Fear is one of the easiest things in the world. It isn’t hard to find things to fear. Spiders, loss, uncertainty, loneliness – I really don’t need to list them off. You know your fears. You’re probably listing off a few of them as you read this. Fear is easy to come by.
Fear is also one of the hardest things in the world. When you face fear, it’s like a weight that lives in your belly and refuses to let go. It doesn’t feel temporary, even if it is, and it’s difficult to believe that life can ever continue without fear. Fear is hard to overcome.
And yet, how many times in the scriptures are the words “Fear not” spoken by Jesus Christ? He speaks it like it’s a simple thing, like there’s an On/Off switch that can stop the fear we feel. It’s hard to believe.
So is He wrong? Or can it really be as simple as Christ makes it sound?
Fear as a Warning
Let’s clarify something first – fear can be a warning. And fear as a warning is very natural and instinctual. What’s more, it can be a powerful tool or motivator to guide us to safer paths in our lives.
When fear warns us, it’s purposeful. It’s a God-given gift to help us see danger and to help protect us from that danger. For example, we fear hell and Satan because they represent the dangerous consequences of sin and rebellion. Because we fear those things, we are motivated to avoid them.
There’s a purpose to that fear. It doesn’t paralyze us, it moves us. And when Christ says, “Fear not,” this is not the fear He’s talking about. When fear acts as a warning, it isn’t something we can control. And it always serves a greater purpose in our lives, even bringing us closer to Christ.
The fear Christ is talking about is more destructive.
Satan’s Manipulation of Fear
Even though fear serves a powerful purpose as a motivator and warning, it can also hinder our progress. This happens when we allow our fear to become so strong that nothing seems capable of overcoming it.
Our lives are about progress, about change, and about becoming more like God. In other words, our lives are about becoming faithful disciples of Christ. And to be that faithful disciple, we need to have movement and motivation in our lives. And when fear is used as a warning, it can help us with that.
But Satan wants to do everything in his power to stop us from following Christ and to do so he needs to destroy any motivation we might have to follow Christ.
One of his most powerful tools is fear.
Have you ever noticed how Satan will take things that serve God’s purposes and twist them into something corrupted? He’s done this with fear.
Under Satan’s influence, fear becomes so consuming that it’s hard to focus on anything else. Nothing seems more powerful than our fear.
And that’s when fear gets in the way.
When Christ says, “Fear not,” this is the fear He’s talking about. The fear that blocks faith and action. The fear that convinces us to give up. The fear that leaves you hopeless. The fear that inspires doubt. The fear that’s backed by Satan.
But notice this – God uses fear as a tool to motivate us; Satan uses fear as a weapon to demoralize and paralyze us.
God’s Greater Power
Satan’s manipulation of fear can be powerful in a shocking way. But remember – God always has been, always will be, and currently is more powerful than Satan can even dream of being. And even though we are not as powerful as God, even though Satan has the power to influence us, when we rely on God and follow Christ in spite of fear, God’s power is with us.
That may seem hard to believe right now, with the world overwhelmed by uncertainty, illness, and loss. But God is not limited by those things.
I love what it says in Romans 8:
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39 (KJV)
The love of God is a greater strength, a greater motivator, and a greater foundation than fear. And though fear has its place as a tool, it can never be greater than God’s love.
So no matter what’s happening in the world, no matter what you and I face in our personal lives, relying on God’s infinite love will deliver us from fear and will motivate us closer to Him. And as we come closer to Him, we’ll find more strength to become faithful disciples of Christ.
To “Fear not” is as simple as a choice. Christ wasn’t wrong about its simplicity. But it’s a choice that must be made every day of our lives.
That’s the thing about fear – it only controls us when we shift our focus away from Christ and our Father in Heaven. But when we choose to focus on Christ, to rely on His and our Father’s love, fear has no more power to control us.