(This article is based on a spoken message titled “Overcoming Fear and Worry.”)
“I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10).
The first mention of fear in the Bible is in the context of man being afraid of God. I want you to think about that. The very first phobia in recorded history was Theophobia – the fear of God. That’s actually a word – Theophobia. You can look it up in a medical dictionary. It means “a morbid fear of God”.
Man, almost from the very beginning of his existence, has suffered from Theophobia. And I would suggest that virtually every fear we have – not all, but most of them – are connected to this overriding, overwhelming, fear of God. Most fear is based on ignorance. I am afraid of what I don’t know, what I don’t understand. So then, if I don’t know God, and I don’t understand God, and religion feeds me a steady diet of untruths and half-truths about God that plays to my fears, then of course I will be afraid of God. This fear either makes me run away and hide from God, or it makes me try to appease God. For example, maybe I will go to church because I think it makes God happy for me to go to church.
You really need to see that a religious person trying to please God is just as ignorant as a “sinner” trying to hide from God. Neither one of them have a right understanding of God. Everything they do is based on fear. One refuses to go to church because he’s afraid of God. The other goes to church because he’s afraid of God. Isn’t it interesting how fear can drive people to do the exact opposite things!
God does not lead us according to our fears. How easy it is to justify our fears under the pretext that, “This is how we feel led.” Are you really sure about that? Many times we aren’t led by God, we are led by our fears. Take, as an example, someone who has the revelation of Christ, they have a revelation of the Body of Christ, the Church that Jesus is building, but they continue to stay where they are, even though it is all dead to them. What is their reasoning? “Well, I’m afraid. Where will I go? What will I do for fellowship? What will all my friends think?” The pastor finds out about it and says you need to have a spiritual covering, and the wolves like to prey on the isolated sheep, and if you don’t stay in church the devil’s going to get you and God’s going to be unhappy, etc. etc. And then they rationalize it by saying God wants them to stay where they are and “be a light in a dark place” and bloom where they’re planted and all that nonsense. I’m not saying that can’t happen. I’m saying, is it really God who wants you to stay where you are, or are you just giving in to fear?
God has not given us the spirit of fear. That’s the point – not whether it’s right or wrong to stay or to go, but rather, what is driving you? What’s motivating you? What’s controlling you?
The Bible says that “God is love.” It also says that “Perfect love casts out fear.” God is perfect, and God is perfect love. So love, not fear, should characterize our friendship with God. We are to be motivated by love, not by fear. Let’s take daily devotions for example. A lot of people will pray or read the Bible for a few minutes at the beginning of their day. A lot of people do not, and feel guilty for not doing it. I want you to begin to examine your motivation for doing something. Ask yourself why? Keep going deeper and deeper with this questioning. It isn’t what you do or don’t do, it’s your reason for doing it. It is very easy for a spiritual thing to turn into a religious thing. Then, if we don’t have our morning prayer time, we are irritable and angry the rest of the day. Or, we feel guilty if we don’t do it. Or, we do it, and feel good about doing it, and like to think about how we are more spiritual than those who don’t do it. It’s very easy to slip into something other than love. You begin to pray out of fear of what might happen if you don’t. I would suggest that is the wrong motivation for praying.
Whether you pray, or read the Bible, there is only one motivation. I love God and I want to know Him better. That’s it. I’m not afraid of what might happen if I don’t do something. I’m not trying to earn His approval. I know He loves me the same whether I pray or not. But you see, you come to a more accurate knowing of God, and you’re able to let go of those unreasonable fears about God. Depending on your religious background it could take a long time to undo all that disinformation about God. That’s OK, it’s part of the learning process.
But I believe this is the key to overcoming all fear and worry – getting over our Theophobia, our fear of God. Once you know that God is one your side, once you know He isn’t out to hit your over the head every time you make a mistake, you are well on your way to overcoming the fear of everything else.