A moderate sense of fear may be considered normal, even healthy. It may be simply an awareness of impending danger—a defense mechanism. It may be just the pounding heart, flushed face, and sweaty palms in anticipation of being called on in class or being asked to make a speech at a meeting. Fears may be in reaction to imagined or real circumstances. They can be acute or chronic. Many fearful people tend to infect others with their anxieties and tensions.
When faced with a fearful person, you must demonstrate love and try to discover the causes for the fears. There may be no easy or instantaneous solutions to the total problem; but you can suggest a proper relationship with Jesus Christ, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and a life focused on the Word of God as necessary steps to freedom from fear.
The expressions “fear of God” or “fear God” in the Bible doesn’t mean that God expects us to cringe in terror before Him in anticipation of punishment, but that we owe Him our reverential respect and trust.
Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
The fear of God is the one fear (a trustful, worshipful attitude) which removes all other fears!
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
For the Non-Christian:
If the inquirer is a non-Christian expressing an unhealthy fear of God because of a guilty conscience or fear of punishment (future judgment), you are probably dealing with unresolved sin for which there is a remedy. Share the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD. Emphasize that:
1. God can cleanse our conscience: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV).
2. God delivers from fears of future punishment: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2, NIV). Share about spiritual Assurance – Christian Biblical Counsel: FINDING ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.
For the Christian:
If the inquirer is a Christian whose greatest fear is personal inadequacy— failing, or not measuring up—share the following:
1. God doesn’t ask you to be successful, only to please Him! “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
2. Learn to accept yourself as you are, not making excessive personal demands. Paul said, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). The Lord told Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
3. Don’t compare yourself with others. Just be you: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).
4. God has given you all you need to be confident: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power [sufficiency] and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
5. Learn to trust God implicitly for what you want to be and do: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
6. Make your fears a definite matter for prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV).
If the inquirer is a Christian with a sense of uneasiness or anxiety about the uncertainties of life and the future, offer encouragement with the following:
1. The Lord is mindful of us. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14, NIV).
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
2. He has promised:
• His presence: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).
• His provision: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25, NIV).
• His protection: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
3. Point out that love is the antithesis of fear: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NIV).
If the inquirer is a Christian with a fear of witnessing for Christ, encourage him or her to:
1. Be completely sure of his or her own relationship with Christ: “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
2. Make a conscious moral commitment to God: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice . . . to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
3. Trust God implicitly both to be with and to work through him or her: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “‘Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:8).
4. Be faithful in witnessing in the small things. Demonstrate your Christian faith through such things as acts of kindness, watching one’s attitudes, and thanking God for a meal in a public place.
5. Seek the companionship and strength of a stronger Christian so they may witness together. Confidence is gained as one becomes a part of evangelism: “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance” (Proverbs 20:18, NIV).
6. Take a course in personal evangelism that is available through his or her own or another church.
7. Pray for a consuming compassion for the lost: “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, NIV).
If the inquirer is fearful of death, refer to the counsel on “Death.”
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
“Whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:33).
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned” (Isaiah 43:1–2).
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15–16, NIV).
See also Anxiety, Worry, and Tension
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996
See also Comfort; Prayer; and Trust.
1. Believers need not be slaves to fear.
Rom. 8:15. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
2 Tim. 1:7. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2. You need not be afraid if God is your helper.
Heb. 13:5–6. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”[Deut. 31:6; Ps. 118:6–7].
3. The Lord is the believer’s light; he need not fear.
Ps. 27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
4. Trust in God casts out fear.
Ps. 56:10–11. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
5. Do not fear those who can kill the body.
Matt. 10:28. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
6. Don’t be afraid; God cares for sparrows, and he will surely care for you.
Matt. 10:29–30. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
7. Perfect love drives out fear.
1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
No Longer Afraid
by June Hunt
Imagine being terrorized … your life continually threatened … your heart gripped with fear. Imagine every day … waking to the thought: This day could be my last day—the last for my family—the last for my friends! Imagine living in the constant fear of being burglarized and brutalized … vandalized and victimized … mauled and murdered.
Now, all of a sudden, someone appears out of the blue instructing you to do the unthinkable—take action and fight those you fear! But such an idea is impossible—even preposterous—especially for Gideon … who is inclined to flee in the face of fear.
Now, imagine trying to thresh wheat in a winepress … of all places! To thresh—to separate the chaff from the wheat—a gentle breeze in the outdoor air is needed to winnow the chaff. As all is thrown up into the air, both chaff and wheat, the wind blows away the lightweight chaff, and the heavier wheat falls to the ground. But … in a winepress the surrounding walls prevent the wind from blowing in the center and threshing is not likely to be effective.
So here you are in hiding … fearing for your life … fighting an uphill battle … for a few grains of wheat. At this point, the angel of the Lord appears, saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” … He addresses you as … what? What’s this … mighty warrior?
Who … you?
A. What Is Fear?
Imagine … being asked to do something you know you can’t do. Like Gideon, rather than attempting to meet the challenge, you find yourself responding, “Thanks—but no thanks. You’ve got the w…r…o…n…g person.”
However, the angel announces that you are to lead the battle against your greatest enemy—an enemy that vastly outnumbers your army—one greatly feared by everyone … and feared for good reason! The mammoth Midianites have been ravaging and ransacking your people at will, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
How? “Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites [and other enemies] invaded the country. They … ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys” (Judges 6:3–4). Understandably, your heart is terrorized with fear.
• Fear is a strong emotional reaction to a perceived imminent danger characterized by a fight, flight, or freeze response.
• Fear can be real or imagined, rational or irrational, normal or abnormal.
• Fear acts as a protective reaction, placed in us by our Creator to activate all of our physical defense systems when we face real danger. Fear triggers the release of adrenaline in the body that both prepares and propels us to action often called “fight or flight.”
• Fear is a natural emotion designed by God. However, fearfulness is not designed by God, for fearfulness suggests living in a state of fear.
• Fear is a translation of the Hebrew word yare, which means “to be afraid, stand in awe or fear.” When Gideon was trying to thresh wheat in the winepress and the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
“He was afraid.”
B. What Is Anxiety?
After the heavenly messenger delivers his initial instructions, Gideon quickly questions: “If the Lord is really with us, why has all this evil happened?” And Gideon makes it most clear—if God wants a deliverer, I am definitely not the man for the job! After all, he is the least in the family … belonging to the weakest clan … in the small tribe of Manasseh. Gideon exclaims, “How can I save Israel?” cowering with the angst of anxiety.
Gideon knows that the monstrous Midianites have a new weapon enabling them to make swift, long-range attacks against the Hebrews—rendering them virtually powerless. This terrible weapon is nothing other than … the camel!
