For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:7
A great hindrance that I see at work in the Church that prevents us from discovering and fulfilling our divine purpose is a spirit of fear.
A spirit of fear is not merely screaming because of a spider or other insect (this should come as a great relief to some folks that I know ). A spirit of fear has to do with being timid or fearful to a fault. It is fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength. For example, it is wisdom to maintain cleanliness, but someone without an immune system deficiency can become unreasonably fearful of germs and the possibility of getting sick, that their minds are dominated by such thoughts. In other words, their thoughts and behavior are enslaved to a spirit of fear (Note: A spirit of control could also be at work in this situation because they can become addicted to trying to control circumstances and other people based on these fears). I should also point out that having immune system deficiency (which I personally experienced for a season) means we may need to be more careful, but that does not mean we ought to succumb to a spirit of fear.
Unlike the example above, some are enslaved to fears that aren’t as immediately obvious. Here are some examples of fears that many in the body of Christ are enslaved to but aren’t always immediately obvious to us:
- The fear of failure or loss (this would include any kind of personal failure involving relationship(s), career, social or economic status).
- The fear of getting hurt (the fear of being emotionally wounded, or reopening old emotional wounds).
- The fear of exposure (hidden motives, desires, and attitudes, past or present sins)
- The fear of man (fear of disapproval, rejection, abandonment or persecution by others).
There are at least three reasons why a spirit of fear is so detrimental and will keep us from maturing in terms of Christ-like character and discovering and fulfilling our divine purpose:
- A spirit of fear robs of us of power. This is because the spirit of fear is a faith destroyer. At Jesus’ command, Peter the Apostle was able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus, looked at the wind and waves, and became afraid. I’m not suggesting that Peter was enslaved to a spirit of fear, but if this was the result of a momentary lapse in Peter’s faith in Jesus, how detrimental is it for us to be enslaved to a spirit fear? God desires to demonstrate His power in us and through us. This can only be accomplished as we walk in a healthy relationship with the Lord, fully trusting Him and being led by the Spirit of God day by day. A spirit of fear severs that trust and prevents the flow of power.
- A spirit of fear hinders our willingness and ability to love one another as Christ loved us. Loving one another the way Christ loved us involves laying down our lives for one another by serving each other. When a spirit of fear dominates our thought life, we will tend to remain isolated, self-focused and self-preserving. A spirit of fear will keep us from moving out of our comfort zone because we don’t want to risk failing, losing something, getting hurt, exposed or rejected. There are many in the body of Christ who are not moving and functioning in their gifting because they have allowed a spirit of fear to hold them back.
- A spirit of fear causes us to remain undisciplined and undiscerning in our thinking. A spirit of fear inhibits our ability to think clearly and to see things as they truly are. For example, it was a spirit of fear that kept the generation that God delivered out of Egypt from entering the land of promise. Out of the twelve spies sent into Canaan to survey the land, only Joshua and Caleb came back with a good report. All twelve spies had witnessed God’s miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt. All twelve were first-hand witnesses of the judgement of plagues on Egypt and their so called gods, God parting the waters of the Red Sea while the pillar of cloud and Angel of the Lord held the Egyptian army at bay, and then the utter defeat of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea as the waters closed in on them after the children of Israel had safely crossed (Exodus 14). Only Joshua and Caleb chose to not give in to a spirit of fear. They remembered what they saw God do and they understood the truth of their situation: God was with them and therefore no enemy, no matter how formidable, and no city no matter how fortified, would be able to withstand them!
In order to overcome a spirit of fear, we need to get to the root of the problem. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, the Scripture says that God called to the man asking, “Where are you?” Adam’s reply was, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” This all came about as a result of Eve looking at the forbidden tree and seeing that it was “a tree desirable to make one wise.” (Gen. 3:6). This shows us that they both thought to themselves that they could gain wisdom without God. They really thought to themselves that that God was not trustworthy and that they’d do just fine without Him, so they disobeyed. In other words, it was human pride that led mankind to become afraid because they saw themselves as being naked.
Without a right view of God deep in our hearts, we will continue to be fearful because we see ourselves as naked, uncovered, exposed, or at risk in some way. On the other hand, to fear the Lord, that is, to highly revere God who is both our life and our covering, requires daily walking in humility. It is out of humility, reverence and dependence on the Lord that courage is produced. It is from a heart rich in humility that fear is turned into great courage! For example, Peter, the Apostle’s denial of Jesus (because of the fear of man) was rooted in pride, for he proudly proclaimed that, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” (Matthew 36:33) (Peter character wasn’t as mature as he thought it was). But in humility Peter he was restored and went on to do Kingdom exploits, fulfilling his divine call and purpose. Historians tell us that he was martyred by being crucified upside down.
So, with all this in mind, what are you afraid of? For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
God bless you!