Fighting Fear With Fear

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Editor's Note: Today we continue a series of articles on overcoming fear, worry, and anxiety. The first dealt with uncovering our fears. The second article contrasted godly and ungodly fears. Last week's article defined and described four types of fears. These final two articles will focus on a biblical response to fear by examining how you can fight fear with fear and how you can fight fear with truth.

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"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You." – Psalm 56:3

The command to “fear not” is found over 150 times in Scripture, making it the #1 most often repeated command in the Bible. But, did you know that “I am with you. I will never leave you” is the most often repeated PROMISE in Scripture? That’s right! The #1 reason God gives us to not fear is because HE is with us. God’s antidote to our fear is to have faith in Him. Faith in God grows as our understanding and fear of Him grows.

When we speak of “fearing” God, we’re talking about two things:

Oh My!

First, we’re talking about having a holy dread of God. This fear comes from understanding and recognizing our complete & utter sinfulness (Ephesians 2:1-3) in light of God’s complete & utter holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; Habakkuk 1:13). This is the “oh my!” aspect of fearing God. Isaiah experienced this feeling of fear and dread when he was given a glimpse into the throne room of God in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-7). In verse 5 he cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” The Apostle John also experienced this fear of God in Revelation 1:17 when he was given a glimpse of the risen, magnified, and glorified Jesus Christ. He writes, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.”

The most wonderful and amazing thing happens to both Isaiah and John: God does not leave them in this state of fear and dread. He cleanses Isaiah and He comforts John. And God does the same thing for you and me so that we don’t need to remain in this state of fear and dread. He cleanses us with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5) and He comforts us with His presence (Psalm 23; Isaiah 43:1-3; Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6).

If you are in Christ, if you have accepted the forgiveness that comes only through His shed blood on your behalf, you no longer need to be in a state of fear and dread towards God. You are cleansed from your sins (Ephesians 2:4-10) and He has sent His Holy Spirit into your soul to comfort, guide, and teach you (John 14:16-17).

Wow!

The second thing we’re talking about when we talk about the fear of God is having an attitude of reverence, awe, and amazement at who God is. This is the “wow!” component of the fear of God. This is the fear of God that we need to cultivate to combat our ungodly fears. How does developing awe, reverence, and amazement of God help to combat fear?

I believe the reason we struggle with fear is because we have a very small view of God. We don’t understand who He really is: His power, sovereignty, wisdom, and love. We view God through the lens of our fears and He looks powerless, distant, uncaring, and uninvolved. Sort of like the disciples in Mark 4:35-41 when a powerful storm descended on them as they were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. They looked at Christ, asleep in the boat, and their conclusion was, “You don’t care!” They focused on the storm, the fear that they were facing, rather than on the powerful, loving Messiah who was in the boat with them. Their fear was real. The storm was intense. But, they had no faith in the only One who could help them. Their fear was bigger than their Lord.

We need a different lens to look at our fears: we need to look at them through the lens of a powerful, sovereign, wise, and loving Lord. When we cultivate this awe-filled fear of God, He becomes bigger and our fears become smaller.

Actually, they shrink to their proper size! We tend to magnify our fears and shrink God. We need to reverse this by magnifying God and shrinking our fears. Ann Voskamp wrote, “The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ” (The One Secret to Destroying Anxiety and Fears This Year). We need to fight fear with fear. We need to cultivate an awe-filled, reverent, adoring fear of God. He must become bigger than our fears.

Big fear = little God. Big God = little fear. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s simple. But it’s not easy. It takes hard work and determination to stop ourselves from meditating on our fear and to begin meditating on the greatness of God. Jerry Bridges writes, "As we become convinced of God’s greatness, we will fear Him—stand in awe of Him—and also trust Him. We cannot separate trust in God from the fear of God. We will trust Him only to the extent that we genuinely stand in awe of Him" (The Joy of Fearing God, p. 48).

You can begin developing a greater awe of God right now by reading and meditating on Scripture. Here are some passages to get you started:

  • The Book of Psalms
  • Job 38-42
  • Isaiah 40; 55
  • Romans 11:33-36

Whenever you read Scripture, look for what you can learn about God: His character, how He acts, how He’s described...and watch your awe of Him and your trust in Him grow!

I highly recommend these resources to fan into flame your awe of God:

  • Always True, James MacDonald
  • Awe, Paul Tripp
  • Gripped by the Greatness of God, James MacDonald
  • Knowing God, J.I. Packer
  • None Like Him, Jen Wilkin
  • The Joy of Fearing God, Jerry Bridges
  • Trusting God, Jerry Bridges