Without food or water and with heavy loads, they cover 300 miles in 3 or 4 days. At harvest time, the Midianites simply ascend from the desert and quickly cover the land “like swarms of locusts.” The Midianite troops and camels, both “impossible to count,” strip Israel bare of everything edible. Then, loaded with their plunder, they return to the desert until the next harvest is ripe.
Existing like this for 7 years reduces Gideon and all the people to threshing meager amounts of grain in winepresses—hiding food and themselves in mountain dens and caves. No wonder Gideon is fearfully anxious and fully persuaded that “The Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13).
Gideon’s continual fear has a “close cousin” called anxiety.
• Anxiety in the psychological/psychiatric world is the “umbrella” word covering varying degrees of worry and fear, ranging from mild to extreme.
• Anxiety is an uneasiness or distress over a threat or something unknown and is characterized by extreme worry or brooding fear.
• Anxiety stems from uncertainty—hoping something will happen, but having no guarantee that it will … or fearing something will happen, but having no control over whether it will or not.
• Anxiety can lead to “catastrophic thinking” overestimating the likelihood of danger or a negative outcome.
• Anxiety becomes a “disorder” when it becomes so intense that it dominates a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, preventing the person from living a normal life.
— Panic disorders
— Obsessive-compulsive disorders
— Anxiety due to a medical condition
— Post-traumatic stress disorder
— Acute stress disorder
— Generalized anxiety disorder
— Substance-induced anxiety
C. What Is a Panic Attack?
When the Lord gives Gideon the directive, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand” (Judges 6:14), He is not giving Gideon a pep talk or a lesson in positive thinking. Rather, He is referring to His own strength operating inside Gideon. This becomes clear with His promise, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together” (Judges 6:16).
Nevertheless, Gideon wants proof that both the message and the messenger are truly from God—and he indeed receives it.
Gideon presents an offering of meat and unleavened bread, and the moment the angel touches the offering with his staff, fire flames from the rock, the offering is incinerated, and the angel disappears—vanishes—without a trace! “When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’ ” (Judges 6:22).
Now Gideon realizes his encounter is with the angel of the Lord—meaning he saw a manifestation of the Lord God Himself—not merely an angel. Gideon knew this could mean sudden death! God had told Moses, “No one may see me and live,” (meaning seeing God in His essential glory). “But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die’ ” (Judges 6:23).
Fortunately, the words of the Lord prevent Gideon from experiencing profound panic. However, many do, in far less dramatic a situation, feel overwhelmed with fright—attacked with fear—and some even tremble with terror. They feel the sense of panic expressed in this Scripture …
“Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”
• Panic attacks are sudden, brief episodes of intense fear with multiple physical symptoms (such as heart palpitations and dizziness) but without any external threat.
• Panic attacks are typically unexpected “out of the blue” experiences. The first time they occur, people are usually involved in normal activities such as walking outside. Suddenly a barrage of frightening sensations strikes them, lasting just a few seconds to a few minutes.
• Panic attacks can occur again at any time. Sufferers know that just the fear of having another attack can trigger one—and so these episodes take on a life of their own.
• Panic attacks can be considered fear out of control.
Question: “Can I do anything to stop a panic attack?”
Answer: Yes. When you first begin to experience shallow, rapid breathing, recognize these symptoms as the initiation of hyperventilation, which reduces the carbon dioxide in the blood. Such a condition produces classic symptoms of a panic attack: light-headedness, dizziness, tingling of the extremities, palpitations of the heart, feelings of faintness, and respiratory distress. However, let the onset of the rapid breathing serve as a warning signal. These symptoms can be stopped by using the following techniques:
— Take slow deep, deep breaths and hold the air in your lungs for a number of seconds. Then slowly release the air.
— Place the open end of a paper bag around your nose and mouth. Breathe normally into the bag, being sure to breathe in the same air being expelled.
— Place a blanket or sheet totally over your head. Doing so will increase the amount of carbon dioxide being taken into your lungs and ward off the frightening symptoms produced by too little carbon dioxide in your blood.
When experiencing a panic attack, you can feel as if you will die! But that feeling is not based on fact. The truth is: You will not die. Whatever your perceived “enemy,” claim this truth as you go to war against your panic attacks. The Lord says,
“Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:3–4)
D. What Is a Phobia?
Gideon had a very real and legitimate fear that he would die, his fear didn’t go away despite God’s assurances and call on his life. Following the spectacular experience involving the offering (that the angel of the Lord incinerated), God instructs Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and cut down his Asherah pole—items of pagan worship—and build an altar to Him.
Gideon obeys … but only in the cover of night because “he was afraid of his family and the men of the town” (Judges 6:27). Oddly enough, God called this man to defeat an entire army—of well over 100,000—a fearful man … afraid of his own family.
And while some people like Gideon experience a profound fear triggered by a particular circumstance—others experience a paralyzing fear without the slightest provocation. This unwarranted fear is called a phobia.
• Phobias are persistent, irrational fears of an object or a situation—but fears that present no real threat.
• Phobia, the English word, comes from the Greek word phobos, which means “fear, flight or dread.” In the New Testament the word for fear is usually phobos, which in the Greek language first had the meaning of “flight,” and then later it referred to “that which may cause flight.”
• Phobias grow out of fear when …
— The fear is clearly excessive and irrational (being out of proportion to the actual degree of threat).
— The fear is associated with avoidance behaviors (deliberately doing things differently to avoid becoming afraid).
— The fear is associated with decreased quality of life (curtailing enjoyment in life).
• Phobic disorders consist of persistent, irrational fears that impair a person’s ability to function normally.
— If a phobia causes no major disturbance in a person’s lifestyle (such as having an excessive fear of snakes, but rarely ever seeing a snake), it is not considered a disorder.
— However, a phobic disorder gains such power in a person’s life that it drives that person’s thoughts, perceptions, and actions to the point that the entire life is affected (such as a fear of darkness or of people).
— Those suffering with a phobic disorder experience the most extreme form of fear.
— Not only are they in a constant state of hyperalertness, but also their fear continuously controls their activities, limits their lives, and drastically diminishes their quality of life.
The one who suffers could easily say,
“Fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake.”
E. What Are Types of Phobias?
While Gideon’s fear does not reach phobic proportions, the “type” of phobia a person experiences is determined by the focus of that person’s fear. There are 3 primary types of phobias—all of which are painfully fear-producing for the sufferer. Typically, those with phobias avoid any thought or sight of the stimulus that triggers a panic attack.
“When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body.”
• Specific Phobias (formerly called Simple Phobias)
A Fear of a Specific Object or Situation
— This type of phobia is marked by a persistent fear experienced in the presence of or in the anticipated encountering of the object or situation that is feared.
— Examples of feared objects: elevators, spiders, knives, snakes, cats, fire, insects
◦ Zoophobia is fear of animals, characterized by a sense of danger even in the presence of nonthreatening animals.
— Examples of feared situations: flying, heights, darkness, driving over bridges or through tunnels
◦ Acrophobia is fear of heights, characterized by a feeling of extreme insecurity and of falling even when there is no danger of doing so.
