rather than the One who will provide them. Faith knows Him as its Shepherd, whereas fear leads one to shepherd their own lives.
The question before us, then, is how do we replace fear with faith? The answer begins with the knowledge of God Himself. If we knew Him perfectly we would trust Him perfectly. Thanks be to God, we have been given the One who has trusted Him perfectly! Christ Jesus came into the world manifesting perfect knowledge of the Father, perfect trust in Him, and delighting in His will. We have been given Him, not as a model to emulate, but as a life to be lived in our lives. He Himself is our life! “For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4) In our application of these words to our lives we must begin where the Apostle Paul did, with verse three. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) KJV Since Christ is now our life, we must look to Him continually for our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions. He has already demonstrated that He is triumphant over fear! It is only in bringing the totality of our lives to Him that this transformation from fear to faith becomes complete. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18) KJV
In Christ, Richard Spann