Guarding against the Pull of Fear

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Guarding against the Pull of Fear

Scripture demonstrates that fear and faith are equally contagious. Our world’s history shows how one prideful, power-hungry person or group can easily create a mob of terror and confusion, which often turns to ugliness and hate. But there have also been times when one person refused to get swept into the surrounding pandemonium, remained fixed on God, and, through their supernatural confidence and peace, pointed others to Him and His gift of salvation.

In Jesus’ final words to His disciples, we can discover powerful tools to resist our culture’s pull toward fear and gain the courage to stand firm in faith.

Knowing the persecution His disciples would soon face, Christ said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God;  believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Then, as if knowing how challenging it would be to live out this command, He repeated, with emphasis, in verse 27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

This wasn’t a superficial pep-talk designed to comfort them in their moment of sorrow. Nor did He minimize all they’d soon experience. Instead, He essentially told them plainly, “You will have trouble. People will hate and mistreat you. But don’t be afraid, because I won’t leave you helpless or alone.”

He’s saying the same thing to us, inviting us to shift our focus off of the chaos around us and place it onto Him, His truth, and His kingdom.

Here are 5 ways we can turn from fear to faith.

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1. Remain Alert

1. Remain Alert

Jesus told His disciples that life after He left would be far from easy. “In this world you will have trouble,” He said in John 16:33, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The word our Bibles translate as trouble, or as the NASB states, tribulations, has the connotation of the turmoil of feeling trapped and without options. It’s interesting to note, Jesus used the Greek thlipsis, which focused on internal, rather than external pressures as stenoxōria signified.

In other words, Jesus understood the intense emotional battles His disciples would face. A battle He’d soon engage in, on an even deeper level, when He cried out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. And He didn’t want His beloved to be surprised when evil rose up against them. Instead, He wanted them to remain alert and discerning.

2. Maintain a Spirit-led Perspective

The world, which means all who didn’t belong to Jesus, would hate Christ’s followers, just as they hated, and would soon crucify Him. His light within them would amplify other people’s darkness. In other words, the battle between good and evil, which has existed since the beginning of time, was about to intensify. But the disciples weren’t to cower, nor were they to mimic the ugly behavior of those who rose up against them. 

Instead, they were to steadily advance, in gentleness, love, determination and strength, always remembering not only where their true battle lay, but also how things would end. “Take courage,” Jesus told them (NASB), which in the original Greek implies the confidence that comes from God’s Spirit working from within, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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3. Stay Connected

3. Stay Connected

Jesus was about to give the disciples the most historically consequential and difficult mission possible: to expand His kingdom of light and life. Such a task alone would feel daunting. A seemingly insurmountable task when one considers the intense opposition these men would soon face.

And indeed their mission was impossible if attempted in their own strength. To be successful, and experience His peace amid tribulation, they’d need to remain connected to Him (John 15:1-8) and led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. He would teach them everything they needed to know, remind them of all Christ had taught them, and speak through them during their most terrifying moments. (John 14:25-26; 16:12-13; Matthew 10:20). 

The same is true for us. We live in a dark and broken world where we see the effects of evil daily. Oppression. Persecution. Children abused, neglected, or sold into slavery. People groups oppressed and killed.  

Seeing images of such wickedness flooding our screens, we’re often tempted to retreat or lash out. But God encourages us to remain confident and strategic, not frenzied and reactive. May our actions, inspired, fueled, and sustained by Him, accurately reflect His loving, faithful, and sovereign heart. 

4. Remain Focused on Christ and His Mission

When the religious leaders rose up against believers, kicking them out of their faith communities and triggering their expulsion from Rome, the disciples could’ve stayed focused on their injustices. For sure, everything God’s children experienced during the first century was unjust. But while they likely grieved, they did so with purpose and hope, centering their thoughts on Christ, and His mission. They remembered, in every encounter, that they weren’t wrestling with flesh and blood “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, ESV). 

To stand strong, they needed to remain clothed in God’s supernatural armor described in Ephesians 6.

The same is true for us. Victory comes when we learn to fight our spiritual battles with spiritual weapons such as prayer, surrender, righteousness, and faith.

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5. Stay United

In John 17, Jesus prayed that God would unite His followers as one, just as He and the Father are one. Such deep commitments and love reveal the reality and power of the gospel, for nothing else can unite such diverse people from diverse ethnic groups with diverse opinions and perspectives as His church would soon comprise. But God also knew His children would need one another during the difficult times ahead. 

Consider how closely the ancient believers banded together. Acts 4:32 tells us that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (NLT). Some, in fact, risked their lives for one another. And though we know from some of the later epistles, their unity wasn’t perfect, their survival depended upon their commitment to one another.

Hopefully we’ll never find ourselves hiding out from murderous tyrants who hunt us down, beat, and imprison us. But we need to stand together just the same--for Christ’s mission and our spiritual and emotional strength. We face enough opposition in this world. We certainly don’t need to add to our angst, or our distraction, by attacking our brothers and sisters over nonessential matters. When we do that, we grieve God’s heart and taint our witness. We hinder our experience of His supernatural love, flowing in, through, and to us as well. 

Our news channels give us plenty of cause for alarm. In fact, the major networks on both sides have made a business out of this. They keep us stirred up and pit us against one another in order to spike their ratings and therefore their advertising dollars. But God gives you and I the strength and discernment to resist the media’s popularized and politicized pull to fear and the harmful behavior this often creates. He calls us instead to let His love, Spirit, and truth drive us to deeper faith.

As we remain alert to our true enemy, connected to Christ, supernaturally empowered, and united with one another, we begin to experience Christ’s peace during seemingly chaotic times.

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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.

As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event  and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE  and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.