OVERCOMING OUR FEARS
My name is Randy Meulman. A good friend of mine says the opposite of love is not hate, it's fear. I believe him. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in my life that I hate more than fear. In the New Testament, John wrote that, “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out all fear.” He went on to say, “He who fears is not perfected in love.”
Fear keeps you and me from truly living and robs us of joy and hope. We fear all kinds of things. We fear death, both for ourselves and those we love. We fear losing control or losing our health. If we're sick, we fear not getting better. We fear running out of money or not having enough. We fear punishment, abandonment, loneliness, disappointment, boredom, and pain. We fear not getting our needs met. We fear God. We fear the devil. We fear fear itself. It seems there is no end to this business of fear.
Where in the world does all of this fear come from? I know I've surely had my share of fear over the years.
Let's take a minute and go back to a story we have all heard–the story of Adam and Eve and our exile from the garden. This story is the key to understanding the nature of our fear.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan promised that if we ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil we would be just like God. God knew that being independent from Him was death and He warned us so. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and ate of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked, so they hid in the garden. When God called out to them and asked why they were hiding, Adam responded with “I was afraid.” Fear had been born. In its essence, fear is simply the result of being separated from God who love us.
Earlier I quoted John who said, “He who fears is not perfected in love.” I personally know that this statement is true in my own life. When I am filled with the love of God there is no room for fear in my life. When the love of God is not operating in my life, I am constantly battling fear. So, the big question becomes, how do we become perfected in love?
Before I talk about being perfected in love, it is important to discuss what keeps us from love, so I want to talk about the prince of darkness himself. Satan is the lord of illusion and tries to do two things with us. First he tries to deceive us and if he can't do that, he tries to destroy us. Satan is incapable of love and Satan is incapable of truth, although he often appears as an angel of light. Satan is full of death and has tremendous power. So much so, that you and I, in and of ourselves, are utterly helpless when it comes to the power of Satan. I've had to learn this lesson the hard way. If your life is filled with fear, you know what I'm talking about–you can not free yourself from your fears. And you have tried.
Many people question the existence of Satan, as I have done in the past. In 1987 a Dallas business firm hired me to get rid of one of their partners. The company wanted this partner out of their organization. I sensed fear on their part but frankly, their fear didn't affect me. I'd been a sergeant in the Marine Corp and spent 14 months in Vietnam. I worked my way through college as a police officer and I kicked in doors going after the bad guys. I was also highly trained in the art of self-defense. I did not believe in intimidating anyone and others did not intimidate me. I soon discovered how completely wrong I was.
This incident was a turning point in my life, because at that time, I didn't believe in the existence of Satan or in the demonic.
The man I met with lived on the island of Kauai. He was a wimp, a shell of a man, in and of himself. But he had aligned himself with Satan and demonic forces. Or as he put it to me, “I have a symbiotic relationship with spirits that are not good and our relationship is based on mutual respect. I serve them and they serve me.” When these forces were turned against me, I thought I was going to die. I knew fear like I had never known before. The terror was so great that later, after I had made my escape and was on a plane flying back to Dallas, if the pilot had informed us that he needed to ditch that plane into the sea, I would not have felt any fear. And I mean that. Again, let me assure you, I would not have made it off that island if the Spirit of Christ did not dwell in me. Satan and the demonic do exist.
I just love Scott Peck since he has added so much to my life. I don't know how many of you are familiar with his works, but one of the books he wrote was entitled, People of the Lie. He was addressing the issue of evil. In one of his chapters, he wrote on demon possession. Scott Peck was a psychiatrist and he didn't believe in demonic possession and he set out to prove it didn't exist. He too discovered how wrong he was when he met the real deal–Satan himself.
Read the Gospels in the New Testament. Jesus often cast out evil spirits. Where do you suppose demons have gone? Trust me friends, they're not on vacation nor have they disappeared. One of the greatest lies Satan has duped on the human race is the illusion he doesn't exist.
Most of the fears in your life and mine are directly related to Satan and demonic forces. And you and I, in and of ourselves, are helpless when it comes to conquering these filthy spirits. If your life is filled with fear and gloom, you know what I mean, try as you might, you cannot free yourself.
But, and this is the biggest but you are ever going to hear, Jesus Christ has conquered Satan and all evil both in life and in death. When Jesus rose from the dead, the battle for mankind was over. He took you and me with Him. You can live a life without fear right now if you allow the Spirit of Christ to live in you.