◦ Claustrophobia is fear of closed spaces, characterized by a sense of being smothered in a confined environment.
• Social Phobias (sometimes called Social Anxiety Disorders)
A Fear of Embarrassment
— This type of phobia is characterized by a paralyzing fear of appearing stupid or being judged as shameful in a social situation.
— Examples: A persistent fear of social situations such as initiating and maintaining a conversation, eating in public, attending a party; also a persistent fear of performance situations such as stage fright and fear of public speaking.
• Agoraphobia (literally, “fear of the marketplace”)
A “Fear of Fear” (when … out in open spaces)
— This phobia is a fear of having a panic attack out in a place where escape could be difficult or embarrassing. It comes as a result of repeated panic attacks and is the fear of having another panic attack. Therefore, any situation that could cause a sense of panic is avoided.
— Example: Being so afraid of having a panic attack in a public place or in a strange place that a person becomes homebound or even room bound. In the Bible, these words reflect this paralyzing fear …
“I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside.”
II. Characteristics of Fearfulness
Time and time again, fear resides in Gideon’s heart—ready to rear its formidable head.
A vast army has gathered again, ready to raid the land at harvest time. Meanwhile, the Lord has promised Gideon total victory … and still he needs divine confirmation concerning his call. “Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said’ ” (Judges 6:36–37).
God exercises great patience with Gideon’s fragile faith … and the next morning His reluctant servant finds a damp fleece and a dry floor. But wait a minute … Gideon must have pondered … might not that have happened naturally? Of course the floor would dry before the fleece. So he asks God again … to participate in another test … but this time to reverse the outcome—with a dry fleece and a damp floor.
And, “that night God did so” (Judges 6:40).
A. What Are Symptoms of Normal versus Abnormal Fear?
The fear Gideon feels is completely understandable. His enemy is real.… His life is in real danger. He has “normal” fear. However, God has proven Himself to be both powerful and trustworthy. It isn’t that God doesn’t see Gideon’s situation or is denying his dilemma—God knows neither is a problem for Him—Gideon needs to know that too! No fear, normal or abnormal, is beyond God’s ability to resolve.
Differences between the Two …
• Normal Fear
Why would God give us the emotion of fear if it could be detrimental to us? The answer is found in asking another question, “If at this moment you were surprised by an assailant with a knife in his hand, would you want the benefits of fear?” Put a check mark (ü) by the symptoms you would experience. Those benefits include …
— Apprehension (to proceed with caution)
— Breathing increased (to deliver more oxygen to the body)
— Energy increased (to provide the fuel to take immediate action)
— Heart rate increased (to fuel your muscles with blood)
— Hyperalertness (to increase awareness of danger)
— Mind racing (to provide options to consider)
— Muscles contracting (to prepare for the “fight or flight” reaction)
— Perspiration increased (to cool the body down and prevent overheating)
— Pupils dilated (to increase vision, especially at night)
— Senses heightened (for the purpose of dealing with the feared object)
— Sleep lessened (to provide more “awake” time)
— Talking increased (to aid in communication about the problem)
• Abnormal Fear
When abnormal fear exists, the level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation—in fact, the fear may be totally unrelated to the situation. Abnormal fear can then result in a panic attack. The person with abnormal fear can identify with this anguished cry …
“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert.’ ”
A person experiences a panic attack when 4 or more of the following symptoms occur and reach a peak within 10 minutes or less. (The body cannot sustain the “fight or flight” for longer than that time.) Place a check mark (P) beside symptoms you have experienced.
— Chest pain or discomfort (feeling like you are having a heart attack)
— Chills or hot flashes (feeling like you must get to the hospital)
— Choking sensation, difficulty swallowing (feeling like your throat is closing in on you)
— Cold hands, tingling sensation (feeling like you are going numb)
— Detached sensation (feeling like you are losing touch with reality or yourself)
— Dizziness, lightheaded (feeling like you are going to faint)
— Fear of losing control (feeling like you are going crazy)
— Hyperventilating, shortness of breath (feeling like you are smothering)
— Nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain and cramping (feeling like you have a life-threatening disease)
— Rapid heart rate, pounding heartbeat (feeling like your heart is going to jump out of your chest)
— Sweating, excessive perspiration (feeling like you are a huge embarrassment)
— Terror of dying (feeling like you are sure to die)
— Trembling or shaking (feeling like you are doomed)
People with abnormal fear are not as afraid of the object of their fear as they are of the symptoms of their fear. And, indeed, their fear is great. They experience the same feelings that Job had.
“Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.”
B. What Are 2 Levels of Anxiety?
Gideon will gradually come to realize that God’s call to a person is never dependent on that person’s strength or ability. God’s call is always determined by His own plan and power, and we are asked to respond with faith in His strength. The more Gideon comes to believe that God will give the Midianites into his hands, the more he is able to go forth in complete faith and follow God’s plan for the future. Though initially afraid, he moves forward in faith!
Fear can paralyze or mobilize. Gideon could have been paralyzed by doubting God … by fearing that the problems would never change … by wallowing in his bottom-of-the-rung status of being “the least in my family.” Negative doubt-filled messages could have played over and over in his mind. If that had been the case, his response to being addressed as a “mighty warrior” would have been, “Mighty warrior?—not a chance!”
Like Gideon, we all experience times of anxiety, but not all of us experience it in the same way, for the same reason, or to the same degree. Typically, we want to avoid anxiety “like the plague”! However, anxiety is not to be feared, but to be understood and to be used as a prompt to trust in the Lord all the more. The Bible advises,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
• Moderate anxiety—normal, fearful concern—can be healthy and helpful.
— It motivates us and leads to increased efficiency.
— It forces us out of our “comfort zone.”
— It helps us avoid dangerous situations.
— It can cause us to live dependently on the Lord.
Notice that the psalmist, who put these words to music, turned his focus to the Lord …
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)
• Intense anxiety—abnormal fearful obsession—is more profound and problematic.
— It makes our concentration difficult.
— It causes us to be forgetful.
— It hinders our performance.
— It blocks our communication with others.
Notice that Solomon—called the wisest man on earth—said,
“Banish anxiety from your heart.” (Ecclesiastes 11:10)
Question: “I have had a number of panic attacks and thought I was going to die. How can I overcome my irrational fear of death?”
Answer: You can experience peace—a lasting peace—when you realize that you have absolutely no control over the moment of your death. Based on the Bible, God has already determined the exact number of your days on earth. Therefore, face the fact of your death head-on.
Say to the Lord …
— “I choose to trust You with Your perfect plan for my life … and my death.”
— “I yield my will to Your will.”
— “Thank You for giving me Your perfect peace.”
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
Question: “How can I overcome my overwhelming fear that my children might die?”
