These days, it is hard to turn on the television or surf the internet without encountering pundits, pollsters, and politicians who are selling their brand of modern-day snake oil: remedies for the latest and greatest threats which, if left unchecked, will destroy the world, this nation, and democracy. Climate change, illegal immigration, mass shootings, and an economy about to implode; Iran, North Korea, China, and the Russians; our own President, Congress, and Supreme Court; white nationalists, wild-eyed evangelicals, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and thugs in masks carrying weapons – what restaurants once offered as the soup of the day is now peddled as the existential threat of the day.
Yes, fear is all around us, and it can be difficult to know what you should do or whom you should trust.
What would you say is the opposite of fear? Courage? Strength? Faith? For me, the opposite of fear is peace, because true peace means that fear cannot have – and will not have – any control over us.
More than thirty-three centuries ago, the Israelites’ time in the desert was drawing to a close. Moses was dying, and Joshua was being appointed as the new leader who would take the people into the Promised Land. So-called giants had scared the Israelites away forty years before (Numbers 13–14), and God knew that the hearts of the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be tested once again.
To reassure His people, God, through Moses, spoke words of truth. Words of comfort. Word of peace. The words remained, and they remain with us – and for us – today:
The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. … Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:3–6, NIV)
When God tells us not to fear, why do we still become afraid? When He promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us, why do we not believe Him and trust Him?
All of this is part of the human condition, and it is what Satan uses to instill fear in us.
Jesus told us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). The Son of God also told us that Satan and his progeny seek only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). Discerning three of the primary ways that Satan uses fear to try to separate us from God can help us see though his lies and avoid the destruction he sows.
First, Satan uses fear to distract us. When we have our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–2), we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) with a single-mindedness that places God at the forefront of our hearts. When fear distracts us, we lose sight of God and replace Him with the times and terrors of this fallen world. Crime, disasters, sickness, and death surround us daily, but we do not have to live in fear. Instead, we can choose to live in God. Tell Satan that he cannot distract you from your Heavenly Father, and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Second, Satan uses fear to divert us. God moves with us along the path to Heaven, but Satan wants to put us on a very different road, the broad road that leads to eternal death (Matthew 7:13), and he uses fear to push us in the direction he wants us to go. Don’t let Satan have his way. Don’t let him push you around. Stay unafraid in God’s hands (Isaiah 49:15–16, John 10:27–30), and let your path be the narrow road (Matthew 7:14).
Third, Satan uses fear to destroy us. If he can sow discord in our lives and fear in our hearts, some people will give in, and some will give up. When Satan does this, he is not just trying to distract us, nor is he simply trying to divert us; he is coming for the kill, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t let him succeed. Instead, be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). And remember that Jesus has given you His peace (John 14:27), and that He has already overcome this fallen world (John 16:33).
-- Dr. John Morris