Charles Stanley - Victory Over Fear
Well, all of us have to learn to deal with fear in our life. And if you'll think about it, we live in a very fearful time in history. And we live in a society that's full of fear. People are fearing about losing their job, their home, their health, their family, their friends, their position, you name it. Lots of things surround us to cause fear. And, in spite of all that, God's people are not to live in fear.
And so somebody says, "Well, I got lots of reasons to be afraid". Well, I would never question that. But how are we to live in a society? And somebody says, "Well, how did we get in this position in the first place"? Well, I was just asking myself that question and thinking about what I found in the book of Ecclesiastes. And the passage, just one verse of Scripture, in fact, that sort of sums it all up of how we got where we are. Why all this fear? For the simple reason we have violated a very clear principle of Scripture which says, listen to this, at the end of Ecclesiastes, the thirteenth verse, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God, keep His commandments, because this applies to every person".
And we've decided not to do that. We've decided we're going to live the way we want to live and we're going to ignore the principles in the Word of God. And as a result of that, what happens? We're a nation full of fear. And we fear many things we should not have to be fearing. And if you watch the news, you can stir up enough fear very easily. And so, the question is: how does a believer live in a fearful generation at a fearful time in life and at the same time, be the kind of person God wants us to be?
So I want you to turn, if you will, to Isaiah chapter forty-one. And for me, personally, this is the most powerful verse in the Word of God when it comes to fear because of the awesome promise here. And if this isn't outlined or underlined in your Bible, you certainly ought to. And what I've discovered is if I put a date down by something that God has said to me that it's a reminder of me that He's interested, that He cares, and that He's involved in my life.
So look at this tenth verse of the forty-first chapter of Isaiah, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand". And then, of course, He says, "Behold, all those who are angered at you will be ashamed and dishonored; and those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but you will not find them, and those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"
And I can remember the time in my life when I was going through a real big-time test. And I came to this verse that says, "Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; and those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek them, those who quarrel with you, but will not find them". And before long, I thought to myself, "Well, Lord, that's a reality because they're all gone". All of my enemies were gone. And so, sometimes what happens is this: we linger on things that God takes care of because we forget that He means exactly what He says. And so, when you come to this tenth verse, whatever you're afraid of, this verse itself ought to say something powerful in your life.
If you'll think about it, the first recorded conversation that God and Adam had was Adam said, "I was afraid". That's his first words in his conversation with God. And the truth is that man has been afraid ever since. So, when we think about fear, how would you describe fear? So what I'd like to do is give you a definition, a simple definition. And I want to give you time enough to write it down because we need to understand what we are feeling. It is an uneasy feeling. It is sort of a feeling of dread. It is a feeling of, like an alarm going off within us, warning us of something that is going to happen. And it's the feeling of being threatened by something that maybe we can control or not control. But I would just encourage you to just jot that down so the next time you feel a little bit of fear, you'll think, "Well, this is what's going on".
There are many people who are afraid who don't think they are. They think to admit that they're afraid of something is to be weak. That's not to be weak, it's to be wise. If you're afraid of something, then be willing to deal with it. Now, there is fear that's bad fear. There's fear that's good fear. When the Bible says, "Fear the Lord", that means to reverence Him, to acknowledge Him for who He is, and to respect God as God: holy, righteous God. To fear Him does not mean to be afraid of, but it means to reverence Him.
In Proverbs chapter one, verse seven, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom", a reverence for Him as God, as a holy respect for Him. That is a fear that all of us should enjoy in life and should be experiencing. But let's think about why we get afraid. Why are people afraid? Well, there are lots of reasons, so let's look at them for a moment because if you can't identify your fear, more than likely you won't be able to handle it. Well, one of the first things I'd mention is simply this. That is that our fears, whatever they are, they don't come from God. Paul said to Timothy, you remember what he said? He says, "God has not given you the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".