Answer: Unquestionably, your children will die. The question that no one can answer with certainty is when. That is, no one but God. Realize that God knew and ordained the length of each of your children’s lives before they were formed in your womb. This means that your fear is not beneficial—it can’t change anything because the length of each of our lives has already been established by God. However, what is beneficial is this …
— Praying that you will be Christlike before them
— Praying that you will draw them to the Lord by the life you live
— Praying a prayer of trust …
“Lord, thank You for loving my children. And thank You that I can trust You to do what is best for my children. Since the length of their lives is already in Your sovereign hands, I choose to be controlled by fear no longer. I choose to trust You and thank You for every day they are here on earth. I commit myself to help them grow in Christlike character. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”
“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)
III. Causes of Fear
What causes Gideon—the man God destines to be one of the greatest leaders in history—to fear the army God promises to defeat? There are 2 major reasons: 1st, Gideon lacks military experience, and 2nd, he has lived under the oppression of the savage Midianites for 7 years. These facts alone are enough to cause Gideon to doubt God’s declaration of war against the Midianites.
God’s next charge, however, would leave anyone completely paralyzed with fear. Gideon is to go against an army “thick as locusts” (Judges 7:12) numbering 135,000 (Judges 8:10). And he is to do this not with an army larger than Midian’s, not with a comparable army of the same size … and not even with his present small army of 32,000—just one-fourth their size—but with a drastically reduced and much, much smaller army! And why? The Lord specifically states, so that …
“Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.”
A. What Are Common Causes of Fear?
God gives Gideon an unimaginable directive: Those who are fearful can return home. Instantly, 22,000 men are eliminated! While these men had enough faith to fight, they did not have enough faith to fight fearlessly—something God required of Israel when going into battle. The fundamental principle? Ultimately, fear contaminates faith. (See Deuteronomy 20:1–4, 8.)
Now only 10,000 remain in Gideon’s ranks. Then God states what seems absurd: “still too many men” (Judges 7:4)!
Situations that evoke no fear in some people are the same situations that evoke great fear in others. What makes the difference? Perception! The perception of the person feeling the fear. Notice that Gideon is not one of the fearful men who return home! His perception has begun to change! Your perception of a situation affects both the degree of your fear (how much fear you will feel) and the way you will respond to your fear (what you will do because of the fear).
Fear is a natural human reaction to feeling threatened—either physically or emotionally—in these 3 areas: love, significance, and security.
• Your Love from Others Feels Threatened.
— Primary relationship: “If I lose my marriage partner, I don’t know what I will do or how I can go on living.”
— Talents and abilities: “If I don’t do well enough, I’ll lose my friends. Then I’ll be all alone.”
— Physical attractiveness: “If I start looking older and put on weight, I will lose the affection I need so badly.”
— Position in a relationship: “If you spend time with other people, then you don’t really love me.”
Your Solution: Learn that you are loved by the Lord beyond measure.
“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:11)
• Your Significance Feels Threatened.
— Identity: “If I lose my position at work, I will lose all that I have worked to achieve. Then what reason will I have to live?”
— Self-esteem: “If I embarrass myself in front of people, I will never be able to go back there—I’ll be too ashamed.”
— Reputation: “If anyone finds out about my compulsive habit, I’ll lose face with everyone.”
— Self-fulfillment: “If I don’t complete my goals, my life will be a failure.”
Your Solution: Learn that you are so significant that the Lord chose to save you and has planned the future for you.
“God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
• Your Security Feels Threatened.
— Financial security: “If I don’t do well on this presentation, I might lose my job. Then I won’t be able to support myself or my family.”
— Physical safety: “If I drive too far from home, I might have an accident and even possibly be killed.”
— Physical health: “If I am not really careful about what I eat—or even touch—I may get sick.… I could literally die!”
— Possessions: “If I lose my home, I will have nowhere to live, and I won’t be able to survive.”
Your Solution: Learn that your security is in your personal relationship with the Lord.
“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)
B. What Are Key Contributors to Fear?
Fear does not appear “in a vacuum.” Just as Gideon’s 7 years of terror at the hands of the Midianites set him up to be fearful, something set you up to be controlled by fear, and something serves to trigger that fear. The setup occurred in the past, while the trigger occurs in the present. Finding the truth about your past fearful setup will provide wisdom as to why you are being controlled by fear in the present.
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”
• Former Fear-Producing Experiences
— Traumatic experiences
◦ Childhood sexual abuse or rape
◦ Tragic accident
◦ Divorce or the death of a loved one or a cherished pet
— Scare tactics used on you by others
◦ Threats of violence by a parent
◦ Threats of violence by siblings
◦ Threats of violence by others
— Underdeveloped sense of self-worth
◦ Neglect, criticism, or ridicule
◦ Poor school performance
◦ Lack of musical, artistic, or athletic abilities
— Parents or family members who displayed excessive fear
◦ “My aunt had a panic disorder.”
◦ “My father was a constant worrier.”
◦ “My mother was fearful and overprotective.”
Realize the reason for your fear and tell yourself the truth about both the past and the present.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
• Emotional Overload
— Denial of your own feelings
◦ “I must suppress my pain.”
◦ “I must deny my disappointments.”
◦ “I must reject my anger.”
— Excessive need to please people
◦ “I must keep everyone from getting angry.”
◦ “I must keep everyone happy.”
◦ “I must have everyone at peace with me.”
— Internalization of stress
◦ “I have a lot of hidden anxiety.”
◦ “I fail to admit stressful situations.”
◦ “I have no outlet for venting my emotions.”
— Strict or perfectionist parents or authorities
◦ “I never pleased my parents.”
◦ “I never was good enough.”
◦ “I received harsh punishments.”
Realize the reason for your fear and let the Lord help you heal from your emotional hurts.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
• Avoidance of Threatening Situations
— Refusing to face your fears
◦ “I minimize my fearfulness.”
◦ “I think it will go away in time.”
◦ “I think that I can avoid fearful situations.”
— Giving no opportunity for change
◦ “I don’t seek help or talk to anyone.”
◦ “I don’t try to figure out why I am fearful.”
◦ “I don’t try to learn to confront my fear.”
— Continuing to reinforce your fears
◦ “I accommodate my fears rather than challenge them.”
◦ “Everything I do is contingent on my fearfulness.”
◦ “I don’t go anywhere that might raise my anxiety level.”
— Reinforcing your negative thought patterns
◦ “Fear dominates all of my decisions.”
◦ “I evaluate everything through the filter of fear.”
◦ “My thoughts are dominated by fear.”
Realize the reason for your fear and let the Lord help you face your fears.
“I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
• Runaway Imagination
— Expecting life to be threatening
◦ “I always expect hostility and hatred.”
◦ “I always expect resistance and roadblocks.”
◦ “I always expect danger and disaster.”
— Assuming the worst will happen
◦ “I always assume rejection and ridicule.”
◦ “I always assume hurt and heartache.”
