Summary: It’s not so much that fear is a sin. Fear is not the problem; it’s how we respond to it.
Faith & Fear Part 1 - 2 Timothy 1:7
2 Timothy 1:7 - For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.1
Psychologists define fears and anxieties as, ‘what a person experiences when faced with an event that they cannot control or predict or that which seems threatening or dangerous. Fear is a reaction to a perception of immediate danger that is characterized by a strong desire to escape the situation.’2
It’s not so much that fear is a sin. Fear is not the problem; it’s how we respond to it. As that great theologian Pastor Dave Berry says: “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears: of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, of speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words: ‘some assembly required.’”
Romans 8:15 - For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”3
During the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq launched a series of Scud missile attacks against Israel. Many Israeli citizens died as a result of these attacks. After the war was over, Israeli scientists analyzed the official mortality statistics and found something remarkable. Although the death rate had jumped among Israeli citizens on the first day of the Iraqi attacks, the vast majority of them did not die from any direct physical effects of the missiles. They died from heart failure brought on by fear and stress associated with the bombardment.
After the first Iraqi strike turned out to be less cataclysmic than feared, levels of stress declined markedly. As in other wars, the people adapted to the situation with surprising speed. Then as the fear and anxiety subsided, the death rate also declined. There were 17 further Iraqi missile attacks over the following weeks, but Israeli mortality figures over this period were no higher than average.
It was fear and the psychological impact of the missiles, not the physical impact, that claimed the majority of victims.4
Too many times it is fear that incapacitates us. It’s fear that keeps us from realizing our full potential. Not lack of skill, not lack of opportunity, not lack of money or influence. It’s fear and the paralyzing grip that it gets on us that threatens to keep people from trusting and obeying God.
Matthew 14:26 - When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 5
Depending on your translation, there are approximately 366 verses with the phrase “fear not” in them.
Fear usually comes when there is an element of risk. How we respond to the fear is determined by if we are willing to take the risk or not – Are we willing to pay the price for success or failure?
Too often, we aren’t willing to pay the price. The risks SEEM too big.
There is, however, a price to pay for not taking the risk. Susan Jeffers puts it like this: “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”6
Consider the cost of living in fear:
1. Loss of Self-Esteem
“The American Psychological Association published a book a few years ago that summarized all the research that has been done in recent years on self-esteem. They looked at a basic paradox: Why are there so many people lacking in self-esteem who have many reasons to have high self-esteem? They accomplish many things – they are gifted, attractive, and well liked – yet struggle with self-esteem. Even people who accomplished a great deal and are apparently successful are often prone to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. Not only that, many people who receive much affirmation and admiration from significant others tend to disbelieve it and wrestle with self-esteem all the same.
All research suggests that self-esteem largely boils down to one issue: When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on, or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?”7
One possible solution to begin to win this battle is for us to give ourselves permission to fail.
2. Loss of Destiny
If you live in fear, you will never experience the potential that God has placed in you. As I have already said, fear usually comes when there is an element of risk. It’s the pushing past that risk that promotes growth.
Too many people never step out on faith and consequently never experience walking on water because they just aren’t willing to take the risk.
3. Loss of Joy
There’s no way around it. Fear kills joy. Living in fear, worry or anxiety will destroy your joy.