I have always had trouble dealing with fear. For as long as I can remember, there wasn’t a molehill I couldn’t turn into Mt. Everest. If there was a big exam coming up in school, I was sure I’d fail and have to repeat a grade. As an adult, I’m always worried I’ve missed paying some bill, and every new freckle dubiously resembles skin cancer. Yet, whenever things get too bad, I’m always reminded that the most common command in the Bible is, “Fear not.”
Fear is a complicated emotion. It can motivate us or it can paralyze us depending on how we choose to approach it. As Christians, we must never allow it to dominate our lives. In its own way, fear can become an idol which takes our focus away from God and has us fret over “what if?” Over at Relevant Magazine, Scott Savage shares a number of ways believers can learn to combat their fears. In particular, Savage notes that many fears are often born from a desire to control the outcome, rather than trusting in obedience to God. He writes,
“Obedience doesn’t equal control. When Jesus is our leader and we are His followers, He is sovereign over the outcome of our obedience. Yet, when I realize what could happen if I obeyed God in, I often want to determine the outcome before I take a step of obedience. I know many friends who struggle with wanting to know what will happen after their obedience before they will obey. And we just can’t know!
In John 21, we read how Jesus forgave Peter for his denial and restored him. Jesus also shared with Peter about his future where he would not be in control. ‘Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Following Jesus leads us to opportunities where we can choose to surrender more control of our lives each day. But surrender is never easy.”
Savage certainly makes a good point. The Bible is filled with examples where individuals are called by God to perform services they are reluctant to take on. One of the most prominent examples would be the story of Gideon. Gideon is often considered the poster boy for fear. When God first commanded him to rescue the Israelites, Gideon was hiding in a winepress to escape his enemies (Judges 6:11).
Throughout his entire story, Gideon demonstrated fear, anxiety, and doubt. He constantly tested God by asking him to perform signs. First, he had God consume an offering of food he presented to the angel (Judges 6:20-21). Next, he petitioned God to send morning dew only on a piece of fleece he laid out (Judges 6:37-38). Finally, just for good measure, he lay out the fleece again but asked for the exact opposite to happen (Judges 6:39-40)!
Gideon was afraid, but when he finally put his trust in God and obeyed, the Israelites were freed from seven years of oppression. There will always be moments in life when we are worried to give ourselves over to God, but the truth is we can trust him with our tomorrows. Obedience does not require us to be fearless, it only asks that we have the faith to follow God in difficult times. The Christian writer Corrie ten Boom said it best when she wrote,
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
What about you? What are your thoughts on fear and obedience? Be sure to leave a comment in the space below!
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor of Crosswalk
(Image courtesy of Thinkstock/iprogressman)