◦ “I always assume frustration and failure.”
— Believing you can never change
◦ “I have given up thinking my life will ever be good.”
◦ “I think I will be controlled by fear forever.”
◦ “I don’t believe God can or will help me.”
— Thinking you have no control over the situation
◦ “I am overwhelmed when I experience fear.”
◦ “I am powerless when I experience fear.”
◦ “I can’t think clearly when I experience fear.”
Realize the reason for your fear and replace the lies you are believing with the truth.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
C. What Are Physical Causes of Fear and Anxiety?
So again, Gideon’s troops are thinned! This time God is looking for fearless men who are fervently committed to engaging the enemy in battle, men who will keep pursuing the enemy even when hungry, thirsty, and exhausted.
God has Gideon lead the thirsty men to water where He separates those who kneel to drink from those who lie on their stomachs, lapping water like dogs. The 300 who scoop water into their hands and lap while maintaining vigilance—become God’s chosen army to be led by Gideon in defeating the monstrous army of the Midianites.
“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.’ ”
Sometimes people have a physical or medical condition that contributes to their being fearful. There is no indication of a physical cause for Gideon’s fear … no coronary condition, no blocked arteries, no heart attack. Rather, God sees something in Gideon’s heart that is fatal to faith—a fortress of fear, albeit crumbling, but still standing after living so many years under terror and tyranny. His residing fear is the result of how he has viewed his situation, how he has viewed his insufficiency, and how he has viewed God as having no real commitment in spite of His promises.
Some people, however, experience fear and anxiety when no fearful situation exists … and they become further frustrated when they try to talk themselves out of their anxious feelings—but to no avail. They have no idea their feelings may simply be a reaction to something physical, such as a particular medication or illness.
If you are suffering with a level of anxiety that is interfering with your normal functioning, seriously consider the following steps:
• First, obtain a thorough medical check-up.
— (Tell the doctor that you feel unusually anxious. Be specific.) While you cannot be genetically predisposed to panic attacks, you may be psychologically predisposed to having them.
— If you do not get substantial help, get a second opinion from a medical doctor who specializes in anxiety disorders.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
• Consider your medical condition.
— Especially to be evaluated are heart, endocrine system, respiratory, metabolic, and neurological conditions. (Identify any deficiency in the B-vitamins, niacin, pyridoxine, calcium, or magnesium.)
— The medical world has a classification called Anxiety Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition. This name clearly indicates that a person’s poor physical health can contribute to fearful anxiety or even to panic attacks.
• Consider your exposure to substances.
— A condition known to cause fearful anxiety is called Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder.
— Any exposure to toxins, all drugs, medications, vitamins, and minerals—legal and illegal, over-the-counter and prescription—should be evaluated, along with food substances (for example, caffeine or sugar).
Regardless of your affliction—whatever the suffering—know that your heavenly Father loves you, listens to you, and will help you.
“He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
D. What Are Spiritual Causes of Excessive Fear?
Once Gideon hears words of his upcoming victory from the mouth of a Midianite, he is immediately filled with the praises of God and the courage of God. Quickly, in the dark of night, he summons his men and, with trumpets blasting, jars breaking, they shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon” (Judges 7:18). Gideon’s men surround the enemy camp with a fearsome ring of fire, striking terror into the hearts of the massive Midianite army. They cannot see who they are fighting … confusion and chaos reign as God causes the vast army to turn their swords on one another. The result is that 120,000 of the mighty enemy lie dead (Judges 8:10) without Gideon’s ever even raising a shield or losing a single one of his 300 men … and God gets all the glory!
The Lord gives the Midianite camp into Israel’s hands.… And all the Israelites, along with all of their surrounding enemies, know that only God and God alone could achieve such an awesome feat! Surely the God of Israel is the one true God!
Gideon knows he has to depend on God … not on himself … and not on his army. God is able to use Gideon to gain a great military and spiritual victory because Gideon chooses to put his trust in Him. Because he decides to obey God—in spite of fear—while he is preparing for battle, Gideon is able to obey God without fear in the midst of the battle. He let God be God—the all-powerful One, who goes before us and conquers for His name’s sake.
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
E. What Is the Root Cause of Being Controlled by Fear?
Gideon’s greatest weakness eventually becomes his greatest strength. He discovers that when he acknowledges he is weak and inadequate, God’s strength and adequacy prevail in him. Imagine!… God has an encounter with a fear-filled Gideon and reveals truth to him both about the fearsome man of God he will become and the plan God has for him!… Then God supplies him with 32,000 men to accomplish that plan … but gradually reduces that number to only 300 men! Finally God sends this band of 300 against the army of 135,000—with odds of 450 to 1—so that the victory would clearly be the Lord’s and His alone! And though no one man could ever defeat 450 men (the ratio God arranged) in his own strength, Gideon goes forth with a whole heart! But not until God first removes the final kernel of fear residing in Gideon’s heart by sending him among the sleeping Midianites to overhear the interpretation of a dream.
“He [Gideon] and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.… Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.’ His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon.… God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.’ When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God.”
(Judges 7:11, 13–15)
So now … it is time to rally the troops.…
“He [Gideon] returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’ ”
“I have no control over my fear. My only recourse is to avoid all fearful situations.”
“As I face my fear in the strength of the Lord, fear will not control me. Christ lives in me, and as I focus on His perfect love and His perfect truth, I will feel His perfect peace in the midst of every fear-producing situation.”
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
F. How to Have Freedom from Fear … Forever!
Throughout the Bible God repeats the instruction over and over and over: “Do not fear.… Do not be afraid.… Fear not.” God tells us not to fear … circumstances, people, things. But we are told … “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only” (Deuteronomy 6:13). This fear is not “fright” in the sense that we would be afraid of God. The meaning of this kind of fear is reverence and awe for God. We are to … fear Him, be in awe of Him … because He is the one and only all-powerful God. He alone has the ability to change us from being fearful of others to being courageously obedient to Him.
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
4 Points of God’s Plan
The first step in experiencing freedom from the fear in your life is acknowledging that God is worthy of your reverence. The second step is submitting your life … and your fears … to His authority by receiving His Son, Jesus, as your Savior and Lord.
#1 God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To express His love for you by saving you! The Bible says,
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life! Jesus said,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
— What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual “death” … eternal separation from God.
“Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God.… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23)
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes! Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
— What can keep you from being separated from God? Belief in (entrusting your life to) Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
— Give Christ control of your life—entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross [die to your own self-rule] and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of earning God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
The moment you choose to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior—entrusting your life to Him—He comes to live inside you. Then He gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
|Prayer of Salvation“Father, I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and rising from the dead to provide new life. Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. Instead of being controlled by fear, I’m giving control of my life to You to live by faith. In the holy name of Your Son I pray. Amen.”
What Can You Expect Now?
By placing your trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ, look at what God says He has just done for you!
