Saturday, December 8, 2007

Overcome fear

Fear itself - What is its origin? Fear is defined as, "an unpleasant feeling of apprehension or distress caused by the presence or anticipation of danger."1 But what is the origin of this unpleasant feeling - fear itself? The ultimate basis for all fear is man's alienation from God. The first mention or manifestation of fear in the Bible was from the first man, Adam. While in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had been given a command by the Lord to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden. The serpent, Satan, deceived them and caused them to disobey God. As a result they became afraid and hid from God. Genesis 3:8-10 shares the account, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?' He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'" The root of so many fear-based thoughts is this alienation between God and man. When man sinned, he no longer enjoyed the close, intimate, loving fellowship with God as at the beginning. Fear of punishment, insecurity, dread of evil events, anticipation of loss all stem from the lost relationship to God and the covering that comes from His loving protection. Inherently, sin makes man feel that he is undeserving of any good from the hand of the Lord and is therefore vulnerable to all kinds of bad things. Rising also out of the enmity between God and man is the feeling of inadequacy that generates all kinds of fears and is a direct cause of unbelief. Faith and fear cannot be present at the same time. When we trust in the promises of God, we are not afraid. After the Children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea and continued on their journey towards the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey that God had promised to them, they came to Kadesh Barnea. Moses sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Canaan and ten of them came back with this report: Numbers 13:31 says, "But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.'" Though the children of Israel had received the promise that God would give them the Land of Canaan and had led them through the Red Sea and had promised to be with them, they still feared. They felt inadequate to tackle the "giants" in the land and, rather, forfeited the promise. What was the origin of their fear? The Bible gives us a very clear answer. It was their unbelief and it caused them to fail to enter the Promised Land. Hebrews 3:19 says, "So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." Sin and unbelief working in the life of any person will promote fear and alienation. As a result, there is torment and rebellion and the reaping of the displeasure of God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." 2 Timothy 1:7 states: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 1 John 4:18 reads, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

How to overcome fear - Are there steps to help me? Are there steps that may be taken to overcome fear? The first step in overcoming fear is recognizing and identifying what fear is and its origin. Fear is the response of the emotions to uncertainty of things unknown or anticipated, insecurity and guilt. The everyday things of life provide many opportunities to fear: "Will I lose my job? Will I have enough money to pay my bills? Will I, or one of my loved-ones get sick and die? Will my spouse leave me?" These thoughts originate from Satan, the enemy of our souls and cause us great anguish. While all of these questions are possibilities, there is no reason to anticipate loss and failure. Bad things as well as good things happen to all people. Satan's trick is to make us feel that we will receive an inordinate amount of "bad things" and further, and more importantly, that we will be unable to cope. He wants us to feel we will be overcome by evil. The second step in overcoming fear is to resist it by faith. Once we accept that fear is generated by the evil will of Satan who lies and accuses, we can begin to resist it. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. . ." (1 Peter 5:8-9). Faith is not just asking and receiving, faith is acknowledging who God is and fully accepting Him. When we realize that God is our Father, that He is all powerful and that He loves us, we will realize that there is no situation in life, real or imagined, that God will not be able and willing to help us. Through the love and power of God anything can be conquered. "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (Romans 8:15). Thirdly, we must sidestep the pitfall of guilt. Often we live in fear, because we accept the lie that we will have "bad things" happen to us because we have done "bad things." We believe that sickness or loss will come on us because we have sinned. The Bible lets us know that, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). God is not seeking to punish us for our sins; He has already laid our sins upon His precious Son, Jesus and the penalty has already been paid. We have the right to rest in the knowledge that we are children of God and God will provide for us. "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). Lastly, we should stand on God's Word, His promises. God is as good as His Word. He will do whatever He has promised. This is our security and anchor; we can know that whatever does come into our life does not have to shake us because of what Jesus has done. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul. . ." (Hebrews 6:19). If fear is a problem in our lives, we can turn fully to the Lord who is always waiting to help us: "And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (Psalms 50:15).

Overcome Fear - My ProcessNothing in all my study of psychology helped me overcome fear. My studies had not given me anything I could use to test what was truly rational versus what was irrational-what was truth versus what was a lie. Since my early beliefs were grounded and rooted in religious doctrines, I turned to the Bible for answers. I made a decision to hold every belief to be false or corrupted until I could validate it in God's Word. First, I humbled myself and decided that in order to overcome fear, I needed God's help. 1 Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." Second, I made the decision that I would cast all my anxieties, all my worries, all my concerns, once and for all on Him and trust Him to teach me what I needed to know to change fear into faith. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Third, I began to overcome fear when I took a stand against the devil, declaring him to be the liar while choosing to believe God, accepting everything He said as truth! 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." When I stood, God stood with me. When I grounded myself in God's Word, I became immovable and determined through Jesus Christ. Over the years, I have continued to become established, securely grounded, and strengthened. I have determined to stay His course, to become all He created and designed me to be. I encourage you to seek God's truth, challenge every fear-based thought to find out what is really true and what is a lie. I encourage you to make the Bible your standard of truth and trust God to help you separate truth from lies. Everything you need to overcome fear is available to you through Jesus Christ and can be found by those who seek Him, who learn to put on His character as their own, and who abide in His Word.

Overcoming fears - What does it require? Many of us struggle with overcoming fears in our lives. It is helpful to realize that fear is nothing more than a voluntarily endured hardship. Here are some suggestions for overcoming fear:
Concentrate on reality - Fear can result from focusing on a challenging idea or the possibilities of the future, or from dwelling and rehashing events of the past. These ideas and possibilities do not represent reality and we should focus on our present reality.
Attack fear with faith and love. There is wonder-working power in these weapons and they have been overcoming fears throughout humanity's existence.
Discuss your fears with someone you trust.
Realize that God can take away your fear. In the Bible, 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you."The first attempt at overcoming fears was described in Genesis 3. Adam was afraid of God, so he hid from Him. This solution was not met with a great deal of success. Adam exemplified humanity's intuitive nature to run and hide when we are fearful. It is counterintuitive to turn toward God, not away from Him, in times of fear. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). Matthew 6:26-27 explains why we should have faith rather than fear, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Overcoming our fears involves embracing a counterintuitive nature. It requires a well-armed confrontation. Most importantly, it requires God. Rather than being overwhelmed by fear, overcome your fear by being overwhelmed by God. When you make God the focus of your life, you can conquer more than fear.

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