The Doctrine of Fear
This week I am going to share something that I have been struggling with for months now. I was always taught that it is a sin to worry about any situation in life and what a Christian must do is put all of their problems in God’s hands and He will take care of it. A book that lays this all out it in detail is The Faith-Rest Life by R.B. Thieme, Jr. which can be ordered for free. There is also a good online introduction to the topic provided by Katy Community Church at this link.
I believe the principles of faith rest to be true but I have began to wonder if I haven’t been misapplying them thereby giving me a false sense of security. What brought this on is when I listened to Robert Dean’s study of 3rd John a few months back. At one point Dr. Dean discussed persecution of the church and that we are to continue spreading the Gospel in spite of any resistance we receive. He used the old Soviet Union as an example by saying that Christians who were caught evangelizing there would be thrown in prison and possibly tortured. Then, referring to Philippians 4:7, he went on to say that even if we are being tortured in a Soviet prison we should still have a peace which “which surpasses all understanding.” I am not saying that Pastor Dean is wrong, in fact he is probably right, but I cannot reconcile being both tortured and at peace simultaneously.
Then a couple of months later I ordered DVDs for the Chafer Seminary 2012 Pastor’s Conference where the topic was the Christian’s responsibilities to government. Dr. George Meisinger gave a presentation (here is a link to the accompanying paper) that basically said we are to obey government authority, even when it is evil, with very few exceptions. And when those exceptions do occur we cannot depend on God to pull our fat out of the fire. Maybe God will rescue us and maybe He won’t, we have to be willing to accept the consequences of doing what is right even if it means death.
It is difficult for me to explain the deep uncertainty this has caused me. Here are some of the questions that I have been struggling with:
- Does God promise believers protection? By this I mean protection of our persons, our loved ones, and our possessions. I have always known that there are special circumstances, like what happened to Job where protection was withdrawn for a time, but by and large I have always expected to be protected even when the world around me is falling apart.
- Can I ever be certain that a particular promise applies to me at a particular time? How can I tell which promises I should be claiming? It is not as simple as pulling any promise from scripture and claiming it. If my house has been burned, my family has been murdered, and I am in prison awaiting execution how can I apply a promise like “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
- Does God protect people and possessions or does He protect our hearts and minds? Philippians 4:7 says “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In this verse it is hearts and minds that are being protected and not anything physical.
- The verses that I see listed in the Doctrine of Fear that have the strongest application to personal protection were all given before Pentecost. Could things have changed with the inauguration of the church at Pentecost?
- Am I wrong to even be looking for some set of guidelines to tell me which promises to claim in every situation? This morning I read “God’s Power Appears out of Our Weakness” by Karen Hancock. In that post she mentions the truth that Christians are to “live by faith.” Maybe I need to relax and trust God to bring the right promises to mind at the right time. Maybe I am turning something simple into something complicated.
When I begin doubting if God has really placed a “hedge of protection” around me I find myself becoming very cynical. This is a cynicism that no Christian should have.
I have reproduced below Dr. Robert Dean’s Doctrine of Fear. This doctrine is closely related to the faith rest technique and is worth reading and thinking about. This was taken from the written transcript for Dr. Dean’s Hebrews Lesson #41 or you can watch the video of the sermon.
Doctrine of Fear
- To understand fear we have to recognize that fear is the initial reaction that we see in fallen man after Adam sins. Fear is the first reaction of fallen man to the presence of God following Adam’s sin. This is seen in Genesis 3:10. After they sinned remember they realized that they were naked and they made clothes of fig leaves. Then when God came looking for them in the garden, they ran and hid. God asked them why they ran and hid.
