As explored in the last post, the most repeated command in the Bible is “fear not.” At first glance that might seem surprising – there would seem to be a long list of commands that would supersede fear on Biblical list of things we should stop doing, right?
So why is it that the Bible is so concerned with fear? Why is it that God places such a significant emphasis on us learning to identify and master our fears?
There are probably a lot of ways to answer that, but one has risen to the top in my own personal experience. Here is why fear is so dangerous, and why courage is so necessary:
Fear sets the limits of life. Couragous faith expands our boundaries.
Let’s start with the limiting power of fear. Even in small, everyday ways, we see that fear sets the limits of life. Consider some examples:
- If you are afraid of flying, that sets limits to how you can get from one place to another
- If you are afraid of heights, that fear sets the limits of how high you go
- If you are claustrophobic, that fear will keep you away from any place that appears enclosed
- If you are afraid of strangers, that fear will keep you from meeting new people
Those might seem inconsequential, but the limiting nature of fear doesn’t stop there. It spreads into every important arena of life when unchecked. Consider, for instance, some of the ways fear sets limits in our relationships:
- If you are afraid of conflict, that fear will dictate the depth of your relationships. You will lose the ability to either give or receive constructive criticism, something we all badly need.
- If you are afraid of rejection, that fear will limit your ability to be truly authentic. You will find yourself choosing safety over risks in relationships, or you will choose not to move towards certain people that you want to, but can’t because of your fear of rejection.
- If you are afraid of intimacy, that fear sets the limit of how vulnerable you are capable of being. You will find yourself hiding important things about yourself and failing to explore important arenas of the lives of those you love.
Consider some of the ways fear sets limits in our ability to grow spiritually, and therefore in faith:
- If you are afraid of admitting that you are wrong, you are limited in your ability to confess of your sins and experience the forgiveness of God.
- If you are afraid that you have sinned too greatly, you are limited in your ability to receive the grace and freedom that comes from God.
- If you are afraid of admitting that you are broken, you are limited in how much you can experience healing through Jesus.
- If you are afraid of giving up control, you are limited by how much Jesus can lead you into the mission of God that you have been created to participate in
- If you are afraid that your life has little purpose or meaning, you will be limited in how much you can put your trust in Jesus to lead you into the life that you were designed for
- If you are afraid of giving up something that is toxic to your life but that you have come to depend on, you cannot experience the freedom from the thing that enslaves you
- If you are afraid of looking foolish by believing in a God that you cannot prove or see, you will be trapped in a life of spiritual emptiness rather than a life of vibrant fullness
It’s one thing to say you are afraid of heights. Perhaps the fear of enclosed high places doesn’t seem like a life defining reality. But when fear prevents you from engaging in authentic community or from responding to risky invitations from God, you begin to realize how powerful fear can become, and therefore how dangerous.
Nobody wishes for his or her life to feel boxed in. Nobody wants the potential of his or her life to be unnecessarily constricted. And I’ve never met a Christ follower who wants to intentionally prohibit Jesus from leading them towards the fullness of life they long for.
But that is exactly what happens when we allow fear to have free reign in our lives. Fear sets the limits of our life, and if we do not allow Jesus to lead us through that fear we will remain stuck and stagnant.
Courage, on the other hand, flips the script. Courage is what gives us the ability to truly follow Jesus in faith, even when we are afraid.
God never expected human beings to become fearless beings – that misses the point. Instead, God wants us to be free from the power of fear. That is why it so paramount that we learn to become courageous human beings. When we allow fear to have the final word then the life we were designed to live is throttled.
But as we learn to live with courageous faith, then the priceless words of John 10:10 to actually become a possibility:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”