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The Sinful Folly of Fearing

Category Articles
Date April 6, 2007

Both Scripture and sanctified experience teach us that our Lord is a most sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:15, 16). Because our Redeemer has been tempted in all ways as we are, He can understand as a Man the pressures of our temptations and sympathize accordingly with us. It is, however, remarkable that there is not a single instance recorded in Scripture where our God demonstrates any sympathy for or toleration of those who succumb to the pressures of fears. This fact is highly significant, telling us that our Lord has no tolerance for our indulgence of the fears and even anxieties that play so prominently in our lives and pressure us to make all sorts of decisions under their dark and malignant influence. Does this mean that the Lord does not care about us when we are filled with fears or that He is incapable of vanquishing our fears?

The absolute absence of any divine sympathy for those in fear speaks neither of our Lord’s callous insensitivity to our plight, nor of His incompetence to help us when we find ourselves in the throes of terrors. What it does speak of is the amazing reality that our God in Christ has removed all cause we had to be afraid, while we were in the guilt, bondage, and degradation of our sins. The perfect love and saving power of God, demonstrated in the redeeming death of His Son, have cast all fears out of the lives of all who are in Christ.

Rather than divine sympathy for us when we fearfully regard those things that attempt to strike fear in us, what our Lord does give to us when we are filled with fear is ever and only the same thing: a simple and strong command that we stop fearing. The cause He gives us to cease our fearing is that He has given Himself to us as our shield and reward (Gen. 15:1). We therefore unnecessarily and ungratefully refuse Him who speaks to us from heaven’s glorious throne if we persist in our fears when, in fact, we have no cause to do so (Heb. 12:25).

Our fears may seem reasonable to us. We see threatening circumstances as the servant of Elisha beheld the Syrian soldiers surrounding the city with proud intention and apparently abundant power to arrest the prophet (2 Kings 6:15). Yet we must perversely and ungratefully rely on our own understanding and refuse to trust in the promises and power of our heavenly Father if we take counsel of our fears. When we exercise faith and trust in the Lord with all our hearts (Prov. 3:5, 6), the eyes of our hearts will be opened to behold that greater are the heavenly hosts and divine resources that are for us than are those puny and vaunting foes that are against us (2 Kings 6:16, 17).

In Psalm 37, we are told of the things we should be doing instead of indulging our fears. That Psalm was written by David, who knew from experience that not even a well-equipped giant who was experienced and skilled at killing his foes could strike fear in one who was clothed in the name of the Lord (1 Sam. 17:45-47). David tells us that in place of our fears we should trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the place where God has put us, exercise and nurture our faith, delight ourselves in the Lord, gratefully accept His giving to us the desires of our hearts, commit our way to the Lord, and trust Him to lead us, empower us, and enable us wisely, boldly, and triumphantly to be more than conquerors over all things and beings that would endeavour to attack us as we walk in the way of the Lord (Psa. 37:3-5). We do well to study this Psalm and the abundant examples in Scripture of those who took counsel of their fear to their great regret, as well as those who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Heb. 11:33, 34).

We may naturally (but not spiritually) feel that our meek and mild Jesus, our sympathetic High Priest who understands us in our temptations, will have sympathetic understanding for us when we are flooded with fears and anxieties. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. Jesus is the very One who tells us ever, only, always to stop fearing. He does not, in fact, understand our fearing, as that is the one human emotion that there is no record in Scripture of our Saviour ever having experienced. Instead of understanding our fears, Jesus wonders at them, grieves over them, and asks us why we have them, telling us in answer to His own question that it is because we fail to exercise the precious and potent divine gift of faith (Mark 4:40). Let us, therefore, refuse ever to take the sorry counsel of our fears, and instead stand firmly and fearlessly in the strength of the Lord’s might and the securing blessing of His redeeming mercy.

William Harrell is Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia.

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