NKJ Genesis 3:10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
There is a lot going on there. The very presence of God exposes to Adam his guilt, his failure and his vulnerability. He is totally exposed out there because prior to the fall, he is enveloped in God’s protection. The enemy can’t really get to him. But, once he disobeys God there is an automatic shift that takes place in reality. He is instantly cowering. He is instantly afraid. He is instantly timid. He instantly realizes that he is exposed and vulnerable. He is naked. They try to solve this problem on their own, but it is a pseudo solution that can’t work. It is characterized by fear so that the orientation of the fallen human soul is fear. We cover it up. We try to hide it. We try to disguise it. We try to anesthetize it. But at the very core of the rebellious creature’s soul is fear. Now he is exposed. He is out there as it were as a soldier who has been completely left by all of his support, all of his logistical aid. He is out there without armor, without fire power. He is exposed to all of the assaults of the enemy. The orientation of the human soul is towards fear. It is also oriented toward fear because now there is going to be judgment. He knows that he has violated the righteous standard of God and God is going to judge and condemn man for his disobedience and his lack of righteousness. At the very core of the fallen soul is this orientation toward fear. People try to cover this up in all kinds of ways. They go through life and seek to anesthetize it with success, drugs, alcohol, the pursuit of pleasure, or whatever it may be. Somewhere in the details of life there are elements of creation that they focus on in order to try to numb this sense of fear and anxiety and worry and dread. Every now and then some psychiatrist comes up with a term that describes it. The Germans called it anxzt. That is at the core of the human soul. It isn’t focused on anything necessarily, but there is this awareness that man is this limited finite creature that just out there. So man tries to cover it up with every kind of pseudo solution possible. That’s what Adam did when he created clothing from fig leaves.
- The reality of sin and disobedience is instantly known by the unbeliever. Just at Rom 1:18f (which we have studied many times) shows us that the unbeliever knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that God exists. The nonverbal witness of creation is enough evidence of the existence of God. The Scripture says that the knowledge of God is evident within them because God has made it evident to them. Romans 1:18-21 In the same way that fallen man knows that God exists, fallen man also knows that he is exposed and he recognizes that it produces fear in him. Every human being is aware of the fact that he is a sinner and that he stands in condemnation, disobedience to God. He has this internal sense of fear – fear of exposure, fear of failure, fear of death, fear of punishment. There is this sense of fear. Somehow in order to get passed this, we have to control the circumstances around us so that we can have some sense of stability.
- Fear is the core mental attitude sin that is the counterpart to arrogance. Fear is the mental attitude sin that goes along with man’s arrogance and his desire to be completely independent of the creator. So it is the emotional sin that goes along with arrogance and the arrogant orientation to sin. This is the irony that the creature seeks to establish and assert his autonomy. “God I want to do it myself. I want to make my own decisions. I can run everything myself.” But as soon as he gets away from God all of a sudden the realities of the universe are there and he is scared to death. He is not willing to submit himself to the authority of God and orient Himself to the authority of God.
- Fear then for the believer is a sign of carnality and a lack of trust in God. When you become afraid and your soul is controlled by fear, worry, anxiety, dread and all of these counterparts to fear; it is a sign that we are living in carnality. We are operating as if God is not in control and we are the ones who determine stability in our own lives. It means we have to go back to the Scriptures and stabilize our thinking by going to the various promises that God has given us that are related to fear. So I want to run through some promises for you. Perhaps you should memorize one or two of these to grab hold of at various times when you are worried about things in life, that you are fearful. For some people that is not as much a problem as it is for other folks. Some people are prone to worry. That is the trend of their sin nature. Other folks are not quite geared that way, but we all have times when we are fearful.
NKJ Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
Exodus 14:13a gives a foundational principle. This is when Moses talks to the people. Their backs are against the Red Sea and the chariots of pharaoh are pressing from behind. It looks like they are about to be annihilated.
That is the foundational principle. “The battle is the Lord’s.” David said this as he was going against Goliath. Relax. Don’t trust in your own efforts, your own power, or your own ability. Trust in the deliverance of God.
Joshua articulates the same principle in Joshua 10 in the context of the conquest of the land.
NKJ Joshua 10:25 Then Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”
The book of Joshua (the historical events of Joshua) is a picture of the spiritual warfare, the spiritual conflict that every believer is engaged in. We face numerous enemies. We face enemies related to the sin nature. We face enemies related to Satan and the demons. We face enemies related to the world system and cosmic thinking. This applies to all of those enemies. The Lord will give us victory. We should not be fearful or dismayed. We should be strong because our confidence is not in our own power. It’s not in our mental ability or our IQ. It is in the power of God.
NKJ Psalm 27:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
This is a promise that is a favorite for many people.
When our confidence is in the Lord He is our strength. He is our power. He is the one who strengthens us who sustains us and aids us so that we can relax and not be fearful. We look at the things that happen in the world today and we see the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power. There are threats to wipe out Israel. We look at a lot of economic news that we hear and we realize the instability of an economic system that is built on faith. It’s just paper money. And we look at the indebtedness that the nation is in and all of the other things that threaten life on a day-to-day basis. But we can relax because we know that God is in control. God is working out His plan through history. If God is in control then who should we fear? Why should we fear? Why should we worry? God is the one who is going to comfort us and sustain us and strengthen us.
