Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Agreeing with Faith over Fear

The original horror movie, “Fright Night,” was released in theaters in 1985. It was a film about a teenager, named Charley Brewster, whose new neighbors turn out to be vampires. In desperation, to help him hunt down the vampires, he recruits a washed-up actor named Peter Vincent, who hosts a TV show called “Fright Night.” There is a profound scene where the two of them confront the main vampire. The older Peter Vincent fearfully holds up a crucifix and commands the vampire, “Back, spawn of Satan!” In response, the vampire chuckles, grabs the crucifix, crushes it and throws it aside saying, “You have to have faith for this to work on me!” With that Charley steps in front with his own smaller crucifix holding it up with clear faith in his posture and the vampire cowers back in fear. This is a great picture of the difference between fear and faith in God. In many respects fear is the opposite of faith. In fact, it is reasonable to argue that faith in God and fear don’t coexist.

It is one thing to fear what we know. It is yet another to fear what we don’t know. How many times have you faced a dilemma or a potentially challenging situation that could either turn out “bad” or “good”? In those situations, have you ever resorted to fearing the outcome over adopting a more hopeful expectation? Why do we do this and how can we stop? The first step is to recognize that fear is faith misplaced. It is a leap of faith to fear a bad outcome that may not happen.

It is one thing for our minds to consider what bad things might happen, even if to be wisely prepared. However, when that affects our emotions to the point of conjuring fear, then we are choosing to agree with fear over agreeing with faith in God. And, the enemy deceives us into thinking that agreeing with fear is more acceptable than agreeing with faith. He has even convinced our culture to treat agreeing with faith as weird. The truth is that the fearful outcome and the hopeful outcome are both based upon the unknown. Therefore, agreeing with either outcome requires belief in or acceptance of the unknown. We must decide between fear of what we don’t know and hope in what we don’t know. They are both choices of faith. So, isn’t it foolish for the Christian to agree with fear over faith in God? A Christian who believes in God and calls Him Father absolutely must agree with faith and hope over agreeing with fear. With every situation, we can come into agreement with faith and into disagreement with fear. And, from scripture, God implores us to do just that. This is a choice of one faith over another.

Romans 8:15 addresses believers in saying, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” The truth is that fear is an emotional tool of the enemy that he uses to enslave us. On the cross, Jesus paid to deliver us from a spirit of fear and deposited in us His very own Spirit, a Spirit of sonship. Far too many Christians walk through their lives burdened by a religious spirit that enslaves them to fear. They are acting like slaves by relating to God the Father as the Godfather. In truth, if you are a Christian you are a son or daughter of the benevolent King of Kings and have inherited everything that goes with that. This is best illustrated by the parable of the Prodigal Son. When the faithful son returned from the fields to find a party in honor of the rebellious son, he refused to join the party. His father came out to ask him to reconsider joining the party. The faithful son responded to his father in Luke 15:29-31, “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’” The faithful son was too busy “slaving” for his father out of an attitude of fear versus realizing his relationship through an attitude of sonship. And, the father immediately rejected his son’s posture by immediately calling him “son.” Fear is a slavery rooted in doubting God’s promises to His children. The God of the universe calls us “son” or “daughter.” He fights for us, His children. The power of God that we once feared now stands behind us and at our Kingdom disposal.

Last, but certainly not least, faith is also a shield against our enemy. That is why, in the famous passage on spiritual warfare, Ephesians 6:16 it says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Dealing with an enemy that is characterized as a “roaring lion” without a shield is beyond foolish and will result in agreeing with fear. Without faith, the “lion” wins and the Christian cowers. With faith, the opposite happens. Like Charley versus the vampire in “Fright Night,” it is faith in the hope of God’s promises which enables us to “extinguish” not some but “all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

For example, imagine you are unemployed for an uncomfortably long period of time. But, you have a job interview in the morning. You don’t know the outcome of the job interview. So, you can choose to agree with one of two outcomes based on faith. You can agree in faith that the interview will go well and you may get the job. Or, you can agree in fear that it will not go well and you will remain unemployed. Either can happen and both are unknown. Agreeing with faith that God will take care of us whether or not we get the job will result in hope and an attitude aligned with God. Agreeing in faith that you will not get the job will enslave you to fear and potentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For the Christian, which choice is more foolish? Even if you agree in faith that you may get the job and you don’t get the job, you still have hope in God’s promises that He will still take care of you. You still have no reason to choose fear. Choosing to agree with fear is faith that is poorly placed.

For many of us, the enemy is allowed as an earpiece because adequate meditation on God’s word and God’s promises is a largely forgotten discipline. Proverbs 1:33 says, “but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Reading God’s word is the best and most sure way to listen to God. When you find yourself succumbing to fear in any way, shape or form, decide to agree with faith. In these situations, if it is not so easy, I challenge you to meditate, even to the point of multiple audible readings of some or all of the following verses (and there are plenty more where these came from):

  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” Isaiah 41:13
  • “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:24-26
  • “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” II Timothy 1:7
  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6
  • “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
  • “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46:1-3
  • “But now thus says the Lord…‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’” Isaiah 43:1-2
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  • “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:30-34
  • “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:7
  • “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
  • “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” I Peter 5:8-9