Tracing fear to its roots – and pulling it out by the power of the Holy Ghost.
God has not given us a spirit of fear. So why do we fear? Where did fear first manifest in the soul of man? Like many other problems that plague mankind today, fear can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Fear’s first manifestation comes shortly before Adam’s fall from dominion. In fact, it had a role to play in Eve’s poor judgment. If we read Genesis Chapter 3 through that lens, we find a perspective on fear we may never have considered – and one that may positively impact our lives.
Indeed, by taking a fresh look at Genesis 3 we’ll see that fear first entices us not to trust God with its subtle whispers. If we act on that distrust, a different flavor of fear follows as a result of our disobedience. This destructive cycle continues as fear attempts to keep us from taking responsibility for that disobedience so it can continue to torment our unrepentant souls. Fear doesn’t fight fair. I see it as the enemy’s wickedest strategy of all. I am convinced that fear is the master spirit the devil uses to steal, kill and destroy. It is a perversion of faith and it seeks to discredit the love of God at every turn. Without a revelation of the love of God, we cannot mature to the full stature of Christ.
So let’s go back to the very beginning and look at fear’s first manifestation. We learn in Genesis 3:1 that the serpent (through whom the devil was speaking) was subtler than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. He demonstrated that subtlety with his clever interrogation of Eve. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” the serpent asked. Eve told the serpent she and Adam were permitted to eat of the from any tree except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they ate from that tree, she explained, they would die.
Fear Challenges God’s Will
The serpent wasted no time in challenging God’s Word in Eve’s life. “You shall not surely die,” he said. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The Bible doesn’t reveal what was going on in Eve’s mind, and there are many layers of revelation about the fall of man and the circumstances leading up to it. But I submit to you that fear played into the equation of Eve’s fateful decision.
Eve feared that God’s plan, God’s will, God’s commandment, might not really be the best thing for her and her husband. Eve feared that God was holding out on the young couple. Eve feared she would miss out on something good if she took God at HisWord. That fear of missing out clouded her judgment to the point that she never considered the consequences of following another voice. Eve’s sin was ultimately unbelief. But it was fear that led her to doubt’s doorway and into that sinful realm of unbelief. The Bible says whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Eve’s decision was not of faith. In other words, her choice was not based on believing the Word of God. It was based on what I call the “fear of.”
Most people have a “fear of” something, but most people don’t have a “fear of” everything. It is possible to be full of faith in one area and full of fear in another. I speak from experience. Many American, red-haired, freckle-faced women would “fear” traveling to a Muslim nation alone. Some would fear glacier flying in a tiny plane in Alaska. Others would fear speaking to congressional representatives on Capitol Hill about the need to stand with Israel against its enemies. I did all of that and feared none of it. But I had a “fear of” other things that caused me not to embrace God’s master plan for my life for years – and I didn’t even know it. Remember, the serpent was subtler than any best of the field the Lord God had made. His master weapon, fear, is often just as subtle. It has to be. Once we can see it, we can defeat it by deciding to believe the Word of God rather than the word of the devil.
Saul’s Fearful Fate
But let’s get back to Adam and Eve. We see that Eve’s fear of God keeping something good from her caused her to disobey God. Let’s strip out the storytelling and say it this way: Fear leads you into disobedience. Need another witness? Fear caused Saul to disobey God’s established priestly authority. King Saul’s fall occurred just before what looked to be a fierce battle between the Israelites and their archenemy, the Philistines. The Philistines gathered themselves to fight with Israel, with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude (1 Samuel 13:5). The Bible says the Israelites were distressed and even trembling with fear.
Saul had his orders. The Prophet Samuel had instructed him to wait there for seven days. Samuel was going to fulfill the priestly duty of sacrificing to God before the battle. Seven days came and went and Samuel didn’t show up at Gilgal. Saul’s army began to give into the fear and scatter. That’s when fear led Saul into disobedience. Instead of waiting for Samuel to show up, Saul took matters into his own hands and offered the burnt offering himself. Wouldn’t you know it? Just as soon as he’d finished his act of fearful disobedience, Samuel showed up asking for an explanation. As the story goes, Saul admitted he was fearful. Samuel called him foolish and told him his kingdom would not continue. Ouch!
Adam and Eve lost their kingship because Eve bowed to the “fear of.” Likewise, Saul lost his kingship because he gave in to the “fear of.” What about you? How is fear robbing you from the fullness of your kingship? Thank God we are in a time of grace. God is not going to strip us of our kingship for falling into the disobedience based on fear if we repent.