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
IV. Steps to Solution
“Get up!” commands Gideon. “The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Obviously, something has changed … something in Gideon! His words could not be more direct, decisive, and divinely inspired. The stronghold of fear in his heart … that formidable fortress of fear … has finally fallen.
Dividing his men into 3 companies, Gideon gives each of them a trumpet for one hand and a jar with only a torch inside for the other. Now, in yet another test of faith … God calls Gideon and his men to war … weaponless! They will face an army of 135,000 with not a sword, not a spear, not a shield in sight!
God asks us to stand in His strength when we’re afraid … and that’s exactly what Gideon does.
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“Watch me,” Gideon further instructs, “Follow my lead” (Judges 7:17).
These are not the words nor the actions of the Gideon first introduced in the winepress. The once cowering man … has now become courageous. Clearly he is operating in the strength of another, in the power of Almighty God Himself!
The battalion of 300 men proceeds to encircle the vast Midianite camp in the dark of night and watches Gideon, their leader, like a hawk. “When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon’ ” (Judges 7:18).
A bone-chilling blast of trumpets startles the enemy camp.… The terrifying smashing of jars expose blazing torches that now encircle the Midianites in a ring of fire.
All bedlam breaks loose … absolute chaos consumes the camp.
Of course, the strategic mastermind of this brilliant battle plan was Gideon’s Commander-in-Chief—the Lord Himself! Whenever you find yourself in a fearful situation, realize, like Gideon, you are not alone. Rely on the Lord’s presence in your life.… Focus on His strength in your life.… And claim and memorize the promise in this key verse (Isaiah 41:10) for your life.
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
In the blackness of night, the Midianites can’t see their opponents. Nevertheless, they draw their swords—and attack … and attack … and attack … each other! Pandemonium runs rampant. But in truth, “The Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords” (Judges 7:22) … unknowingly, brother against brother, friend against friend.
What would you do if you felt terrorized—panic-stricken—but there is no Gideon in hot pursuit … no blaring sound … no crashing noise … just the rapid pounding of your heart?
Gideon learned to rely totally on the Lord. In every real sense, the Lord was his Shepherd—even when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death—Gideon feared no evil … because from the beginning, he was told … “The Lord is with you.”
When you are stricken with fear, take in hand Psalm 23. Follow each of the steps presented with each verse.
Psalm 23 is the most beloved and most requested passage in the Bible. And for good reason. This Psalm is full of truths we need to focus on in order to have the comfort, restoration, and peace from our relationship with Him.
The psalm 23 strategy
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Certain situations are more fearful than others. Sometimes you only need to read the first few verses once or twice. At other times—especially if you feel a sense of fear out of control—move to an undistracted place and follow each step for each verse. When fear begins to fester, you can exchange panic for peace by focusing on Psalm 23.
• Verse 1: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
Imagine a grassy, pastoral scene and the Lord there with you. Slowly say 5 times, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Each time emphasizing a different word:
THE Lord is my Shepherd.
The LORD is my Shepherd.
The Lord IS my Shepherd.
The Lord is MY Shepherd.
The Lord is my SHEPHERD.
• Verse 2: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”
Imagine yourself lying down beside a calm pool of water.
• Verse 3: “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Take several deep breaths and slowly say 5 times, “My Shepherd restores my soul.”
Each time emphasizing a different word:
MY Shepherd restores my soul.
My SHEPHERD restores my soul.
My Shepherd RESTORES my soul.
My Shepherd restores MY soul.
My Shepherd restores my SOUL.
• Verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Realize that you are not trapped. Slowly say, “I will fear no evil—The Lord is with me.” Repeat 5 times.
• Verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Each time emphasizing a different word:
THE Lord is my Protector.
The LORD is my Protector.
The Lord IS my Protector.
The Lord is MY Protector.
The Lord is my PROTECTOR.
• Verse 6: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Thank the Lord for the way He will use each fearful situation for good in your life.
“Dear God, I thank You that You are my Shepherd. You guide me, You protect me, and You give me Your peace. You are the One who restores my soul. You know my weaknesses and the times I’ve caved in to fear. Now, in my weakness, I will choose to rely on Your strength. You are my Shepherd. I am choosing to rely on Your power for me to move from fear to faith. As I turn my fear over to You, use it for good in my life to remind me of my continual need for You. In Your holy name I pray. Amen”
|Focus on your fear, and your panic will increase. Focus on your Shepherd, and your heart will be at peace.—June Hunt
C. Why Are You Afraid?
No knocking of knees, no trembling of hands, Gideon not only leads the charge against the remaining Midianites, in the Lord’s strength he boldly stands up to criticism and relentlessly pursues his enemies. Along the way, he and his 300 men keep up the pursuit despite physical exhaustion. After Gideon asks the men in the town of Succoth for sustenance to continue his quest, they scoff at his potential for success and refuse his request.
Sometimes after a great success, we can revert to an old habit—a habit filled with fear and doubt—simply because someone currently in our lives, treats us as we had been painfully treated in the past.
When the men of Succoth scoffed at Gideon, he could have emotionally cratered—even after experiencing such miraculous victory. That is why it’s helpful for us to evaluate … why am I really afraid?
Examining your fear, its origin, its legitimacy, and its pattern can help you understand your fear and develop a strategy to resolve it. First, go before God, who is the Source of wisdom, and pray this prayer from your heart …
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
• Identify your specific fear: Of what are you truly afraid?
Then ask yourself:
— Is my fear tied to recent events or did it originate from a specific situation in the past?
— Is my fear of the object or situation a true threat or merely a perceived threat?
— Is my fear wrongly associated with an event or object that should not be feared?
— Is my fear coming from certain places, people, or things that remind me of possible fearful consequences?
— Is my fear due to a persistent fear-based mentality—even though the relationship or lifestyle in which it was rooted no longer exists?
— Is my fear a result of having faked fear to get attention over such a long period of time that the fear has now become real to me?
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”
D. What to Ask When You Feel Afraid
Gideon makes the same request for supplies at a second town—Peniel—and receives the same refusal. In resuming his pursuit of the Midianite kings, Gideon and his men rout the entire remaining army of 15,000 and capture their cruel kings. Gideon continues living out his personal transformation from fear to faith as he completes the task God has called him to accomplish … delivering Israel from the destructive domination of the Midianites. And he does it in the face of criticism and opposition, not only from his enemies, but from his countrymen. And he does it because he knows his God, his source for truth, is trustworthy.
Knowing the truth and then acting on the truth is critical to conquering fear. The source of truth is the One who does not lie … our God who cannot lie.
The first step in applying truth is to identify the false assumptions behind the fears you are experiencing and to replace the false with the truth.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When you feel afraid of a person or a situation …
• Ask yourself if what you are afraid of is certain to happen …
— Evaluate: “Is what I fear actually likely to happen?”
— Realize that fixating on your fear guarantees its repetition.