Have you ever been so afraid, you thought you could hardly move? Have you ever been so afraid that you didn't know what to do next or how to handle the situation? Think about the cause of these fears. Well, one of the reasons we have fears is because we learned them very early in life. They're learned attitudes. I can remember my mother saying, "Don't get close to the river. You may fall in and drown". Now, she was expressing her love, but she, what happened was in my little mind, water is dangerous. And so, it took me a while before I'd ever get in the creek to learn how to swim. So when people teach us things early in life, we think they're insignificant but it's parents, for example, being careful. But listen, our parents have ingrained some things in us that oftentimes can be things that create fear. Then of course, there's our imagination. One of the reasons we have fears is 'cause of imagination.
I heard a lady say not long ago, she came down the aisle, she joined the church, she said, "You know, I used to watch you on TV, but I thought I'd never join this church. It's too big and nobody would be friendly. Nobody would pay any attention". She had this imagination of what First Baptist would be like. She says, "I walked in here and I couldn't get in because so many people were welcoming me and saying, 'Happy to see you; where are you from,' so forth". Her imagination was about to keep her away, but her grandson, who had been watching, said, "Well, I want to go to First Baptist". He coaxed her here. She joined the second Sunday. But suppose she'd let her imagination control her. Then she still wouldn't be a part of it.
Your imagination's an awesome thing. It's a great creator, but it can get you in trouble if you're not careful. Then, of course, there's ignorance. Ignorance can cause us to be fearful. I think about people, for example, who believe that you can be saved and lost. And it's amazing. People, they almost want to fight about it. Now, think about this. And I grew up in that. I understand that. So, when I say, "Look, here's what the Word of God says, that you're saved by the grace of God. He has atoned for your sin: past, present, and future. And so, it doesn't mean that you're not going to sin again, but it means that He's paid your sin debt in full and if you sin again, He's going to discipline you".
But think about every time you came to church and I preached on sin. And I said to you, "You know, if you don't live a godly life and you don't live a sinless life, a sanctified life, you're going to die and go to Hell". Well, if I was you, I wouldn't even belong here. I'd go find me another church. But it's not true. But when people are taught error, it can create terrible fear in their life. Then, of course, the whole issue of doubt. Listen, if you live your life doubting God, you've got some reasons to be afraid. If you doubt that He loves you, if you doubt that He's forgiven you, if you're confessing the same thing over and over and over again that you confessed last year and the year before that and two years before that, then how can you have any freedom and liberty and peace and contentment in life if you're afraid of God.
Well, somebody says, "Well, isn't He holy"? Yes, He's holy. Well, that's the reason to be afraid. No, no, no, no. It's a reason to reverence Him, love Him, obey Him, follow Him. That's not a reason to be frightened by Him. He doesn't want us to be frightened by Him. What did Jesus say over and over again? Fear not, fear not, fear not. And He says that He's not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
And so, these fears in our life, they have tremendous consequences in our life. Think about it in this light. If you're fearful of something, it divides your mind. You can't concentrate well on something if beneath the surface of your emotions, you're fearful that your husband's going to leave you. You're fearful your wife's going to leave you; fearful that your kid's going to get on drugs. In other words, if there's some continuing fear boiling within you, then it's going to divide your mind. Secondly, it's going to stifle your ability to think and act as you should. Because dividing your mind, you don't think clearly as often as you should.
And so, you begin to feel the consequences of it. Likewise, it's going to cause indecision because you're going to feel paralyzed oftentimes in making decisions. And a procrastinator, for example, is a person who does not act for fear of not doing it perfectly or doing it adequate to suit them. They may be a very gifted person, able to do many things. But if they don't think they can do it perfectly, they don't think so, what happens? Then they procrastinate. It's like they're paralyzed. It doesn't work. Then, of course, I think fear can enslave a person with a feeling of uncertainty.
Listen, if you live with fear, it's one thing to walk up on a snake and be afraid, wisely, and walk away. Because that's an incident. It happened yesterday at that moment in time. It's something else to be afraid of something that maybe you know what it is, but it's ongoing, it's continuous. Maybe the doctor said you've got thus and so. Or something happens to your son or your daughter, it just hangs in there. Or something about your finances, whatever. There are many, many things that could fit into that category. But they, the fear just hangs in there and it won't go away. How do you handle that? It's certainly going to block your spiritual growth. If a person's living in fear, think about this.
