Fear is such a powerful force. Fear can protect us by releasing a burst of energy to move us out of harm’s way. Fear can also paralyze us by blinding our eyes to God’s power and dissolving our confidence in His promises. This is the response God so often calls us to resist. He says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you…” (Isaiah 41:10). When we ignore God’s promise and give ourselves to fear, we commit the sin of unbelief. God takes this seriously because He endorsed His promises by the blood of His Son, and He knows how harmful unbelief can be to our faith, hope, and love.
How does this unbelieving fear display itself?
There are many examples, but none more vivid than the Exodus. For 400 years, the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. Misery led them to pray, and “God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant” (Exodus 2:24). Through a series of plagues, God forced Pharaoh to let Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt to a good land that He promised. Then Pharaoh had a change of heart. He mustered his army to bring the Israelites back into slavery. Caught between the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s advancing army on the other, the people of Israel cried to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness…It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses’ next words tell us what was ruling their hearts at that moment. He said, “Fear not” (Exodus 14:13).
How does fear display itself?
Fear makes us selfish. When we give ourselves over to fear, we think only of ourselves. We leave no room to consider God’s power, His promises, His people, or His plan.
Fear makes us skeptical. When we give ourselves over to fear, we doubt the sincere intentions of others, and the power of God to intervene.
Fear makes us short-sighted. When we give ourselves over to fear, we cannot see a hopeful tomorrow, so we want to go back to what we knew, even if that was bondage.
Why do we often respond this way to fear?
Perhaps the simplest answer is found in 2 Timothy. Paul was in prison awaiting execution for preaching Christ. Instead of being overcome by fear, he wrote one final letter to Timothy, who was afraid. He wrote, “God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). When we lack the power to overcome a threat, when our love grows cold, when we cannot control our impulses, fear fills our heart.
Where do we find this power, love, and self-control?
God gives these resources through His Spirit to those who put their faith in Jesus. “When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). God’s Spirit lives in every believer and gives power to produce specific fruit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The first fruit listed is love; the last fruit is self-control. So the more we yield to God’s Spirit, the more we experience power, love, and self-control. The more our heart is occupied by power, love, and self-control, the less space is left for fear. The Bible describes the Spirit as a fire that grows brighter as He is fanned.
So how do we fan the flame of God’s Spirit during these frightening days?
The Bible lays out an action plan. “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).
What are we to do?
First, we must see our need to trust Christ as our Savior. We have a sin problem that only Christ can solve. He came to this earth, died for our sin, and rose from the grave. All who put their faith in Him are forgiven and sealed with His Spirit.
Then, we are to fan the Spirit of God in our heart by addressing one another with truth, singing to God with all of our heart, giving thanks to God for His blessings, and submitting to one another by laying down our preferences for the preferences and needs of others.
This is how Paul remained so peaceful, and could teach us about peace, even as He awaited his own death. There in that prison, he spoke truth, sang truth, gave thanks, and served others. He took Jesus’ words seriously. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
I invite you to believe Christ today and be filled with His Spirit!