Overcoming the Power of Fear with FaithMarch 11, 2020 | Pastor Nathan Scroggins
About ten years ago my daughter developed a fever. She was only two at the time, and it quickly became clear that this was not a normal fever. So I started drawing a mild bath to help cool her down. But before I could even put her in the water her eyes started rolling to the back of her head and her body started shaking uncontrollably! My fear gripped me to the point of taking my breath away. I was overwhelmed with the horror that I might lose my daughter!
After a 911 call, paramedics, an ambulance, an emergency room, and some medicine, the Lord graciously enabled the doctors to stabilize my daughter. The doctors explained that it was a febrile seizure and they reassured us that everything was going to be ok. The doctors’ wisdom and poise had a calming effect on my wife and me. We trusted them, and they turned out to be absolutely right. Fast forward ten years and my daughter is a healthy pre-teen who plays soccer and fights with her brother!
Reasonableness is Remarkable
Our world is full of things that might lead us to fear. Fear erupts when there is a threat, or a perceived threat to something that we care about. My daughter’s seizure was a real threat. However, the doctors helped me see that my fear, which originated from a real threat, was overblown by what I perceived. Some of the most powerful and gripping fears come from threats that are merely perceived. This can be difficult to discern. Especially when the perceived threat flows from a real threat that has been exaggerated. With that said, wherever fear might originate, whether it be logical or illogical, perceived or actual, or a little bit of all of the above, we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves with reasonableness.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians from his prison cell:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Like the doctors in the emergency room, reasonableness is demonstrated when you allow truth to guide your emotions, rather than allowing your emotions to influence what you believe to be true. Paul had much experience in trials and suffering. He had lots of real threats worthy of fear. But he did not allow his anxiety to be fueled by irrational fear that only focused on the worst-case scenario. Instead, he guarded his heart by fixating on the hope that he had in Jesus. So when fear threatens to grip our hearts we need to remember with Paul that we have nothing to be anxious about because of the eternal hope we have in Christ.
With all of that said, overcoming fear with faith in Christ is not merely for our own hearts. As Paul communicates in v5, maintaining reasonableness in the midst of crisis is a remarkable beacon of hope to a fear-stricken world. To be reasonable in the midst of crisis is to be thoughtful, calm, slow, and deliberate with a plan in place to respond and not react. In a world full of people whose emotions are a slave to circumstance, it is important to ensure that our beliefs, emotions, and actions are anchored in what the Bible proclaims to be true. This is always important, but it is of utmost importance during times of crisis. If we believe what the world perceives to be true, then our hearts will be gripped with fear. But if we rest our hope in Christ, we will have a peace that surpasses understanding and a reasonableness that will point the world to the Prince of Peace who has overcome the world (Isaiah 9:6; John 16:33).
The Prayer and Thanksgiving that Surrenders
All of this is a lot easier said than done. Our hearts and minds are very fickle. In the midst of fear our hearts are prone to drift away from God and toward the thought of tragedy. So in times like these we need to ask ourselves what it is that we are allowing to inform the reality that we are perceiving. Is it the media, social media, our neighbors, or our co-workers? Or is it the Word of God?
In Philippians 4:8 Paul instructs his readers by saying, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” How we respond to our fear proves what we are believing about God in the moment. Do we let our fear determine the reality that we are perceiving, or do we call to mind the eternal perspective of the Word of God? If we allow fear to grip our hearts then we will focus on the moment and our fears will give birth to more fears. But if we fix our minds on whatever is good and true it will remind us of the hope that we have and it will lead us to thanksgiving and prayer.
Prayer is an actualization and an act of surrendering our desires and control to God. Since our fears can originate from a desire to control, it is important to surrender every aspect of our lives to God. By surrendering our control and acknowledging the Lordship of Christ we will come to see that suffering is a way of life. We will also see that God uses suffering to draw others to Himself. As Tim Keller points out, “It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances.” (Tim Keller; Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (p.20). Instead, Paul writes from that miserable prison and tells his readers to not be anxious about anything, but instead offer up prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to God. Therefore, whether our fears are merely perceived, or if the worst of them come true and suffering ensues, we should always view fear as an opportunity to cry out to God and to help others do the same.
The Peace that Protects
Crisis has existed on this planet ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, and it will continue to exist until the day Jesus returns. Christians have been a calming voice in the midst of crisis throughout history, and we should continue to be that beacon of reasonableness today. For we have the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15)! And we need to take it to a world who is frantically trying to understand crisis and tragedy apart from prayer and thanksgiving. We need to do this by overcoming our own fear with faith by rejoicing in the Lord, by demonstrating reasonableness, and by pointing people to the Prince of Peace.