The journey of the Christian pilgrim is often challenging.
That’s because it’s a call to obedience. And obeying God isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we may be too afraid to obey.
In fact, fear is the major mechanism the enemy uses to fuel doubts in our hearts about God and His word. When you are afraid, you can’t believe; when you don’t believe, you can’t obey; when you don’t obey, you don’t see results!
Think about it, if Moses was too afraid to believe God, would He have obeyed and stretched out the rod over the red sea? If He didn’t stretch out the rod, would the red sea have parted before him?
So, E. Stanley Jones was right when he said, “Fear is the sand in the machinery of life’. It disrupts and cripples progress in both the physical and spiritual dimensions of life.
For believers who are conscious of their Christian journey – who desire to grow in God, live to please Him and be used by Him, this is a gripping reality.
I have battled with seven kinds of fear as a believer and I am convinced the situation is no different with any other child of God.
#1. Fear of Opposition
We live in a world whose god is hostile to Christ and the gospel. And we know that he often stirs up opposition whenever we make a move to walk in obedience, represent the kingdom or share the good news.
This sets fear in our hearts.
Sometimes, the frightening stories we have heard of believers who were opposed also gets to us.
But the truth is, whether we act or not, there will always be opposition to the light, life and message of the Christian faith. And that’s merely because the enemy is still around. He opposed God in heaven, he opposed the Lord Jesus on earth, and definitely we can’t be left out!
We should settle with this reality, be prepared to live for the Lord and launch out when necessary, in faith and confidence.
#2. Fear of Incompetence
Sometimes, we may receive an idea, an inspiration or an express divine instruction to do something. But we feel highly unqualified and incompetent to carry it out.
So, we are afraid that because we are not competent or qualified, we would make a mess of it.
I know how it feels.
I have spent a chunk of my life in Yoruba-speaking environments where a good number of the locals do not understand English. So, when I sensed the need to reach out, I realized I needed extra dexterity in the language.
Though I can speak Yoruba in everyday conversation, to preach in Yoruba language is a different thing altogether. In fact, many Yoruba people find it a difficult thing to do. And here was I, facing the need to do so.
This drove the fear of incompetence into my spine.
But i took the bull by the horn; memorized opening lines and a few scriptures in Yoruba and left every other thing to God’s care. On many occasions, i would code-switch and code-mix; but in the end, the message was let out.
Remember Gideon? He also felt incompetent to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites as God mandated him to. He said to God, “Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15). Whereas, God was seeing in Him, a mighty man of valour.
We must take solace in the fact that the Lord specializes in appointing the unworthy and when He does, He backs them up.
#3. Fear of Starting
You may be given a vision or an assignment that you consider too big for you to execute. And you wonder where you would start from.
You just can’t imagine yourself successfully and effectively implementing God’s idea. So you are afraid to start it at all. At times it’s the thought of the weight of continuity or the burden of consistency that puts you down. And you can’t get over the inertia to get started.
Sometimes, even after much prayer and preparations, we could still be afraid to mark that all important first outing.
It happened to me as well.
After I was convinced God would have me reach out to the people in my neighbourhood via early morning witnessing, I procrastinated for a while before finally deciding on when to start.
The memories of that first outing still linger in my mind. I stepped onto the road with determination, but I was so nervous I opened and closed my mouth repeatedly without uttering a word.
Anxious, I paced back and forth like an aimless wanderer. But instead of backing out, I overcame the trepidation and eventually spoke out.
Learn to take things one step at a time and one phase at a time. Don’t get worked up about the big picture and how it will play out. Remember, every piece of the jigsaw fits in gradually to solve the puzzle. Realize also that If God starts a good thing in you, He is committed to establishing it. Scripture says, ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ'(Philippians 1:6).
Keep these in mind, and see how easier it becomes to start.
#4. Fear of People’s Opinion
This is one of the biggest fears we face.
What will my parents say? My friends, my siblings, my colleagues, what will they think of me? We get ourselves worked up about what everybody’s opinion about us (or what we’ve set out to do) will be except that of God.
But we ought to also ask ourselves, ‘What will God say?’ Of course, His view is more important than what any other person has to say. We shouldn’t be held back by what people will say; rather we should be spurred on by the commendation we would receive from the Lord afterwards.
A classmate, who was a close acquaintance once made a mocking gesture at me while i shared the gospel with others but i ignored it. His opinion about me at that moment didn’t matter at all.
You see, people will always have a thing to say, regardless of what you do. You should also realize that your saviour’s opinion supersedes that of any mortal in whatever step you want to take.
