Would you consider yourself a free person? More than likely, you would. But perhaps somewhere in the back of your mind, you wonder, Am I truly free?
We live in a country that has a rich heritage—one that is steeped in freedom and liberty. But many people are not living free lives. They are bound by invisible chains that prevent them from reaching their full potential. These shackles are made up of links that have been cast and shaped in the emotional fires of fear.
Once this deadly emotion captures a person’s heart, breaking its bond is difficult—but it can be done. Though fear’s grasp is strong, it is not greater than the power of Jesus Christ. The Savior told His disciples, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
How do we break free from the bondage of fear? There is only one way, and that is through faith in Christ. But before we can do this, we must come to a point where we admit that we are battling a deadly foe and need God’s help.
I’m not fearful!
The young boy leveled his eyes at his mother’s gaze and said, “I’m not afraid. I want to camp outside with my friends!” His mother softened as she thought through the situation. He would be in the fenced-in backyard, within range of her hearing his every move, and more than
likely, she would be awake—watching to make sure he and his friends were safe. And if they needed anything, they could easily come inside the house.
This is exactly what happened. Somewhere around 2 am, she heard the backdoor open and close. She got up, grabbed her robe, and hurried downstairs to check on her son. As she flipped the lights on in the kitchen, she was greeted by the sight of her boy and two of his best friends—sleeping bags in hand along with a crumbled bag of chocolate chip cookies. Sensing their embarrassment, she asked, “Son, what happened?”
“There’s something out there,” her son replied. “I don’t know what it is, but it snarled at us. We could hear it in the yard. Maybe it was a big dog, a wild fox, or even a large bear!” Trying not to smile at the thought of their imagined foes, she said, “Why don’t you just sleep in the den and go back out to the tent in the morning? I’ll make pancakes for you when you wake up.” The mood of the group immediately brightened. She didn’t bother to mention the fact that the chances of meeting up with a fox or a bear were extremely low, especially since they lived in a densely populated city.
Fear attacks without warning. It tempts us to believe things that will not or cannot happen, and often leaves us feeling helpless and without hope. Each day, we are bombarded with words and messages that have the ability to stir thoughts of fear within us. Turn on the news, and more than likely you will hear a dismal rundown on the economy and many other items that strike notes of panic in your heart.
News organizations often broadcast with the goal of creating an emotional reaction from those who watch, listen, and visit their Web sites. To increase their audience, they target people with the messages that produce the greatest response. Therefore, if the fire of fear works, the flame is turned up.
From a worldly perspective, the future may look pretty bleak, especially if you decide to calculate your situation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. The fact is, if you do this, fear will reach out and grab your heart, telling you that the worst will happen and it will be beyond anything you can imagine. Don’t buy into the Enemy’s lies. The nightly news cannot give you a complete picture of reality—certainly not from a heavenly standpoint. And remember, nothing the Devil whispers to you is based on the truth of God’s Word (John 8:44). While we are facing very serious times in our nation’s history, we are not alone. God is with us, and He is never out of control.
The apostle Paul discovered this in a fresh way during a very difficult time in his ministry. Somewhere near the end of his second missionary journey, he was staying in the city of Corinth. He had left Athens to go to Macedonia, but something happened that almost caused him to stumble in his faith. The Jews resisted his teaching to a point where they “blasphemed.” Paul was fed up with their stiff-necked ways. He declared that he would no longer go to the Jews first, but instead would preach God’s message to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-6).
At every turn, Paul faced opposition from the Jewish leaders. On several occasions, his very life had been threatened. He was tired and likely felt alone and worn thin emotionally—vulnerable to the destruction of fear. One night as he drifted off to sleep, God’s Spirit spoke to him, saying, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).
There we have it: one of the greatest apostles who ever lived, battling fear. But the verses that follow do not mention this again. Why? Paul changed his focus. He came face-to-face with the reality of his fear and chose to abandon it. Was this something he could do on his own? Absolutely not. There was no way he could move past the anxiety he felt without the assurance found in Jesus Christ. Once God’s Spirit spoke to his heart, the issue was settled, and Paul knew there was only one thing for him to do: complete the work God had given him.
The Enemy uses many things in an effort to distract us and prevent us from reaching our full potential—and fear is one of his choice weapons. He usually follows it with words of discouragement and accusation: “You can’t do that”; “You haven’t been trained”; “What would people think if you fail?” And that was his strategy in Corinth: Satan knew he would face ultimate defeat if Paul succeeded, so he tried to keep the apostle fearful. The Lord’s faithful promise, delivered at just the right moment, was all the encouragement Paul needed to continue preaching the truth of the gospel.
The right steps to overcoming fear
If you are going to overcome fear, the first step is to acknowledge and admit your anxiety. Confess, “Lord, I feel fearful, and I don’t know what to do. Please show me how to go forward from this point.” Next, ask God to enable you to conquer your fear. The more you understand your relationship with God, the more intimately you will relate to Him. Your level of trust will increase, and you will begin to notice the many ways He is at work in your life and circumstances.
Shortly before his death, Paul wrote an interesting word of instruction to Timothy. He reminded his young protégé, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Fear doesn’t fit who we are as believers. It usually surfaces when we have the wrong response to disappointment and trial. God wants you to be victorious, not harassed or tormented by anxiety.
Let God remove fear from your life. He may choose to do this by placing you in a frightening situation where you feel out of control. But you do not have to worry, because the One who has promised never to let you go is holding your life in His omnipotent hand.
After you have given your worries to the Lord, meditate on His Word. David understood the power that was available to him through God’s personal promises. He wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? . . . My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear” (Ps. 27:1-3).
If you want to keep your confidence strong, study the Bible, apply God’s principles to your life, and walk with Him each day by faith. When you hide His Word in your heart, you will have the light of His truth to guide you—not only for your present circumstances, but also for eternity.
Resources About Confidence
- How can I face the trials in my life with courage?
- How should I respond to disappointments?
- My situation is so overwhelming and I feel so weak. What should I do?
- How can I turn my crisis into an opportunity?
- How can I be courageous during difficult times?
- Why is it important that I know God?
There are many people with impressive talents and skills who fail to fulfill God’s will for their lives. Why? They lack confidence. Dr. Stanley teaches us that a person’s confidence level is one of the most reliable predictors of whether or not they will succeed in life. (Watch Confidence That Conquers.)