Fear has its cause. It also has its consequences. If we left fear there, we’d be with little hope. Praise God, we don’t have to! The Christian has hope amidst fear. The Christian has faith that defies pragmatism. The Christian has love that resists emotionalism. The Christian, above all people, may enter each new day settled and secure in life’s circumstances because of the anchor of his soul (Heb 6:19).
Possible Solutions to Fear
We must explore several intriguing yet inadequate solutions before examining the ultimate and lasting solution to fear.
Is it possible that when we’re in a situation that invokes anxiety or fear, we look to a person or people to ultimately bring resolution? Consider being a new kid in school or a new person at work. Is there not a temptation to quickly join and find a reprieve from being accepted by a group or a person? Consider marriage. Is it possible to find inordinate solace in your spouse, leading to walking on eggshells to avoid conflict ending in resentfulness?
While community and relationships are part of God’s salve in our fearful situations, they are not ultimate or lasting. People move. People change.
Thus, human relationships are insufficient to meet our more profound need for abiding peace amidst the storm. We need something more.
Are there times when a theory or philosophy is presented that seems to tackle our fears once and for all? Whether it’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs revealing the preferred aspirations innate within humanity or Dewey’s pragmatism arguing for uncovering the practical benefits of doing what works through experiential analysis, we are bombarded and, at times, compelled to adopt philosophical jargon and practice.
While these and other theories are persuasive and sometimes beneficial, are they ultimate? The problem with philosophy as a stand-alone solution is that it removes the need for God and His working through the mystery of His Spirit.
Thus, philosophy is limited and does not ultimately meet our needs amidst fear. We need something more.
Is it also possible for us to rely on a daily routine, habits, or step-by-step solutions to resolve fear(s)? Take ten deep breaths…get oxygen to the brain…, and reduce the flight or fight response to scary situations. How about this…try this or that habit for sixty days to help offset the trigger reactions to anxiety-causing activities or circumstances.
Implementing specific processes to help us cope with fear and anxiety may be helpful, but it isn’t sustainable. While routines and habits are part of learning and growing, even woven into the fabric of creation (Gen 8:22), they are not fool-proof, and we all wane at some point in our self-discipline and often choose comfort over pain.
Therefore, implementing a process to finally remove our fears tries but comes up wanting. We need something more.
Fear’s Only Lasting Solution
Christ, the God-man: fulfills God’s promises and thus (1) qualifies Christ as the essential object of our faith and (2) vindicates Christ as the irrevocable fulfiller of our faith.
The apostle Paul describes Christ as the Seed of Abraham, born of a woman, and in the fullness of times to redeem those under the Law (Gal 3:19, 4:4).
What is the significance of Christ being the Seed, born of a woman, and born under the Law? There are many reasons, but I’ll highlight three here:
Christ fulfills God’s promise of a seed to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3).
Christ fulfills God’s promise to mankind to deal with sin once and for all (Gen 3:15).
Christ fulfills God’s requirements of the Law and God’s promise of blessing according to obedience to the Law (Deut 6:4-6, 28).
Therefore, Christ is the only One suitable to offer Himself as a reconciling substitute for a sinful humanity.
The question is, “Will Christ do it? Will he offer Himself for us to be reconciled to God? Luke 23:34 gives insight into Christ’s heart. Notice what He says, “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'” In effect, Jesus’ love for mankind was an extension of God’s love for mankind (John 3:16), and He fulfilled His purpose as the ultimate and only Sacrifice acceptable to God to propitiate (satisfy) God’s wrath stored up as a result of mankind’s sin (Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2).
There are at least two implications:
Christ did choose to offer Himself as a ransom payment for mankind (Mark 10:45).
Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to restore mankind to relationship and fellowship with God (Col 1:19-20).
How Does This Apply To Us Today?
Fear is appropriated.
The word appropriate makes sense to us experientially and logically. When we act appropriately, we conduct ourselves in a way that fits the context. For example, I will appropriate my actions differently as I watch an Aggie football game and attend a wedding.
When fear is appropriated, it is placed appropriately within a specific context. For instance, my fear of a wasp flying at my head differs from that of my child growing up too quickly; thus, I respond to the wasp one way and to the nostalgia another way. This simple example intuitively makes sense, but we often misappropriate fear.
Take texting as an example. Have you ever heard of texting interrupting a person’s otherwise healthy emotional balance? A text is sent, and the response doesn’t return a smiley face, exclamation point, or even a heart tapback. What if the person never responds? How does that make some people feel? They fear the other person is upset. Silly example, but helpful. In this case, fear is misappropriated.
How do we appropriate fear?
Wisdom and the fear of God.
As our fear of God grows, all other fears are set in order.
What is your view of God? In his book, When People Are Big, and God is Small, Ed Welch encouraged, “We must learn to know that our God is more loving and more powerful than we ever imagined” (Welch, 113). Our view of God dictates our fear of Him. How big is God to you?
A Right View of God. Notice how James invites us into God by revealing aspects of His character in James 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”In other words, we seek wisdom from God because we trustHe is generous and does not scold us for doing so. Thus, by faith, we embark on a journey of seeking wisdom from God, which implies the fear of God. Do you trust God in everything?
Wisdom is Found in the Fear of God. To gain wisdom and, therefore, the ability to appropriate fear, we don’t try harder or hope the fear(s) will disappear. Instead, there must be a fear that surpasses all other fears—the fear of the Lord.
Jesus is the Wisdom and Power of God. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, describes Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God ” (1 Cor 1:24). Through faith in Christ, the Christian not only has a right standing with God but has access to the wisdom of God. Rightly does one of the authors of the Proverbs says, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” (Prov 9:10). It follows that since
Christ is the wisdom of God and
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord
We learn the fear of the Lord by knowing Christ.
What is the answer to fear?
Knowing Christ. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).
How do we know Christ?
Walk in His commands.“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).
Walk in holiness.“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1).
Take every thought captive. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
Confess when we don’t. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
How do we stay at it–knowing Christ?
In God’s power. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
Drew Anderson serves as an Associate Teaching Pastor at Denton Bible Church. He has the privilege of investing each week in the Young Adults, Pre-Marrieds, and Married Bible Fellowship ministries of Denton Bible. He’s a graduate of Dallas Seminary with a ThM, Texas A&M, and most importantly, he and his wife are currently preparing three lovely daughters to launch into life.