The Path from Fear to Bold Confidence
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Fear is an emotion. The problem is that this strong emotion has the ability to control our actions.
Sometimes that is beneficial to us. When God created us to have emotions, fear was one of them. Jay E. Adams says, “God gave us the capacity to fear for a good purpose, just as He gave us every emotion for a proper use that is helpful to us and honoring to Him. Because of fear we are able to escape injury and dangers that otherwise would destroy most of us before we reached maturity.”
That said, fear can be a monster that controls us and prevents us from living life as God designed. I’m talking about irrational fears. Those deeply rooted fears that we have a hard time explaining, but nevertheless, keep us in bondage. And these types of fears run the gamut – from spiders to public speaking.
The good news is there is hope for those living in fear. It won’t happen overnight, as the pathway requires you to have a heart change along with a shift in your thinking patterns. But there is a path from fear to confidence. To help us understand this journey, we are using Fear: Breaking Its Grip by Lou Priolo.
How Fear is Affecting You and Others
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
Fear holds us back. What we often fail to see in the midst of fear is that it is also holding us back in our relationships. Other people may suffer because of your fears. When this happens, you are neglecting to love God and your neighbor. Take a minute to consider how your fears may hinder you from loving God or serving others.
When Fear Becomes Sinful
Jay E. Adams writes, “Fear can take many forms, but whenever fear is so debilitating that you cannot serve Christ as you ought, and the development and use of your God-given gifts is tied up by it, that is sin.”
It’s hard to think of our fear as sinful because it is already painful enough, but this is something we must acknowledge to move forward. Lou Priolo lists the following characteristics of sinful fear:
• Fear is sinful when it proceeds out of unbelief, or distrust, in God.
• Fear is sinful when that which produced the fear is attributed more power than what the Bible allows.
• Fear is sinful when it attributes to God characteristics that are inconsistent with his nature.
• Fear is sinful when we fear what God forbids us to fear (such as people, our circumstances, or bad news).
• Fear is sinful when it is rooted in the loss of some cherished idolatrous desire (i.e., those who lust after money typically fear poverty).
• Fear is sinful when it is so paralyzing that it keeps us from fulfilling our biblical responsibilities (loving God and neighbor as the Bible commands).
• Fear is sinful when it is rooted in selfishness rather than love.
Consider your fears in light of this list. Are they sinful fears? For example, Priolo explains that “people who are fearful are necessarily selfish.” Their fears make them focus on themselves rather than others.
What Will Not Work
Priolo explains, “[Fear] is an emotion that you ultimately can learn to control (and you are responsible before God for doing just that). The fear monster was born, resides, and must be slain – in your heart.”
When it comes to fear, you can’t just do away with it on your own. You can’t simply face your fear and be done with it. Its grip is too strong. In fact, the type of heart change you need to conquer fear is dependent on your knowledge and understanding of God.
Put off Fear, Put on Love
How do you move from sinful fear to confidence? You start by putting off fear and putting on love. Priolo says, “The most effective way to remove (put off) fear is to replace it with (put on) love. So to slay the fear monster in your life, you must make it your primary goal to please (love) God, rather than expel your fear. You must obey God regardless of your fear! You must love others regardless of your fear!”
Love is Stronger Than Fear
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear – 1 John 4:18
You may be thinking it can’t possibly be that easy. Well, no, it isn’t easy. But it is possible.
Think of it this example. Let’s say you are a parent who has an irrational fear of spiders. If you were outside and a spider was moving towards your baby, you would swoop in and rescue your little one from that eight-legged enemy. A parent’s love can conquer fears.
Or, in another example, let’s pretend you are terribly afraid of public speaking. But, it’s your wedding day and your bride wants you both to recite your own vows in front of a crowd. Out of love for her, you bravely share your heart in front of everyone in the sanctuary.
Jay E. Adams suggests, “Instead you must learn to focus that concern entirely upon doing the living thing that you know God requires of you. […] As you have learned to anticipate (fearfully) what might happen to embarrass or endanger you, so you must learn to anticipate (eagerly) what you can do to please God and others.”
Draw Confidence from the Lord
As mentioned earlier, moving from fear to confidence is a journey. There is no quick fix or magic potion. You must do the work.
This means acknowledging and confessing your sinful fears. As you seek to change your thinking concerning various fears, spend time in prayer asking God to help you focus on loving Him and loving others rather than the things that cause you panic or angst.
Spend time in God’s Word. As you read the Bible, write down verses to memorize that you can use when you feel fear creeping in.
Reflect on God’s faithfulness in the stories throughout the Bible. Then, remember how he has been faithful in your own life. Specifically, think about the times when God has delivered you from the things that cause you to fear (when what you feared didn’t happen). Priolo explains “A good memory is a tremendous weapon in the war against fear!”
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7