You think about all that you know about God. And then you're living with this fear, which is not of God. And God has a will for your life, and you're afraid to step out. And there are many people who have challenges in life, who've been told they can't do this or can't do that. And they just do what seemingly is miraculous. When somebody tells you you can't do something, the issue is, "God, what do you want me to do"? He's the One who decides how He's equipped you and how He's built you to do. And most of us could probably do far more than we do if we would just trust Him instead of thinking, "Well", and here's what we do. We look at somebody else and say, "Well, I can't do that".
God doesn't expect you to do that. Whatever He calls you to do, He's calling you to do it to the degree He called you to do it to fit His will, purpose, and plan for your life. So He doesn't expect us to try to measure up to someone else. It's when other people put their measurements on our life that we have lack of confidence and become fearful at times. And the truth is, you and I will never be able to become the person God wants us to be or achieve the things God wants us to achieve as long as we're afraid. As long as fear dominates our life, then we're not going to do it.
And so, when we think about how all those things affect us, I want us to think about our health for just a moment because fear is certainly going to affect your physical health, because there's no question that our emotional being affects our whole body. Listen to some of these. Fear is linked to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, digestive disease, headaches, skin disorders, ulcers, stress. If a person is worried all the time and fearful about something, it's going to affect you. It probably will affect the way you eat and what you eat and how much you eat. It affects whether you exercise or don't exercise. And so, the whole system of our emotions isn't just something that we feel and know up here; but it affects our whole entire body. That's the power of our emotions.
Now, the question is how do we deal with it? How do we deal with fears? Now, listen carefully. What I'm going to say will seem real simple, but isn't that what Jesus did? He told parables. He didn't make things difficult. I know this works. There's no doubt in my mind whether it works or not. I want us to look at a passage of Scripture and I want us to look at it from the perspective if you'll just think about it. Okay, God, here's something I think I'm afraid of or whatever it might be.
I want you to think about dealing with it in this light. And that is, first of all, to acknowledge its presence. Let's say that you're afraid financially that you're going to lose everything, and there are people living right there, whatever the fear is in your life, whatever it might be. First of all, you acknowledge that it's there, and then what you need to do is to identify what's it cause? Where did that come from? Why am I afraid of that? Is it something somebody built into your thought processes, or is it something that you did that you are afraid of the consequence? In other words, what's the real source of it? So here's what I'm afraid of, and here's the source of it. That's two very important points.
The third one is this. As, watch this carefully, as long as I focus on what that fear is, it's not going to get any smaller. The longer I focus on it, what happens? The bigger part of my life it consumes; the more it influences my decisions or my makeup or whatever it might be. So I've got to change my focus. If I'm going to get over it and freed of it, I've got to change my focus. I've got to get it off that and I've got to get it on God. And then here's what I must do. I must turn my focus immediately to the most powerful weapon, listen, to the most powerful weapon that I can have in time of fear. And what is that? It's the Word of God.
Now, with that in mind, I want you to turn back to Isaiah forty-one and I want you to look at this in the light of who you are and what it is that you're facing in life and what you may be fearful of. Look in Isaiah forty-one now, verse ten, because I look at this as an anchor. That is, whatever storm I may be facing when it comes to fear, here's my anchor right here. Listen to what he says, verse ten. He says, number one, "Do not fear", why? "I am with you". Who is I Am? That's Jehovah God: the sovereign Creator of the universe who the Bible says He's established His throne in the Heavens and His sovereignty rules over everything. So He says do not fear, that is, listen, it's one thing for somebody to tell you, "Oh, don't be afraid of that". It's something else for God to say, "Do not fear". Why? Listen, "Do not fear. I am with you". Jehovah God's with me.
Look at this, "Do not anxiously look about you". That's one of the most important phrases in the whole Bible when it comes to overcoming anything, "Do not anxiously look about you". You know why He said that? Because He wants to get our focus on God. As long as I focus on what I'm afraid of, it gets larger and larger and more important and more, listen, more detrimental. "Do not anxiously look about you". Listen. He, watch this, "Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God". Not just your friend and your, "I'm your God. I'm the sovereign Creator of the universe and I'm your God. I'm your personal God". Then He says, he says, "I will strengthen you".
