Fear is a strong. There aren’t many things that can motivate us more.
Sadly, advertisers and news organizations know this. They present products and news to us in ways that play to our fears, manipulating us to behave and believe in the ways they want us to.
But there is another way brothers and sisters! It’s not an easy way and I certainly haven’t totally figured it out. But fear can be trumped by trust for the follower of Jesus.
Trust > Fear
5 Ways Fear Trips Us Up
But despite this truth — that trust is greater than fear — our fears can really get in the way of us following Jesus well in the real world. I’m sure there are dozens of ways this can play itself out, but below I’ve listed 5 that I experience or readily see in places I frequent.
- Fear can block love — 1 John 4.18 says that “perfect love drives out fear.” But the flipside of this aphorism is true too, namely that in the absence of love, fear thrives. In a recent post of mine on Facebook (and on this blog) this has really come to light for me. (In the next few lines I’m going to make some assumptions, I apologize in advance.) In my opinion, due to the highly vitriolic and unhelpful ways in which certain corners of the print, broadcast, and internet media have reported on the Syrian refugee crisis, many Americans are exhibiting lots of signs of irrational fears about Syrian refugees. These fears create an environment in which people call the people running for their lives from the violent conflict in Syria all kinds of horrible things. In some instances Americans have very directly wished death on these refugees. But I wonder how things would have been different had we all started with love instead? Would we have been as apt to listen to erroneous and one-side reports about this refugee crises? Would we have been as willing to name-call and demonize the refugees and those who are seeking to show them compassion?
- Fear can feed our biases — There’s a funny song from a musical called Avenue Q called “Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist” (consider this your content warning!). And while it’s very likely true that we’re all a little bit racist, perhaps the gentler way of saying the same thing is that we all make decisions in our lives based on explicit and implicit biases. This is very often a good thing. Biases can be benign and can be based on past experience, thus creating shortcuts for our thinking in the present. However, if left unchecked, our biases can also create great amounts of tension, hatred, and even out-right racism in our lives. And when we add fear to the mix, this concoction becomes even more volatile!
- Fear can prevent us from serving — Service is central for a follower of Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself said that he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10.45). And those of us who follow him are to imitate him (Philippians 2.5), including his desire to serve. However, fear can block us from serving others. We can worry and become anxious that those we serve are somehow a threat to us, even when there’s no evidence to support these feelings. And sometimes it can escalate even further, with our fears convincing us that certain people don’t deserve our service for one reason or another. Check this out though: in Luke 1.74 the priest Zechariah sings a prophetic song about the impact that Jesus was going to have — through Jesus, God has “enabled us to serve him without fear.” As crazy as it might sound with our human ears and sensibilities, serving others as God leads is worth whatever risks may be involved. Obeying God should trump all things for a follower of Jesus, including (and especially) our fears!
- Fear causes us to become slaves — When we are in the grips of real fear, there’s not much else that we can do except focus on that fear. Here’s a silly example, that I’m using with permission, to highlight this idea — my wife’s fear of bugs and spiders. When she sees one, especially if it’s a cricket or a spider, all the rest of the world starts to melt away. She locks in on that creepy crawly and forgets all about everything else (including that 5am is not a good time to shout bloody murder!). I’m convinced that our fears can do the same thing to us as followers of Jesus. If we are fearful of people who live on the other side of town, for example, then we can become a slave to this fear, allowing it to dominate our thinking and our actions. So instead of loving all people and incarnating the good news of Jesus and his kingdom among them, we look down on them, judge them, and avoid them at all costs. This is not how things should be for us as followers of Jesus! Here’s how Paul put it in Romans 8.15: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”” In other words, our ability to call on God as sons and daughters of the Most High can and should destroy all our debilitating fears that threaten to enslave us!
- Fear can prevent us from sharing the gospel — In Philippians 1.14 Paul writes the following: “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” What he is getting at is that the example of how God was using him while he was in prison was inspirational to others, even allowing them proclaim the gospel without fear. Unfortunately, we don’t always look to examples like Paul’s and we allow fear to prevent us from sharing and embodying the good news among our friends, families, and neighbors. And this isn’t just some minor thing that we can put off until later. No! Being bearers of the good news is our central calling as followers of Jesus! In Matthew 28 Jesus told his disciples that they were to make disciples of all people and that same Great Commission applies to us today! Brothers and sisters, we mustn’t let our fears prevent us from fulfilling our purpose as followers of Jesus! Instead, we must trust God, looking to inspirational examples as needed and allowing him to push our fear away with his love.
So what’s the solution to all of this fear? We must begin with love, keep our biases in check, serve others no matter what, not allow ourselves to be enslaved, and proclaim the good news.
Trust Jesus. Simple to write; difficult to live!
Trust > Fear
What do you think? What are some other ways that fear trips us up as followers of Jesus? How can we combat our fears?