— Understand that most fears have nothing to do with what’s happening now.
• Determine how current the fear that you are presently feeling is. Ask yourself …
— What was the past trauma(s) that first instigated my fear?
— What past fear am I bringing into the present?
— When did this fear first begin?
— How old am I emotionally when I am feeling this fear?
— Where am I when I am feeling this fear?
— What is going on when I am feeling this fear?
— How is this fear affecting my life now? What is it costing me?
• Decide: Are you determined to get out of the grip of fear? If so …
— Do what it takes to control your fear and to change from being fearful. Tell yourself, “I will not let this fear run my life.… I will not let past fears control me.”
— Decide to live in the here and now and act in a way that is not based on fear. Repeat this phrase over and over, “That was then, and this is now.… That was then, and this is now.”
— Share your fear and your plan for change with a trustworthy person.
As you choose to face your fear with faith, claim this Scripture as your own …
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
E. How to Move from Fear to Faith
Gideon moves from the testing of God to triumph with God … from a fear-based fleece to a faith-based foundation. Previously, Gideon kept asking God for supernatural signs affirming that God would do what He clearly and repeatedly said He would do. (See Judges 6:36–40.) Ultimately, Gideon moves from weakness to strength, from doubt to faith, from vacillating to victorious—and he does so by trusting in the one true God and taking action based on that trust. For it is God who gives Gideon victories in defeating both his foes … and his fears. Because of Gideon’s successes in saving his people from perishing … in conquering enemy kings … and in gaining victory over vast armies, his people ask him to rule over them. However, Gideon tells them,
“I will not rule over you.… The Lord will rule over you.”
God’s call on Gideon’s life is clear … he is to go in the Lord’s strength and “save Israel out of Midian’s hand” (Judges 6:14). But that call does not include ruling over Israel. Gideon knows this, and he also knows that God is not to be replaced by the man He made into a “mighty warrior” and empowered to accomplish His purposes. Gideon is still just a man … and God is still the Almighty Ruler of the universe.
As you seek to follow Gideon’s example in moving from fear to faith …
• Begin with a healthy fear (awe) of God.
— Believe that God created you because He loves you.
— Believe that God has a purpose and a plan for your life.
— Believe that God has the right to have authority over you.
— Believe that God wants you to entrust your life to Him.
— Believe that God has the power to change you.
— Believe that God will keep you safe as you trust in Him.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)
• Be aware that living in a “state of fear” is not part of God’s plan for you.
— Fear-based thinking suggests you may not be fully trusting God.
— Fear-based thinking does not appropriate the grace of God.
— Fear-based thinking keeps you in bondage to fear.
— Fear-based thinking is physically, emotionally, and spiritually damaging.
“In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4)
• Be willing to analyze your fear honestly to discover the real source of your fear.
— Fear of rejection.… Do you need to be loved?
— Fear of failure.… Do you need to feel significant?
— Fear of financial loss.… Do you need to feel secure?
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
• Be aware of the power of God’s love for you.
— God’s love provides you with complete acceptance.
— God’s love provides you with a realization of your true value.
— God’s love provides you with the power to overcome fear.
— God’s love provides you with true security.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
• Be committed to developing your faith in the Lord.
— Be actively involved in a Bible study. (2 Timothy 2:15)
— Be in daily prayer—truly talking with God. (Philippians 4:6)
— Be consistently active in a local church that teaches the Word of God. (Hebrews 10:25)
— Be committed to memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. (Philippians 4:8)
— Be obedient to God’s promptings in your spirit. (Philippians 4:5)
“His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
• Be involved with other believers.
— Be engaged with fellow Christians. (Hebrews 10:25)
— Be willing to testify to God’s faithfulness in your life. (Lamentations 3:22–23)
— Be focused on serving others. (Philippians 4:10)
— Be aware of the twofold responsibility
(Christ’s and yours) in assisting others in need. (Philippians 4:13–14)
— Be accountable to a small intimate group of growing Christians.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
• Begin using truth from God’s Word to rein in your fear-producing imagination the moment it starts spinning out of control.
— “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)
— “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
— “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
• Be willing to face the situations you fear through faith in the power of Christ.
— Know that Christ is always ready to respond to your needs.
— Acknowledge His actual presence and call for His help.
— Release your fear to Him and receive His powerful love.
— Act in love toward others by focusing on their needs and relying on God.
“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
• Become free from your fear and strengthened in your faith.
— Become more trusting.
— Become more peaceful.
— Become more thankful.
— Become more Christlike.
“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6–7)
F. How to Decrease Your Fear with “Desensitization”
In spite of his enormous initial fear, Gideon eventually accomplishes the supernatural in the power of God because he believes in the promises of God … and acts on them in faith. At first, he sees himself as a weak thresher, but God sees him as a “mighty warrior.” Then, as Gideon takes God at His word and acts out of faith rather than out of fear, his faith in God grows, his courage as a warrior grows, and finally he comes to see himself as God sees him. With each progressively more fearful situation, God’s reassurance helps Gideon to choose, as an act of his will, to trust God and move forward in victory. With each new step, Gideon’s fear becomes weaker while his faith becomes stronger.
Identifying your fear and its “triggers” will help deprive those triggers of their power. Your regular, repeated exposure to a trigger (something that initiates a sense of fear or danger) can help to desensitize you to it. If your fear is situational or if you are under medical care for panic attacks, you can move toward victory as you walk through the following process:
“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.”
(1 Peter 1:13)
Moving from Panic to Peace
If you are overly sensitive to an object or situation, “desensitization” can be the key to open the door to freedom. Systematically repeat each of the following steps one at a time. After repeating one individual step day after day for a week or 2, or until you no longer have a strong emotional reaction, move on to the next step. A slight reaction is expected and permissible before moving to the next step.
• Gradually increase your exposure to the fear.
Specific Phobia—Example: fear of elevators
— Stand near an elevator and watch people get on and off.
— Push the button AS IF you are getting ready to step inside.
— Step inside (when other people are not around), hold the “Door Open” button, count to 5 and step out.
— Step inside, (again, when others are not around), hold the “Door Open” button, count to 10 and step out.
— Step inside, ride to only one floor and exit.
— Ride to 2 floors … 3 … eventually all the way up and down for 10 minutes.
A supportive person can be present for each step—initially also doing the activity—then later not participating, but being present to encourage and praise.
• Practice facing your fear.
Social Phobia—Example: fear of initiating conversation
— Initiate by simply saying “hello” with a smile.
— Practice being genuinely interested in each person you speak with. Think: What is truly meaningful to this person?—then mention it or ask about it.
— Listen carefully to what is said by others.
— Ask follow-up questions.
— Ask simple, open-ended questions of others about themselves—questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no.”
— Intentionally use “you” and “yours” more in conversations than you use “I” and “my.”
— Make brief comments about yourself.
