Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Christian and his fears

I found this sitting forgotten in my drafts folder and thought now would be a good time to post it. I hope others might find it helpful too - sorry for the length!

I f the devil can not stop our progress towards heaven, he can, and will, attempt to hinder it. Among the various weapons used by Satan to slacken our pace is that of fear. We must remember that the devil knows the Bible better than we do and has been a diligent student of it since it was first written. His motive in studying the Bible can not be to prevent the fulfillment of God's promises or prophecies. This he knows he cannot do. But in order to search out ways to dampen our confidence in these promises of God and thereby to weaken our hands and impede our progress. If Satan cannot stop the elect from reaching home he can at least make their journey uncomfortable for them. And few things are more uncomfortable than living under a cloud of fear.  As Christians we must never underestimate the importance of morale. Our states of mind have a great influence on our entire life and witness, either for better or for worse. Joy unites all the faculties of the soul and makes us run in the way of obedience and service to God. But heaviness in the heart causes it to stoop, to falter, and to hang down. Once we lose our joy we lose our momentum, just as a motor vehicle loses its 'revs'.  The hills then become difficult to climb and the machinery of the soul grates and vibrates with its strain. Every fresh task is a burden almost too heavy to bear. Every new challenge appears to be edged and tinted with darkness. To the joyless soul every duty is only a drudge.

The devil, as a master of psychology, is expert at darkening the aspects of our lives with gloom and thereby sapping the joy out of our soul. The things of God always tend to inspire us, to lift up our hearts, to restore our assurance. But the devices of Satan have exactly the opposite effect. They are calculated to darken and depress, to intimidate and discourage. Satan aims to make us inefficient, to wear us out with anxiety, to divert our energies by morbid introspection from joyful service for Christ to hopeless inactivity.....and even to despair.

Much of this mischief our great enemy is able to bring about by means of fear. This fear comes over the soul mysteriously and at first almost imperceptibly; yet it comes like thick clouds over the soul till there is hardly light enough to see any of God's promises clearly. Fear covers the mind like fog over the landscape. It shuts out the sun and closes in our visibility. It also brings with it some degree or other of misery and robs us of our delight in God.

It is the Christian's great art to combat his fears and to render them impotent. This he is to do by 'acting faith'- the expression is old fashioned but good- in the Word of God. That is to say, the Christian is to be alert to the approach of darkness, discouragement, and fear in his own mind. He is to have at the ready ways and means of repelling those thoughts which threaten to pull down the curtain of fear upon his spirit. Just as the prudent householder has always on hand a fire extinguisher, so the well armed believer has within reach means to extinguish his fears and to dampen the squibs thrown into his mind by the evil one.

Let no one imagine that this is an easy thing to do. The utterances of inspired saints in the Bible make it very clear that not one of them found it an easy exercise to repel the fears and doubts that came upon them. The Books of Psalms and of Job, even if we had no others, tell us plainly that the greatest of God's people have had to wrestle against their fears with agony, with occasional failure, and with experience of intense inward darkness. It is unlikely to be otherwise with us in our day.

The soul behaves sinfully when it looks at its perceived problems apart from the power of God. The fact that mankind has such fears at all is evidence that we are all born practical atheists. in one sens mankind's fears are a judgment from God on us for our unbelief. The soul was made, like a wine glass to be a vessel for something more important and more precious than itself. the soul was at the first created to be a 'receptacle' of the Holy Spirit. God originally lived in the soul of man as in a temple or sanctuary. He made man in a particular and peculiar way, for Himself.

The day Adam sinned, he died, not physically, but spiritually. he lost the spirit's gracious inhabitation and mankind became 'flesh'. No alteration could become more complete or more catastrophic. For man who was at first made 'a living soul' (Genesis 2:7) to become 'flesh' was for him to become an empty vessel, devoid of that privilege of communion  with his Maker for which his innermost being was specially designed.

A 'godless' man is an unnatural phenomenon. By the fall man became what he was not created to be. Not without cause did the learned Augustine state, 'Thou hast made us for thyself  and our heart is restless till it finds rest in thee'. This restlessness can only cease when the eternal god re-enters the soul of man at the new birth and by so doing restores to it its integrity, happiness, and comfort. this is what the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does and which nothing else can do for us.