#5. Fear of Failure or Success
Sometimes we could get so overwhelmed with the thought of, ‘What if it does not work out?’ that we eventually refuse to take any action.
We are scared of failing.
But failure has never been final. Many giants in the bible and in contemporary times did fail at one point or the other. But they were courageous enough to pick themselves up and get things right.
On the other side of the divide, is the fear of success. You are afraid, you could get so successful and lose your faith, your time, your family or even lose everything altogether and have to start afresh.
It’s all in your head.
As Anthony Robbins once said, ‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right.’
Truth is, failure is not a destination; likewise success. Either of them is part of your journey to fulfillment.
#6. Fear of the Future
Some believers are afraid to go into full-time ministry even though they are clear that’s what God wants them to do, just because of the fear of the future. What will we eat, they’d ask? And, just in case you say God will provide, they’ll then ask, ‘Before He provides; what will we eat?’
Sometimes, it’s fear of not eventually getting a spouse; or not living long because of a persistent illness.
Like in these cases, our fears sometimes may be from genuine concerns. That, nevertheless does not make them look good. Fear will only keep in bondage; and it will never allow you see the possibility of hope.
We have a God who not only knows the future, but owns it as well. He’s got times and seasons under His charge. The privilege of being connected to such a personality, should engineer faith and confidence in our hearts.
#7. Fear of the Unknown
Sometimes the enemy comes and begins to suggest and create scenarios that could be consequence(s) of whatever step we want to take for the Lord. He haunts our imaginations and harasses our minds with negativity, making us to be unnecessarily scared of uncertainty or something we really have no concrete information about.
Sometime ago, while sharing tracts at a particular junction in a town, a turbaned Muslim man was passing. The moment I spotted him, I stretched out a tract to him. He paused and asked haughtily, if I really meant that He (pointing arrogantly to himself) should collect the tract. I said yes, I wanted him to collect it. He hesitated, then collected it and uttered some words that sounded in my ears like “You will see”.
At that point many thoughts raced through my mind. Will he mobilize Muslim youths to beat me up? Will he manipulate some diabolic powers against me?
After a short while, I discarded those thoughts, and encouraged myself with the word of God. I don’t know if anything transpired behind the scene but nothing happened to me. I continued my ministry in that area for several weeks afterwards.
You see, it was just an unfounded fear of unknown danger.
We do not know all things; but we have a God who does. And He is on our side. Scriptures, assert, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).
How to Deal With These Fears
The most important way to address fear is to control what we expose ourselves (and our minds) to. Scriptures say, ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). The same is true with fear and doubt. What you hear every time can either instil fear or build faith in you.
So, go for knowledge – useful knowledge. Go for information – the right kind of information. Avoid getting sensitized by toxic channels and give more devotion to the word of God.
In one of his sermons, the enigmatic Archbishop Benson Idahosa said, ‘Don’t listen to what the world says, listen to what the word says. If you want to live long, healthy, hear God more than you hear the devil.’
Furthermore, when the enemy comes with negativity, you can answer him by choosing to reflect on the positive. If he says ‘What if the sick you want to pray for doesn’t get healed?’ you say to him, ‘What if he gets healed?’ By focusing on the positive, we surmount the fear of the unknown.
Furthermore, whenever fear of any kind comes to hinder you, you can confront it by quoting the scriptures (especially the ones that say the exact opposite of that fearful thought). Praying in other tongues and rendering praise and worship to the Lord have also proven effective time and again.
Fear hurries to vanish under the continuous assault of these three.
Meanwhile, it is instructive that the only place in the bible where fear was expressly described as a spirit has at its background the hesitation of Timothy to deploy the gift of God in him. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, ’Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
It is not clear if Timothy was under the influence of the spirit of fear but that scripture suggests loudly, that it is possible for a believer to be under such influence.
If that is noticed, fear should be dealt with, by casting out the spirit.
On a Final Note
Taking little steps boldly as the Lord leads is crucial to our Christian life. Without them, we don’t grow. Without them, we won’t accomplish mighty things. Without obedience we wouldn’t have a great Christian experience. We would hardly see God use us or work through us. Without obedience, it would be difficult to see and talk about great things like we’ve read and heard of the saints who have gone ahead.
This progress is what our fears seek to cripple.
So whatever it takes, we must face our fears and conquer them. For then, will we will truly make progress.
Above all, it is then that God will take us seriously and find us useful vessels.
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Ogaga Eruteya is a Nigerian Christian minister, writer and speaker. He writes on Faith, Personal Development, Youth Development, and Life Realities. With his words, he seeks to inspire, motivate, propagate life’s truths and represent a sincere Christian voice. Learn more about Ogaga here.