This following post is adapted from Ps James Edward's message on Sunday 23rd September, at the C3 Oxford Falls 10am service. Watch it here.
You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.
You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.
Proverbs 3:24-26 (NLT)
Going to bed without fear is for many not a reality but God has never been far from you. He wants to break fear and anxiety in your life. Proverbs was written by King Solomon, son of King David and these verses are a principle that his father taught him to follow. In 1 Chronicles we see David telling his son to go ahead and do the great thing God called him to do because God would be with him (1 Chronicles 28:20) . David was only repeating a principle that he had learned from reading about Joshua and the Israelites -do not fear because God is with you ( Joshua 1:1-9).
Unhealthy vs. Healthy Fear
There is a principle and a pattern. The principle is that God’s people are called to fear Him; to respect and honour Him; to do what God says no matter how scary it is. The pattern is that God’s people would fear the thing they had been asked to do and lose sight of who God is.
We can live that way too but God doesn’t want us to get stuck, controlled by fear. He wants us to understand it and leverage fear. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. (Proverbs 9:10) When fear means a healthy respect, it guides us to move forward, grow and avoid things that will hurt us.
When we expect judgement or bad things to happen out of fear, 1 John explains this is unhealthy fear (1 John 4:16-18). Unhealthy fear allows further fearful thoughts to crowd in, crippling us as we avoid doing things -anything- to avoid bad consequences.
People are hardwired to respond to fear but which response we have makes all the difference. The first instinct is to freeze which allows us a moment to assess the situation. Then we have flight or fight. In our society though, all too many go to fright and do neither. They worry a lot but never act. When Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy we see a bit of a pep talk -you can do it. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7 however, the tone has changed. Paul tells Timothy not to give in to fear and remember that the Holy Spirit gives us all the things we feel we lack. Fear cannot remain unchallenged, we must make a decision and respond.
There are definitely times when we should flee. When we are faced with the opportunity to form unhealthy relationships, when we are tempted to do the wrong thing, we should flee. We should also consider whether an uneasiness about a decision is a warning from God to get out of the way. If you don’t have God’s peace about certain actions, maybe something’s not right.
Size matters in a fight. Anyone who has ever been sat upon by an older sibling knows this all too well. Rather than elevate fear, elevate God because God is bigger. Remember the story of Jesus calming the storm? The disciples thought they were going to drown but Jesus stopped the storm in a moment. The disciples had more fear after Jesus calmed the storm but now it was fear of the Lord.
We can also fail to see that we have Jesus in our boat, so:
Increase God’s prominence in your life -recognise His authority and not fear.
Increase God’s community in your life -don’t do it alone.
Find God’s promises for your life:
- Psalm 34:4 God delivered me from all my fears
- Isaiah 35:4 God is coming to save you
- Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid because God is with you
- Increase God’s presence in your life with the power of prayer:
- Philippians 4:6-7 thank God for all the things He has already done for you and destroy fear for the future with deep awe of what God can do.
Something to talk about:
1. Is there a situation that tempts you to “fright” instead of standing up to fear?
2. What does/can the Holy Spirit give you that you feel you lack?
3. Is there an area of your life in which you need to increase God’s influence?