It is a part of every life. The difference between people isn’t that some of them have fears and others don’t, but that some allow their fears to paralyze them to the degree they can’t do anything productive and some push through their fears to do what needs to be done. The only way anyone could go through life without fears would be to live in denial constantly. We live in a world filled with dangers and problems. Even Jesus had fears in his life. In Hebrews 5:7 the inspired writer points back to Jesus prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was crucified. He said Jesus prayed with strong crying and tears to the one who was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared. He goes on to say “Though he was a son, yet he learned obedience from the things he suffered and being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation for those who obey him.” Imagine Jesus on that night in the Garden. When he agonized in prayer he asked the Father if it was possible to let this cup pass from him. But he didn’t back up from the duty and challenge laid before him.
Fear is never a sign of whether a thing is good or bad, valuable or worthless, something to be avoided or something to be chased. Fear is not even a true indication of whether or not there is danger.
Think of the story Jesus told about the coming of judgment in Matthew 25. The master was going on a journey and called his servants to him and gave to them his wealth according to their different abilities so they could use it while he was gone. He gave one $5,000,000.00, another $2,000,000.00 and another $1,000,000.00 and then left on his journey. Do you suppose they were all afraid or just the one that didn’t make any use of his money? Can you imagine the pressure felt when the master put into your care these huge amounts of money? I suspect the man with the $1,000,000.00 thought he was the only one who was afraid. He justified his taking the treasure and hiding it so he could return it just as he had gotten it by his fear. He even justified his fear by pointing to the master saying, “I knew you that you are a hard man that reaps where he hasn’t sowed seeds and gathers where he hasn’t strewn, so I was afraid.”
The difference wasn’t in their fear but how they reacted to the fear. For some fear is an excuse to do nothing while for others it is the motivation to do things right.
It is often said that the number one fear for out time is the fear of speaking in public. When you speak in public on a regular basis it is hard to understand how that can be the greatest fear that people have. Yet I can’t imagine a person getting up before a crowd to speak and there not being any fear. It has been said that if you get up to speak and there are no butterflies in your stomach it is time to quit. What is important isn’t the presence of butterflies but that you get them to fly in formation.
Take two looks at the apostle Peter and his fears. On the night Jesus was betrayed he had challenged Peter three times to watch and pray that he might not enter into temptation. But, Peter was sleepy and each time he tried to pray he kept falling asleep. No wonder later that evening when he had followed at a distance to the home of the high priest where Jesus was to be tried, he failed the test when someone suggested he was one of Jesus disciples. The promise he had made to Jesus that he would never deny him was quickly forgotten. He denied the master. He repented of the failure and the Lord forgave him. Jesus quickly pushed Peter back to the forefront as a leader of the disciples. If you could have seen Peter that night at the high priest home you would never have imagined what would happen a few months later in the temple.
He and John had healed a man as they entered the temple. The crowds gathered around them and the high priest had them arrested. The religious leaders who had so frightened him earlier were now asking him by what power or authority he had healed the cripple man, how would you expect Peter to react? He certainly surprised the religious leaders when he said, “If we today are being examined for the good deed done to the innocent man, then let it be known to you that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand before you healthy. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which you can be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
What changed between these two events in Peter’s life? Jesus died and was buried but three days later was raised from the dead, triumphant over death and the devil. Peter saw what the devil could do through these men. He also saw the limit of what they could do. They could kill Jesus but they couldn’t keep him in the grave. They couldn’t stop him from being the king of kings and Lord of Lords, reigning at the right hand of the Father on David’s throne. Why be afraid of men who have no more power than what they did?
Fears can be conquered. They aren’t likely to ever go completely away. But they can be conquered. Faith in God and his power over Satan gives us power to continue to do what matters in the face of fear. John said that perfect love cast out fear. So growing in love will help drive our fears away. Fear can be conquered by pressing on to do the very things we are afraid of. Instead of allowing our fears to become crippling, turn the fears inside out by turning it into motivation. Fears rightly used can become energizing. It isn’t something to be denied or for us to pretend we know nothing about. It just isn’t something to allow to reign in your life.
By all means don’t allow your fears to run your life. Be more than conqueror by the power of the Lord.