Checking for the fear factor

In this season it is good to check your emotions.

There are two that are especially prevalent, and seem to grow as political activity increases. Neither should be found as a motivator for a follower of Jesus Christ. I am speaking of the emotions of fear and anger.

I became aware of the presence of fear especially among Christians some years ago when I realized how strong the desire for safety was in the Christian subculture, and how it was the driving force behind much of what is now without a doubt a multi-billion dollar industry providing signature goods and services to Christians who desire a safer alternative to what the world has to offer. As pioneers in what came to be known as “Christian” music, we had no idea how widespread the Christian label was to become.

At first I was excited about how fast this was developing, but I quickly became aware of something sinister lurking underneath this fast moving market. It was the need for safety, and underneath that, the dominating presence of fear.

Today, the Internet is a feeding ground for fear. Conspiracy theories, rumors, false stories, and promises for protection roam cyberspace looking for fearful hearts to exploit. Some ask for money, others sell a safer alternative. Both ministries and politicians regularly succumb to the knowledge that the quickest way to someone’s wallet is to make them afraid and then offer them something that will alleviate their fear. Think of how many appeal letters follow this pattern.

My encouragement to you is to be on guard for the fear syndrome. You’ll find it everywhere: in political ads, in sermons, in Christian radio and television – anywhere someone is trying to motivate people to do something. Fear makes one turn in towards the self, circle the wagons, and run away from the world that Christ sent us into. I can say without question that if fear is anywhere in a proposal or a motivation, the enterprise is outside the Spirit of God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

1 Peter 3: 14-15 says this: “‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” The alternative to fear is the presence of Christ in someone’s heart. Perfect love casts out all fear.

Let’s check and make sure the right thing is motivating us. Jesus wants us in the world, not running away from it. He knows it is dangerous, that’s why he prayed for our protection when he was here (John 17:15): “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

With Jesus in our hearts, and the Holy Spirit surrounding us, what else do we need?

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12 Responses to Checking for the fear factor

  1. Holly says:

    Funny you should pinpoint KLTY (K-Love Radio) in today’s catch, John. There are two ministries I eagerly, financially, emotionally and spiritually support outside my local church – The Catch and K-Love Radio. I find encouragement and spiritual growth in each – I am challenged DAILY by each to be a better person – one more like Christ would want me to be. They each keep my focus where it needs to be – on things of a heavenly realm – so when “the world” (or the marketplace, as has become the new catchphrase here in the Fischtank) invades my space – which it does REGULARLY (like every minute of every day), my mind is prepared for battle – to listen, to love, to reach out with encouragement and hope – never fear.

  2. Marc says:

    John, when your blog appeared, I was looking at a clip from a Star Wars movie, where Yoda tells little Anakin “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

    And that is SO true. We are called to lay aside our fears and go out into the world, making disciples, not withdraw in fear or do potshots from our safe place, our Bubble Creek Canyon. (look that up in Youtube. You’ll get a kick out of it.)

    So, we need to go forth fearlessly.

  3. wholeheart says:

    I see a very close relationship between fear and legalism. Christians who are not confident in their own faith become vulnerable to legalistic beliefs and lifestyles promoted by so-called Christian leaders. Their response to feelings of fear is not faith, but formula–keep these rules and you will no longer have to fear whether or not you’re doing or believing the right thing. Legalism is alive and well, but we’ve just prettied it up and glossed it over with evangelical and fundamentalist jargon. We must live by faith, not by fear, formula, feelings, or flesh. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

  4. Andrew P. says:

    I often find myself struggling with this. We live in a safety-obsessed society, and the same attitude certainly infiltrates the church. There must be a balance somewhere – I see no indication that I should have no concern for, for example, the safety of my children. But I also must not worship security, whether security for me or for them, for that is yet another idol. I suspect the answer can be found in Gal. 2:20 and Col. 3:3. If I really believe that it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me, and that I died, but my life now resides safely with Christ in God, then I would have no trouble striking that balance properly. “I have not yet attained, nor arrived at the goal, but I press on…”

  5. Gary says:

    Right On, Right On, Right On! Recognize evil and its ways. Don’t fear it. We’ve got to trust God, we must. or we risk being hateful and or parilyzed. We have a two year old who displays a clear example of fear and trust and it moves my heart to react with love and protection. I’m certain God’s heart is much more sensitive than mine. Thank you for this Catch today

  6. TimC says:

    John: This is a hugely critical subject – might I suggest that you help us (me) work on this for a few days.
    Right now, I have fears for many things that we call the basics of life such as food and shelter for myself and the kids who depend on me, but I have to keep reminding myself “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
    My thoughts go like, “how in the world am I going to pay the rent next month? I’m out of balls to juggle – more medical bills have gone to collections – I have a toothache, and other health concerns and no insurance…” And on and on the turmoil rages. And my ex took everything that she possibly could – for her own security. And business is very tough, and people refuse to pay me for work that I have done for them; and one of those guys has a Bible on his desk, and another goes to church somewhere. And I get angry. And I try to forgive. And I look at the waves and I cry “Lord save me” – nearly every minute.
    But then there are the much bigger matters of life – and death. I have a friend who is a single mom with a 7 year old son; she just learned that she has an incurable, albeit non-aggressive, cancer. She may have 5, 10 or 20 years, but even now, sometimes the pain makes it hard to breathe, and no one knows how much treatments will help – or hinder – life. And yes, she has huge fears for the physical well-being of her son, as the father was physically and emotionally abusive. And she doesn’t know God very well at all and she hopes that she can trust the positive force of the universe so that something good will happen, when it looks like the negative force is on the offensive.
    And I’m afraid and angry.

    • jwfisch says:

      Tough questions indeed. I was thinking more of the use of fear as a motivator, but fear is a challenge for all of us. I was aware of my own as I wrote this so you are not alone — even some of our situations are he same. If I can answer this for myself, I can answer for everyone so I’ll work on it.

      • TimC says:

        Ah, yes, that kind of motivator; I know it well, too. When the economy collapsed in 2009 and my small business dried up, fear was one of factors that pushed my wife to file for divorce. There wasn’t enough income and I couldn’t make her happy, and when I got a prolonged illness she decided she had to look out for number 1, and take whatever she could to survive. Besides, she didn’t like me very much anyway; no matter how hard I tried to please her. I wasn’t free to be me.

  7. Marc says:

    John, this song by Derek Webb says it all. “A New Law.”

    • jwfisch says:

      This song is excellent and I highly recommend it. I may send it out with the Catch tomorrow. Thank you, Marc, for turning us on to this.

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