Jan 22, 2014
Imagine being overwhelmed with fear about the future — maybe about unemployment, making a wrong career choice, or possible health issues.
Since God commands us not to fear (Isaiah 41:10, for example), that means there is something we can and should do to overcome fear.
But God also says we will only be freed from fear as his power changes our hearts and gives us peace (Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:22).
Which means that while there are things we can and should do to overcome fear, we can’t do it all. There are some things only God can do.
Not Just Fear
This is not just true about fear; it’s true for every part of the Christian life.
We are commanded to have faith (Mark 1:15), which shows there are steps we can and should take to have faith. But the Bible is also clear that faith comes from God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Mark 9:24), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.
We are commanded to love (Leviticus 19:18), which shows there are steps we can and should take to love. But only the Spirit can produce the fruit of love (Galatians 5:22), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.
We are commanded to obey — working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). But the very next verse says it’s God who works in us so we obey (Philippians 2:13), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.
So in every area of the Christian life, there are actions God calls us to take. But our actions won’t do it all, which is why we need God to do what only he can do.
Focus On Only One
But many Christians just focus on one of these truths, and ignore the other.
We can see this with the example of fear. Many of us focus only on God’s command that we not fear, and ignore the verses that show there is something only God can do.
So we try to overcome fear with our own will-power: by looking on the bright side, or being positive, or distracting ourselves with busyness.
But none of these truly change our hearts so we are free from fear.
Others of us focus only on how we need God’s power to free us from fear, and ignore what God calls us to do.
And so, instead of taking the steps God calls us to take, we wait for God to work. And we wait. And wait.
But because we ignore the steps God calls us to take, we don’t experience his heart-changing power.
Using Both Truths
We must understand that we cannot overcome fear by our own will-power. But we must also understand that God gives us steps to take which he promises will bring his heart-changing power and free us from fear.
For example, God calls us to —
- Come to him as we are (Psalm 56:3), confessing that we are not trusting his promises, and relying on Christ’s death to assure us of forgiveness (Luke 18:13).
- Trust him, even with weak faith, to strengthen our faith and change our hearts (Mark 9:24; Luke 18:27).
- Ask him for more of the Spirit’s work to strengthen our faith in his promises (Luke 11:13; Mark 9:24; Psalm 119:28).
- Pray over promises that pertain to our fears, since faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).
These are all steps that we, by God’s grace, are able to take. And he promises that as we take them, he will do in our hearts what only he can do.
And what is it that only God can do?
- God can enlighten the eyes of our hearts so we see and feel the truth of his Word (Ephesians 1:17-18)
- God can overcome our unbelief and strengthen our faith (Mark 9:24)
- God can help us see and feel Jesus’ glory so powerfully that we are freed from fear (Isaiah 12:2)
- God can fill us with joy and peace in believing his promises (Romans 15:13)
- God can cause us to abound in hope by the power of the Spirit (Romans 15:13)
Whenever we seek to obey God, whether it’s to overcome fear, to forgive, or to read his Word, we always have three options —
- we can focus on what we can do, relying on our own will-power to produce obedience;
- we can focus on our need for God’s power, and passively wait for God’s power to change us;
- we can fight the fight of faith with prayer and meditation on God’s Word until we experience God’s power changing our hearts (and maybe continue this while we step out in obedience)
It’s like a man who wants to get somewhere in his car.
- He can rely on his own power and try to push the car (which is not what the manufacturer told him to do).
- He can admit that he needs the car’s engine to push the car, and do nothing until the engine starts by itself (which is also not what the manufacturer told him to do)
- He can turn the key, which will then start up the engine’s power (which is what the manufacturer told him to do).
So, don’t push the car of obedience. And don’t wait for the engine to start on its own.
Turn the key.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- How Jesus Frees Us From Fear (4-min video)
- Bible Passages On Fear
- Moses Teaches Joshua About Faith And Feelings
- The Faith-Joy Connection
(Picture is by Lusi on everystockphoto.com.)