There are of course, sinless fears as well as sinful ones. Such fears are to be seen in the life of our Savior as he faced the experiences which would come upon him when he was made sin for us. There was no taint of sin in these fears of Christ. In all that he feared he had perfect love for his people and perfect trust in God. His holy souls was filled with the Spirit 'without measure' (John 3:34). The fears of Christ were all a rational and lawful recoil from the fiery flame of damnation which he did not deserve to suffer.

To state the matter in this way is not to pretend to explain all the mystery of fear or suffering which he underwent for us as God-Man. But if we cannot explain fully how a perfect and divine person may have deep fears, we can, and must, veil our faces in awe and love. it is enough now to know that he entered into the dark arena of fear that we might be delivered from it finally and forever.

What more directly concerns us now is to learn how to fight against those fears which Satan brings into our souls because we are sinful. To this subject we turn in the hope of finding light and help. If we could but keep our souls free from sinful fears cares, we should lend speed to ourselves in the service of God here below. If we could 'be careful for nothing' (Phil 4:6), according to the teaching of the Bible, we should know very much of the joy of the Lord (Phil 4:4). Which Christian can doubt this would add greatly to his comfort and usefulness in the present life?

If, as we have affirmed, our sinful fears arise when we look at our problems apart from God, it must follow that our line of self defense is to view our problems always in the context of God's power. This is an art which we shall spend a whole life time learning and relearning. For this reason we are told that 'man doth not live by bread alone but by every word of God' (Deut 8:3). Bread is for the body, which is the lesser part of man. But the soul needs spiritual light and knowledge and this can only come from the Holy Scriptures.
Those who do not read the Bible or go to churches where the Bible is explained and expounded have no effective means for warding off their fears. This is the tragedy of our modern society. It has shaken off the fear of God, but is a prey to every other kind of fear. For this is the law of God's just providence, that those who fear God should have nothing else to fear; but those who do not fear God must become slaves to a thousand fears.

The Christian is therefore happy in this, that he has the word of God beside him, in his mouth, and in his heart. In this blessed word he has the means of countering all the suggestions of Satan. The art he is to learn is the practical wisdom of how to apply his knowledge of God's Word to the encounters he has with the devil.
 Satan seeks to take advantage of us by presenting to our mind the problems we face in a false light. He is 'the father of lies' (John 8:44) in that he represents to our minds difficulties and problems which he makes out at the moment to be inescapably menacing. By a combination of bullying and misrepresenting he drives our soul into a mood of darkness. His whispered taunts are, 'There is no way out of this problem', 'There is no comfort now', 'there is a catastrophe ahead', and so on.

If we allow Satan to persuade us that his arguments are sound, we shall not be able to save ourselves from bouts of semi despair and gloom. the skillful believer, when he senses his spirit to be under satanic attack, must be up and about with his knowledge of the Bible to remind himself that there is no situation at all from which an almighty God and Father cannot save him.

Almost one half of a Christian's fears arise from anxiety about yesterday's trouble. The other half arise from our anxiety about tomorrow. Seldom do we have anxiety about what we experience now. To repel our fears therefore we must try to live by faith in the here-and- now of our life. The past we cannot alter; the future may never happen as we imagine. If we are to know peace we shall need to trust in God with the certainty that he is working all things 'perfectly for us' (Psalm 57:2)

The devil's art is to get us to live by sight and not by faith. the story of the 12 spies in the book of Numbers is the perfect illustration of this (chapter 14), the way in which the believing spies viewed the land was the exact reverse of the others. The difference lay in their attitude, and their attitude was governed by their faith, or lack of it. So it is with us in all aspects of our lives in this world.

The Golden Rule is that we must refuse to view anything in our life in isolation from the promises of God's Word. So much of what we hear and see and read in the News inevitably is presented to us from the perspective of atheistic unbelief. Hence it comes with the sting of fear. It weakens, discourages, hurts. Today probably as never before in history 'men's hearts fail them for fear' (Luke 21:26). No wonder, if they sadly ignore what God has said.

We who believe that history, destiny, and all else belong to God must seek to live above this spirit of fear for 'God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind' (2 Tim 1:7). To do so will be an invaluable benefit to our spiritual life."
~ Maurice Roberts

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1