According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 20 million Americans suffer from a phobia at some point in their lives. There are so many fears: fear of dying, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of what people will say, fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of spiders, fear of public speaking, fear of flying, fear of needles…. The number of people struggling with anxiety is obviously on the increase in our country. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. The number of visits to a doctor’s office that resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents has increased by 40 times over the last decade. Worry, panic attacks, and depression are often rooted in fear. More than 300 times the Bible encourages us not to fear. Over 21 times Christ encouraged us not to be afraid (the command to love God appears only 8 times).
So how do we overcome fear? We have to attack it with our faith. Fear is overcome by having the right perspective of who you are in Christ. When Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan, ten of them came back with the perspective that they could not possess the land. They said, “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” They saw themselves as insignificant and were defeated before they even started. Their perspective empowered their enemy.
The origin of fear can be traced to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s fear is what led them to sin. They feared that what God had provided for them was not enough and went looking for other trees to feed on. The fear of not having enough is what motivated their sin. The fact is, our “Almighty” God is described as being “more than enough.” He is the God of abundant provision. His grace is sufficient for us.
In the storm of Matthew 14, the disciples saw Jesus walking out to them on the water. The passage says, “In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”” Their fear changed the way they saw Jesus. Fear often clouds our vision and makes us react irrationally. In our fear, we often don’t see Jesus walking to us. In the storms of life we forget that we serve a Savior who rides on the clouds.
In Mark 4 during another stormy episode, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat as the disciples were bouncing on the waves of the sea. This was an epic storm the likes of which the disciples had never seen. Jesus was dreaming while the disciples were screaming. Then they began to scream at Jesus saying, “Lord don’t you care that we are dying?” Their fear caused them to question and even attack Jesus. They didn’t ask about His ability to calm the storm. They didn’t ask if He was aware there was a problem. They questioned His character by asking if He even cared about them. Fear often causes people to become insecure to the point that they criticize others. Insecurity can cause people to be downright mean. Had they forgotten how compassionate Jesus had been to the sick? Had they forgotten how he cast out demons and raised the dead? Had they forgotten the mercy and grace He extended to sinners? Right before this trip they had watched bread and fish multiply in their own hands to feed thousands of people. This happened because they put their challenge in the hands of the Lord. Now they are freaking out.
Fear will harden your heart. Mark 6:52 says, “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” Fear keeps us from remembering yesterday’s miracle. Fear will cause you to forget God’s faithfulness in past storms. Fear will keep you from the greatness God has planned for you. It kept the ten negative spies from the Promised Land. It kept eleven disciples in the boat while Peter walked on water. Fear imprisons its victims. 1 John 4:18 says that fear is tormenting. But there is good news: God, who is perfect in love, casts out fear. Fear is the lack of courage. The Bible is full of verses to encourage us. If God be for you, who can stand against you. If you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you shall fear no evil for God is with you to comfort you. Greater is He that is in you than the forces of evil that rule the world. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. You are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you. Psalm 27:1 (NLT) says, “ The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”
We often fear when we feel like we have lost control. Actually being out of control should be the goal of every believer. If you are carrying a weight of fear today, give God control and watch what He will do. Roll that weight off of your shoulders and into the strong, loving arms of your Savior. Dwell in the secret place of the Most High and you will rest under the shadow of the Almighty. Fear is a spirit that comes from the pit of Hell. God has not given us a Spirit that produce fear, but one that produces power, love and sound thinking. Be filled with the Spirit of God. Stir up the gift of God within you. Let God arise and watch your enemies scatter!