— Practice by asking a salesperson questions.
— Every day practice saying general questions you could ask anyone:
◦ “Who has been the most influential person in your life?”
◦ “What was your favorite subject in school?”
◦ “What do you enjoy doing more than anything else?”
◦ “What has brought you the greatest satisfaction in anything that you have done?”
• Repeat each step over and over again until it evokes little reaction.
Agoraphobia—Example: fear of a panic attack (fear in open spaces)
— Open your front door and leave it open.
— Stand in the open door for as long as possible.
— Go out the door and stand on the porch—breathe deeply.
— Walk down the sidewalk to the edge of your property.
— Walk around the outside of the house.
— Sit in the car while it is in the driveway.
— Have someone drive you around the block.
— Drive yourself around the block.
— Go to the mall and sit in your car in the parking lot.
— Go to the mall when it will not be too crowded and walk around.
— Go into a store and greet a sales clerk.
— Make a small purchase.
Each step of the way, say,
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 118:6)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Note: For serious phobic reactions, the process of desensitization is almost always used in combination with professional medical help.
G. How to Counter Your Fears with Facts
Like Gideon, if you grew up in an environment where fear reigned, you could easily have developed a fear-based mentality as a child and then grown into an adult who is now controlled by the fear. At times, you feel helpless and powerless to confront or to match someone strength-for-strength. Gideon had been at the mercy of those around him who, as “master manipulators,” had a whole arsenal of fear tactics. Unless you, like Gideon, come to recognize the bondage you are in and accept the fact that Christ came to free the oppressed, you will remain in bondage. Yes, Christ came to set you free—just as He set Gideon free centuries before.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”
Fear: “I can’t help this feeling of intense fear!”
Fact: “This feeling is a bluff to my mind and body. It is not grounded in truth.”
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” (Psalm 27:3)
Fear: “I have this feeling of doom—a feeling that I am going to die.”
Fact: “The time of death is in God’s hands. I will choose to trust Him.”
“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)
Fear: “I’m afraid of what others are thinking about me.”
Fact: “My peace comes from pleasing God, not in pleasing man.”
“We make it our goal to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
Fear:: “I am hopeless and can never change.”
Fact: “In Christ, I am a new person. Nothing is hopeless.”
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Fear: “I am so nervous, I can’t think clearly.”
Fact: “God will guard my mind and give me peace.”
“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Fear: “To be safe, I have to be in control.”
Fact: “God is in control of my life, and He is with me step-by-step.”
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Fear: “I feel trapped with no way of escape.”
Fact: “God always makes a way of escape.”
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Question: “I want to conquer my fears … what do I need to do first?”
Answer: In reality, God is actually the One who does what He calls Gideon to do because He is the One who enables Gideon to do it. All God requires is that Gideon refuses to focus on the fear he feels and chooses to step forward in the faith he possesses. Of course, Gideon’s faith increases as he faces each new fear-producing situation. He goes from fearfully tearing down his father’s altar and Asherah pole under the cover of darkness to boldly pursuing the Midianites in the bright light of day!
“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Certain general things to consider when dealing with fears are often overlooked just because they are quite simple and too “obvious” to be seen. It’s like looking at the forest but missing the trees. These suggestions may seem simplistic, but they can be the foundation on which to build an effective plan for overcoming unwanted fear and anxiety.
“He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”
• Get a thorough medical checkup—ask if any condition could be causing anxiety.
• Ask your doctor to evaluate all medications.
• Get adequate sleep.
• Get regular exercise.
• Plan to get sufficient laughter, fun, and recreation.
• Be around encouraging people—remove yourself from negative people.
• Get on a healthy diet by eating healthful foods—avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Develop the habit of living one day at a time.
• Listen to inspirational Christian and/or classical music.
• Ask a trusted friend to help you; then imagine the worst and consider why it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
H. Do’s and Don’ts for Family and Friends
Gideon does exactly what God requires. In time, he refuses to focus on his fear and chooses to step forward in faith. He knows he is not a mighty warrior, but he learns that God can be the warrior within him! It’s not complicated—his supernatural victory comes simply because Gideon walks both fearfully with God by faith … and fearlessly with God by faith.
Sometimes God chooses a specific person—friend or family member—to walk with the one who needs more faith. Just as God told Gideon to take Purah with him into the Midianite camp, fearful people need fearless friends to walk alongside to help them find the road to freedom.
Those who are fearful need a friend … those who are timid need a teammate … those who are worried need someone wise … those who are anxious need an exhorter … those who cower need an encourager. Those who are tormented by fear need inspiration from those who have found freedom from fear.
To support a loved one who is struggling with fear, learn what to do and what not to do. You can very well be that person’s answer to prayer.
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Don’t become impatient when you don’t understand their fear.
Do … Understand that what fearful people feel is real.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)
Don’t think they are doing this for attention.
Do … Realize they are embarrassed and want to change.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)
Don’t be critical or use demeaning statements.
Do … Be gentle and supportive, and build up their self-confidence.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Don’t assume you know what is best.
Do … Ask how you can help.
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Don’t make them face a threatening situation without planning.
Do … Give them instruction in positive self-talk and relaxation exercises.
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13)
Don’t make them face the situation alone.
Do … Be there and assure them of your support.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)
Don’t begin with difficult situations.
Do … Help them to begin facing their fear in small increments.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)
Don’t constantly ask, “How are you feeling?”
Do … Help them see the value of having other interests.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Don’t show disappointment and displeasure if they fail.
Do … Encourage them and compliment their efforts to conquer their fear.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)
Don’t say, “Don’t be absurd; there’s nothing for you to fear!”
Do say … “No matter how you feel, tell yourself the truth, ‘I will take one step at a time.’ ”
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)
Don’t say, “Don’t be a coward; you have to do this!”
Do say … “I know this is difficult for you, but it’s not dangerous. You have the courage to do this.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)
Don’t say, “Quit living in the past; this is not that bad.”
Do say … “Remember to stay in the present and remind yourself, ‘That was then, and this is now.’ ”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
|Among the thousands and thousands of people mentioned in the Bible, Gideon is selected by God to be one of the few in His famous “Hall of Faith.” Hebrews chapter 11, commonly called “The Hall of Faith,” illustrates the power of living by faith and extols the predominant heroes of the faith. Fewer than 20 names are listed on this Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints. Gideon is one of the rare few: “Gideon … who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised”(Hebrews 11:32–33).His transformation from being fearfully timid to being fearlessly triumphant is evident as he confronts the captive kings of Midian. Asking what kind of men they had killed at Tabor, Gideon’s once fearsome enemies reply, “ ‘Men like you,’ they answered, ‘each one with the bearing of a prince’ ” (Judges 8:18).
Instead of retreating in fear, the once meek man from the small clan of Manasseh now bears a princely posture … and has become a powerful warrior—the “mighty warrior” God called him to be.
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