NKJ Psalm 27:3 Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident.
God is his strength.
NKJ Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
Seek the Lord in prayer. Seek the Lord through Bible study. Read the Scripture for yourself. Read through the psalms. When there are times that you are overcome with worry, fear, or anxiety; it is a great comfort to go to the psalms because David many times goes through times, especially during that period when Saul was chasing him and seeking to kill him. David is surrounded by enemies. He is threatened. He expresses those fears to the Lord and then he focuses on the character of God which brings him around to a position where he is relaxed, confident, and his emotions are stabilized.
So he claims….
NKJ Psalm 46:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
No matter what the situation may be, God is always there to aid us and sustain us. We have Jesus Christ who is our high priest who has gone through the same kinds of tests and trials and adversities. He is there to sustain us.
NKJ Psalm 46:2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Notice the flow here. He states a principle in verse 1. This is what happens when you are going through the process of the faith rest drill. You focus your mind on a promise, a fragment of Scripture, a principle and you wrap you thinking around that. Here the principle is given in verse 1.
What doctrine does that refer to? God is omnipresent. So He is always present to us. Therefore we don’t go through any trial, any test or any difficulty where God is not there with us.
Verse 2 is a doctrinal conclusion. Therefore I won’t be afraid. We think about who God is. We think about His promises to us. That brings us to a doctrinal conclusion. Of course 30 seconds later you are starting to worry about it again. You are fearful so you have to go through the process. Sometimes you go through that cycle 5 or 6 times every 5 or 6 minutes until finally you begin to stabilize and focus and it becomes a reality. That takes time. That is the process of spiritual growth and how we move forward. It takes time. It doesn’t happen in a day.
Isaiah 41:10 is a verse that is familiar to all of us.
NKJ Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Philippians 4:6-7 are two important verses to memorize.
NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
NKJ Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
This is a direct command. Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be fearful.
Thanksgiving related to what? To whatever you are fearful of or anxious of or whatever it is you are in dread of. Be thankful for those circumstances, that situation. Go to the Lord in prayer.
Protect from what? Fear, anxiety and dread. So you focus on God, not the problem.
That brings us to 1 Peter 5:7.
NKJ 1 Peter 5:7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
The idea is that we throw our anxieties, our worries, and our cares upon Him. Why? Because He cares for you. There is a rationale there. Because you are a believer, Jesus Christ loves you. He has provided everything for you because He cares for you. In turn we are to throw all of our cares upon Him and to let Him handle it. Then 5 seconds later we have to throw them back again.
NKJ Psalm 56:3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
Psalm 56 is a tremendous psalm to read through when you are going through times of fear or difficulty – when you feel overwhelmed. One of the verses talks about how He collects our tears in a bottle. This builds on the ancient Near East practice that at a funeral they had a special bottle, a little vial, that they would collect their tears in, their tears of mourning and then they would preserve those. What that imagery there is that God is aware of every tear that we shed and He pays attention to it. It is a tremendous indication of how God is always there no matter what we go through.
NKJ Psalm 56:4 In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?
It is the Word of God that gives us that comfort.
NKJ Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Having gone through the promises we recognize that there is a fear related complex of sins – fear, worry, anxiety, dread and panic. These are not part of God’s plan for the believer. God did not save you so that you could go through life governed and controlled by fear, worry, and anxiety whenever there are difficulties and adversities that you face.
- Fear puts our focus on human ability (really inability) rather than on God’s grace. Fear puts our focus on human ability which is really an inability to solve the problem. Therefore you become fearful or anxious about what’s going to happen, what might happen. Usually the worst case scenario never happens. Sometimes it does. That isn’t an absolute, but that’ is what I find. Usually whatever I think is going to happen that doesn’t happen. The best case doesn’t happen either. It is usually somewhere in the middle. But God is always in control. Rather than wasting all of that time in fear, we need to focus on the provision of God. So fear puts the focus on human ability or inability rather than God’s grace and His omnipotence.
- Fear doubts God and attempts to trust in man, but man is weak and is incapable of being the source of stability.
- Fear or worry can add nothing to the solution of the problem.