How much strength does He have? He's omnipotent. He says, "I will strengthen you, surely I will help you". What did He put that surely in there for? To say, listen, "You can rest assured of this. Because I am who I am, and because I love you; because I am your God, I am going to help you". He says, "Surely I will uphold you with My righteous hand". It doesn't make any difference what you face in life, listen, you're in My hands. I, sovereign God of this universe, you're in My hands. I will hold you up, I will lift you. I will strengthen you. I'm your God. You don't have anything that can out-maneuver Almighty God. "I will uphold you with My righteous right hand".
Now, let me ask you a question. Do you believe that verse of Scripture? Say amen. Was it true a couple of thousand years ago? Has it changed? So it's still the same, right? And it's still the same God who made that promise, right? Does God change? Doesn't change. So if He made that promise couple or so thousand years ago, watch this. Now, don't say anything if you don't mean it. Don't worry about what somebody beside you's going to think. "Oh, he doesn't believe that". Ignore that. Don't say a word if you don't believe it. Do you believe that what He said a couple of thousand years ago, about facing our fears; do you believe that what He says in that verse is still true? Now, if you really believe that, say it loudly.
All right. That means that you accept this truth that your God has said that He is your God, because you've trusted Him through Jesus, and that He will help you, He will be with you, He will uphold you, He will strengthen you, and He will uphold you with His righteous right hand. Is that true? Now, if you're a believer, is that true for you today? So whatever you're facing, you believe that the God of this universe has given you a personal promise: I will uphold you, strengthen you, be with you. I am your God. Do you believe He's trustworthy enough to take that fear of yours, whatever it might be, and say, "Lord, I know this doesn't belong in my life any longer. And so, what I'm going to do is I'm going to take You at Your Word, and now, from this point on, I'm going to set my focus on You, and I lay this fear down. I'm laying it down on the basis of who You are, what You said".
So here's the question. Do you believe that God is who He says He is? Amen? Do you believe that God will do what He says He'll do? Amen? Then you need not carry that fear any longer, because watch this. You know what this all boils down to? It is a faith battle. You see, when a person is saying what you just said and agreeing what you just agreed with the Word of God. If you agree with that and you meant what you said. Then if you have any doubts about that, listen, does your doubt affect God? No? Amen? No. It doesn't change anything He said, right?
If it doesn't affect God and it doesn't change anything He said, then do you have a reason to hold on to this fear when God has said You don't have to. "I will uphold you with My righteous right hand". Which means whatever you're facing in life, Sovereign God of this universe is going to hold you safely and bring you through it no matter what. Amen? No matter what. You may not be a Christian. You say, "Well, does that work for me"? No. Doesn't work.
Let me tell you why it doesn't work. Because if you reject the Lord Jesus Christ who is our only Savior; if you reject Him as your Savior, then you have rejected life at its best. You have rejected eternal life. You have rejected the love of God. You have rejected His will, His purpose, and His plan for your life. You have rejected the best of life. You, listen, you have rejected life as God Almighty intended it for you. You've got a lot to be afraid of because one of these days you're going to die. And when you die, here's what the Bible says. "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment".
You have lots of reasons to be afraid. But you don't have to. If you're willing to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins seriously, you mean it. Asking Him to forgive you, not on the basis that you're going to do all these things for Him. On the basis that when He went to the cross, He paid your sin debt in full. He intended to take away these fears and give you a peace and an assurance and a confidence to face anything in life no matter what it is. That's who He is. And the moment you trust Him as your Savior, all that you've heard can become a reality in your life.
Wouldn't you agree it's better to live your life for God than to live it in fear, uncertainty, doubt, knowing that out there somewhere in the future you're going to face God. And that all of your good works, He's already declared, here's what He's already declared this. No matter what you do and how good it is, they're like filthy rags when it comes, listen, when it comes to saving you of your sins, your good works will never work. That's what He says. And so I want to encourage you to trust Him as your Savior. Amen?
Father, how grateful we are for Your awesome love for us. And Lord, we know that You know all about fear, everything there is to know about it. But You said, "My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled. Let not your heart be fearful. You believe in God; believe also in Me". And we do. And we thank You for it, in Jesus's name, amen.