Fear – the Antithesis of Love

By: Peter Youngren
From: September - October 2013
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
Even as Christians we may be attacked by fear. Our circumstances can often make us afraid and depressed. But the Bible tells us repeatedly not to fear! Let us have a look at what the Bible says about fear and how to get free from it.

Fear is a mental paralysis where logical thought is exchanged for chaotic emotions. The Hebrew word for anxiety indicates a troubled soul; an eruption of emotions in the psyche. One Scripture describes it as “hearts melted within.”  Today we’d call that an emotional meltdown. In another Scripture fear is described as the dread you’d feel if the walls and ceiling were closing in on you and there’s nowhere to go.

Fear thrives on rehearsing negative scenarios from the past and imagining more trouble in the near or distant future. It reruns the same movie of past failures again and again in our minds. This is all in stark contrast to God who lives in the now.

Fear thrives on rehearsing negative scenarios from the past and imagining more trouble in the near or distant future.

The words “fear not” appear 366 times in the Bible. Someone has suggested that’s once for every day of the year, plus an extra mention for leap year. Webster’s definition of the verb fear is “to be in awe of,”  “in wonder,”  “to honour,” “to respect,” “to trust,” and “to worship.” How we feel inwardly depends on who or what we fear. Either we are in awe of God, in wonder at his love, which is the true definition of the fear of God, or ultimately we are in awe of our circumstances, failures and setbacks.

Israel Attacked by Fear

In Exodus 14:11-15, there is a situation where fear had gripped the hearts of the people:
Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”  And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 

The words “fear not” appear 366 times in the Bible. Someone has suggested that’s once for every day of the year, plus an extra mention for leap year.

The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”  And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”
Fear happens in places where we would least expect. Israel had just experienced how the ten plagues had demolished the Egyptian society. Songs that worshipped the river Nile as a god were part of the Egyptian religion and now the waters had become an undrinkable blood. What once was a blessing had turned into curse. Egyptian religion also worshipped frogs as being inhabited by divine powers. Now those frogs, which had been an object of worship, had become a plague.

How we feel inwardly depends on who or what we fear.

All of this served to show the supremacy of the God of Israel. When the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied to the doorpost, God had again showed His greatness, resulting in three million slaves instantly freed.

Israel had experienced how God guided them out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. If anyone had seen miracles, it was the people of Egypt - yet these people were afraid. About the time they arrived at the Red Sea, Egypt had finished mourning the loss of their firstborn and Pharaoh sent his elite troops to corner Israel at the edge of the water.  Immediately fear showed up.

If anyone had seen miracles, it was the people of Egypt - yet these people were afraid.

Maybe you have experienced God’s power and God’s love, even deliverance and healing, and yet you find yourself under the attack of fear.  As soon as the circumstances turned negative, the people forgot the pains of slavery, and wished for the cemeteries of Egypt.

The Anti-thesis of Fear

Fear finds a reason to pass blame, to burrow into the past, to blame self and others. In this case they blamed God and Moses. The people imagined themselves dead. Negative imaginations of the past and the future are symptomatic of fear.

Fear identifies you with your trouble. You and your circumstances become one. God’s view is the opposite. You are His beloved. No matter what you have lost, you are not a loser. No matter what life circumstances have done to you, you are not a victim, you are a victor. God sees you identified with Christ.

Standing on the brink of the Red Sea, Israel was trapped by fear, awed by Egypt’s power to kill and enslave rather than in wonder of God who had proven himself again and again as the great deliverer.
   
The remedy for fear is love, because there is no fear in love and perfect love cast out fear (1 John 4). Empathy, analysis of the situation, or even the kindest support group is not enough. Only an immersion into the love of God sets us free. John, the apostle, writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears, has not been made perfect in love” (v.18).

Only an immersion into the love of God sets us free.

Many put faith and fear as opposites, while the Scripture is clear that love is the antithesis of fear. To be sure, faith is important, but it only works by love (Gal 5:6), so the real remedy for fear is a baptism in God’s love.

Fear is a Choice

God speaks words of freedom to Israel:

Do not be afraid. Fear is a choice. We are not victims; we are responsible to choose to lean on God’s love instead of fear. Our life is determined by what we choose to fear - to be in awe of circumstances or in awe of God.
   
David wrote Psalm 56:3: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.” On another occasion, when he was chased by his son Absalom who was ready to kill him, David wrote “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). In each scenario there was a choice: I will, I will.

Our life is determined by what we choose to fear - to be in awe of circumstances or in awe of God.

   
Jesus said, “be anxious for nothing.” Paul echoed similar words in his letter to the Philippians. On another occasion Jesus said,  “Take no thought for tomorrow.” We have the ability to take or discard thoughts. We choose to fear or to identify ourselves with God’s thoughts and be embraced by His love.

Immerse Yourself in His Love

It is not sufficient to have academic knowledge about God’s love - we must be immersed in it. When you are tired, it is not enough to study about sleep and its benefits. You must actually get in bed, get under the covers and let yourself get into a deep sleep and wake up restful. So it is also with God’s love. Immerse yourself in his love, let it embrace you, and you will find freedom from fear.

Stand still! The Hebrew language is full of pictures. To stand still means to be present and accountable. It reminds me of a roll call where you answer “yes” when your name is called. We are present and accountable to God who has unconditionally presented himself to us through Jesus Christ. Now I choose to be available to God. God has reconciled himself to me and therefore I want to be reconciled to God.

In Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 15, the Father stood at the gate, present and accountable, looking longingly for the return of his wayward son. When the prodigal returned home, his clothes stank like a pig, but at the moment of that tender embrace, nothing mattered. The son was present and accountable to the father who loved him unconditionally.

See the salvation the Lord will accomplish for you! The word accomplish conjures up the image of a craftsman, like a potter, a sculptor, a carpenter, an artist or a designer.  God is the master craftsman, the artist, who plans to make his design become a reality in you. Many religious observers worship a deity without a plan or a design. We worship a God who has a plan for each person; who considers you infinitely valuable. From God’s perspective, you are worth everything because He loves you.

Once we learn to rest in Jesus Christ, embraced by His love, we will also be able to speak in faith. Words of faith always flow from a restful heart.

The Lord will fight for you! The New Covenant rendition of this is that the Lord has already fought for us. At the cross, Jesus triumphed over all principalities and powers and made a show of them openly. We are not looking for the victory - we have the victory. We are not looking for the blessing - we have the blessing.
   
Hold your peace! Don’t fret, don’t be worried, and you don’t need to say anything right away - just rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Lean on Jesus. Cast your cares on Him because he loves you.  And if those cares try to bounce back on you, then choose to not let them attach themselves to you but keep resting in what He has done. Once we learn to rest in Jesus Christ, embraced by His love, we will also be able to speak in faith. Words of faith always flow from a restful heart.

What is the key? Move from “God so loved the world” to “God so loved me.”

Move forward! Once Israel came through the Red Sea they stepped into something infinitely greater than what they had come from. With God our path is always from Glory to Glory. We come out of something infinitely smaller and into something greater.

What is the key? Move from “God so loved the world” to “God so loved me.” His love for you is unconditional and transformational – it cannot fail. Fear will have to flee.

By: Peter Youngren

As founder of World Impact Ministries, Celebration Bible College, Way of Peace and the Celebration Churches in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara, Canada, Peter is committed to equipping believers to fulfill their purpose before the return of Jesus Christ.

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