One section of Scripture that I would encourage you to read when you have problems with worry or fear is in Matthew 6:25 down through the end of the chapter. It’s a great passage to be reminded of. Jesus is speaking to the disciples in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.
NKJ Matthew 6:25 ” Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
In other words, the basic logistics of life – food, shelter, clothing- don’t worry about those things.
NKJ Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
NKJ Matthew 6:27 “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
You see, that’s the basic point. We worry and we fear and it doesn’t do anything productive and it doesn’t add a thing. It doesn’t solve anything. All it does is waste a lot of time and turn our insides into knots.
NKJ Matthew 6:28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
NKJ Matthew 6:29 “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
NKJ Matthew 6:30 “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
God is going to sustain the believer. Maybe it’s not the way you think you ought to be sustained, but God is going to take care of you and provide for you that which you need to accomplish His plan for your life.
NKJ Matthew 6:31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
NKJ Matthew 6:32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
He is talking about the way the pagans operated who don’t have divine viewpoint.
That is their priority – the food they eat, what they drink, their clothing and the material aspects of life. That is their focus.
NKJ Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
That’s the priority. When he says to “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness”, you see that we get that righteousness at salvation. It’s not something that we are doing subsequent to salvation. Once we are saved and we possess the righteousness of Christ, then God is going to supply the logistical grace that we need. That comes with the possession of Christ’s righteousness because we are adopted into the royal family of God. It’s part of that whole package that God is going to sustain us.
NKJ Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Live one day at a time. Focus on the provision of God. What happens when we get into fear is that we get into a deteriorating cycle where fear controls and leads to other sins. It has a debilitating effect on us if we allow it to continue. These are some principles that are familiar to most of you. We will run through them again for a reminder.
- The more things you surrender to fear, the more things you fear. As you go through life and you begin to worry about some things; you open up your sin nature to that whole area of fear, worry, and anxiety.
- The more you surrender to fear, the greater is your capacity for fear. It builds and builds. It has a snowball effect.
- The more you surrender to fear, to that extent fear controls more and more of your life. You make decisions and become more and more fearful. Before long you don’t want to leave your house. You start becoming an agoraphobic. You don’t want to go out. You are afraid to go out at night. Something might happen. More and more decisions are controlled by that fear and anxiety rather than trusting God knowing that He has complete control of your life.
- The more you increase the power of fear in your life, the more you sink into carnality and failure in the Christian life. You begin to worry about everything. You are fearful of everything. This begins to erode the stability in your own soul. Remember if fear is the controlling factor of fallen man then the more we are governed by fear, the more it fragments our soul.
- The greater the power of fear in your life the more there is self-induced misery and the more you experience self-induced misery. You can’t find happiness. Why? You are controlled by fear. You can’t have stability. Why? Something might happen. You’re anxious. You’re worried. You’re over wrought.
- The more miserable you become, the more self-absorbed you become. This lights that whole chain of arrogance skills where you are self-absorbed leading to self-indulgence. You give into the fear and you worry. You let that dominate. Then self-indulgence leads to self-justification. You rationalize sin. You rationalize disobedience. You focus more on the problem than you do the solution. This leads to the fact that you become divorced from reality so that there is self-deception. There is a distorted view of reality that affects decision making. Then this leads to self-deification. We become the source of truth rather than God being the source of truth. So you become more miserable and more self-absorbed focusing on the problems.
- Increased arrogance plus increased fear lead to mental and emotional instability. They lead to what psychiatrists would call neurosis and psychosis. It causes breaks with reality. It destroys concentration. It destroys your ability to do your job. It destroys your ability to relate to other people because you are absorbed with yourself – your fears, your worries, and your concerns. We have to recognize that we are involved in a battle of terrorism of that is waged by Satan and the demons against Christ and those who are His. He was the one who once held us in slavery and defeated completely at the cross. We operate against this invisible enemy. This is what Ephesians 6 is all about. The solution is to stand firm in the power of Jesus Christ. Since we still operate in enemy territory we are surrounded by the world system. The only way we can have stability is to rely exclusively on the power of Jesus Christ. He is our High Priest. This is the thrust of this section. We are to rely upon Him because He has gone through everything. He has established the trail that we are to follow. He is our pathfinder. Because He is our pathfinder, the High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses; then we can come boldly before the throne of grace and find grace in time of need.