Is Fear Robbing Your Kingship?
But that leads me to the next strategy of fear: irresponsibility. The same fear that tempted us to disobey will also try to convince us to blame the disobedience on another person or on circumstances. In that way, fear attempts to keep us from repenting so that we continue to walk in darkness instead of seeing the light. Fear, then, continues to have its way. And fear’s way is torment.
Let me show you this pattern in the Word. We see it with Adam, Eve and Saul. Let’s begin at the beginning with Adam. Shortly after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve had new knowledge alright, but it wasn’t the pleasant experience they may have expected. The first revelation they had was that they were naked, and they were ashamed. They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves clothes. Suddenly, they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
Why did they hide? That’s what God wanted to know. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).
Adam admitted he was afraid. Why else would you hide? One definition of “hide” is to “seek protection or evade responsibility.” Both made up Adam’s motivation. He knew all too well he had disobeyed his Creator. He knew he blew it. He didn’t want to face the living God because he wasn’t sure what God would do to him. He knew God had the power to give life, and he probably knew God had the power to take it. But Adam’s response to God shows me that Adam and Eve didn’t really know the heart of God. They didn’t really understand His nature or His character. If they really knew Him, they wouldn’t have been so quick to disobey His command, which was for their own good, and then hide in fear.
Fear’s Failing Excuses
How do I know that? Because the Bible says: “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection]” (1 John 4:18 AMP).
Adam and Eve had not grown into love’s perfection or they would have simply confessed their sin and received forgiveness. Do you know what? I believe God would have forgiven their sin and cleansed them from all unrighteousness. But instead of admitting to God what happened and repenting, fear led them into another sin: blame.
Listen to how Adam responded when the Lord asked Adam and Even how they came to eat the forbidden fruit: “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12-13).
Adam and Eve lost their kingship, were expelled from the garden by the mercy of God, and failed to fulfill God’s master plan for their lives. What was that master plan? To be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:28). In other words, to use that blessing to turn the whole earth into the Garden of Eden.
Fear also led Saul to make excuses for his disobedience. When Samuel asked Saul why he had offered the sacrifice, something kings were not anointed to do, he answered: “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:11-12).
Notice Saul said he “forced himself” because Samuel didn’t show up on time. Saul had the unmitigated gall to blame Samuel for his disobedience. Why? Because Saul knew he blew it and he was scared. Fear led him into disobedience and fear caused him to shirk the responsibility to avoid punishment. But by shirking the responsibility, I believe Saul brought upon himself a greater punishment. We have to remember that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. He is long-suffering and kind. He doesn’t keep His anger for ever. I believe if Saul had taken a repentant attitude about his mistake, he could have held on to his kingship. Instead, fear besmirched his legacy.
Fighting Off the Spirit of Fear
What about your legacy? Will you stand in the face of fear no matter what form it takes? Or will you allow this wicked spirit to outmaneuver you? We must learn to recognize fear at its onset – and we have to overcome or it will overcome us. Maybe you are like me. Maybe you’ve had some run ins with fear that almost took you out of God’s will. Or maybe you’ve failed to receive God’s promises because fear’s subtle voice caused you to doubt He’d do it for you. Or maybe fear manifests through anger, stress or some other emotion. Make no mistake, fear is at the root of many of our ungodly thoughts and feelings.
So how do we overcome fear? Well, the Bible says God has not given us a spirit of fear, but He has given us three things to combat it. He’s given us power, He has given us His love, and He has given us a sound mind. Here’s what the Lord showed me: We overcome fear with the power of the Holy Ghost. It’s with this power that we resist fear and cause it to flee. Our will power alone is no match for the spirit of fear, but the Spirit of Truth is more than capable throwing fear to the mat and keeping it down for the count. God has given us His power, His authority, His anointing. It’s up to us to use it in the face of fear.
Likewise, God has given us His love. God’s love is perfect. It’s the revelation of this love that casts out fear and its torment. When you begin to feel fear (nobody ever said you wouldn’t feel fear but that doesn’t mean we have to act on it) begin to confess God’s love for you. Remind yourself of God’s perfect love for you and you will trade your anxiety for the peace of God that passes all understanding. Finally, God has given us a sound mind. I like to look at it this way: God has given us the sound mind of Christ. Christ feared nothing. The world has tribulation, but we aren’t supposed to fear. We are supposed to be of good cheer because Christ overcame the world. We have the mind of Christ, and this is the victory that overcomes the world – and the fear that runs rampant through it – our faith.