Conquer Fear

by Drew Anderson

What is your fear? Fear may be driving down the interstate during rush hour traffic, speaking publicly, confronting a difficult person, seeing a spider, or walking into a large room with many people. For others, fear is being alone, not having a purpose or a plan, a ring from your phone in the middle of the night, or worrying about what someone might think of you.

Fear manifests in various forms, ranging from the minor and trivial aspects of living to the significant and paralyzing realities of the moment. Let’s start by looking at the cause of fear.

Fear’s Cause

In Exodus 20:20, Moses tells the people of Israel not to be afraid but to fear. His command drew a distinction in fear that helps us understand the starting point for dissecting this unwelcome guest.

The type of fear Moses highlights is the fear that, at its core, doubts God.

It goes something like this. Peter and the disciples are tossed by the waves whipped up by the wind, and they are terrified. They cry out in “fear.” Jesus immediately calms them by saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matt 14:27).

Jesus’ instruction to His disciples follows the same pattern as Moses’s to the Israelites of old. The lesson is to trust God. It follows that Jesus asks Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:31)

Thus, the cause of fear is a lack of trust in God.

Fear’s Content

To better understand the content of unbiblical fear, we must look at its expression in one of Israel’s faithless kings, Saul.

“But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.”
1 Samuel 13:12-13

Three components to Saul’s discordant fear bubble quickly to the surface:

  1. Saul assumed he abandoned. “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me…” One aspect of unbiblical fear is believing you are alone or the only one in the battle. For the Christian, this aloneness mentality grows in the soil of forgetfulness. One of Christ’s key promises to His disciples and followers after them is that He would send the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (John 14:15-27). This promise goes far beyond creating a false sense of companionship but to the assurance of God’s presence with His people. While Saul was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit like Christians are today, he still had the Mosaic promise that God would fight his battles (Deut 7:17-26) and would be with them as they obeyed (Deut 31:8).
  2. Saul forced His way. “…you did not come within the appointed days…so I forced myself…” Previously, Samuel had instructed Saul to wait for the appointed time when he would arrive and offer a sacrifice to seek God’s favor before their battle. When Samuel did not come according to Saul’s understanding, Saul took matters into his own hands and “…asked the favor of the Lord.” The problem with his action was that (1) Saul was not commissioned for such service before God, and (2) Saul presumed upon God treating His means of favor as a box to check. In other words, Saul was a quintessential pragmatist; however, he forgot that God’s ways are not his ways.
  3. Saul observed his enemy strengthen around him. “…the Philistines were assembling…” Feeling abandoned by his army and Samuel, Saul’s perspective of his enemy begins to change. Instead of seeing them as David will soon see them–a reproach to Israel and their God–Saul sees their assembly and acts in fear. Part of God’s promises for Israel of old was to protect, guide, and provide for them as they obeyed. The response of God’s people was to trust that God would make good on His Word. God would have to be great in their eyes for this relationship to continue–even as their world and surroundings were not so great. Sadly, Saul’s enemy grows greater than his God, so Saul transgresses the Lord’s command.

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