Now let me say this – if you are a fearful Christian who has gone no further in life than to believe your sins are forgiven, you will remain in bondage and fear until you know the power of Christ's Spirit living in you. Some of the most fearful and miserable people on earth are Christians who do not know what it means to live the Christian life. And I was one of them for a long time. Satan had me tap dancing all over the place with his lies and many of these lies came from the lips of the religious community.
How does the enemy come at us with his litany of lies? In the New Testament, Peter said, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes upon you to prove you as though something strange were happening to you.” Paul in Ephesians warned us, “to put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” And again Paul said, “ taking the shield of faith with which to quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.” What in the world were these men writing about?
When the devil comes at us with these fiery darts, they seem to arise out of our own thoughts, from our inner selves. And we are shocked and horrified that we can think such thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts and fears suddenly come upon us at the strangest times. These thoughts maybe be obsessive or irrational in nature but there is power behind them and fear gnaws at us. Or maybe an ugly or lewd thought comes to mind. Sometimes these arrows even come as doubts or blasphemies. Or perhaps there is something in your past you have done and you are ashamed of what you did. You have asked God for His forgiveness and forgiveness of the person you have harmed but what you did comes back at you with a rush of condemnation like it happened yesterday. Maybe you cheated on your spouse or had an abortion. Maybe you were involved in an incestuous relationship. Maybe you cursed God or cheated a friend. And Satan is faithful to remind you of your sins. Feelings of condemnation and despair wash over you. How could I have done such a thing we ask ourselves? Satan always appeals to our fears. He whispers to our spirits and we are ignorant of his design. Or we fret about the future. “What if this happens,” he tries to communicate to us or “what if that happens,” and we run in circles, imagining the worst. And there's power behind these thoughts and they wreak havoc with our emotions. We try to suppress our bad feelings which leads to depression, so we run to a doctor and get on anti-depressants or turn to drugs and alcohol–anything to numb our mind and quiet our fears. Anything to escape the pain. All joy is sapped from our lives and the abundant life that Jesus promised is only a vague and wishful idea with little or no reality in our lives.
The key to overcoming Satan and his lies and to living free from fear has very little to do with what you do, but, rather,with understanding what has already been done for you. If you think you are going to become perfected in love based on your efforts and what you need to do, you my friend, are in for a world of hurt and disappointment. Getting rid of your fears is about knowing and responding to what has already been done for you.
In the book of Galatians, Paul wrote about the fruits of the Spirit. Paul was writing about the Holy Spirit who indwells those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Now that's a pretty good list if you think about it. It's what we are all looking for. But you and I, in and of ourselves, cannot produce one single fruit of the Spirit. Not one. Try producing joy in your life when you are depressed. Peace when you are full of fear. You can't do it. That's why it's called the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruit of the flesh.
If ever you want to test what kind of spirit is pursuing you, just review this list concerning the fruit of the Spirit. For example, if all of a sudden you remember something in your past you have done and you get hit with a spirit of condemnation and guilt, you can know for certain that this is an evil spirit. And this is true if the spirit comes in the form of a thought or from the lips of another person. Satan often appears as a judgmental and moral angel of light. Paul wrote in the New Testament, “there is no condemnation for those in Christ.” Our righteousness is based on what Jesus has done, not what we have done. Satan wants us to feel bad about ourselves. He wants us to be full of fear and dread. He wants us to have that heaviness of spirit that despairs of life itself. If we are preoccupied with our flesh, there is no room for the Spirit of Christ to flow through us.
Now when I say flesh, I'm not talking about our physical bodies. I am talking about that spirit in each one of us that describes our self-centered and willful desire to be our own god. The flesh is a proud and haughty spirit. In reality the flesh hates the limitations of being human. Our flesh loves controlling others and the world around us for our own agenda. The flesh also loves being a victim and wallowing in self pity. It's preoccupied with self. It wants things my way and is easily upset when things don't go my way. Frank Sinatra sang the song, “My Way.” You know the song, “I did it my way.” I can also remember Sinatra saying of his personal life, “I'm for anything–prayer, booze, anything to get you through the night.”
Several years ago when I was a police officer in Fort Worth, I was called to a hospital where a man had just attempted suicide. He had shot himself in the stomach because his wife had run away with another man. I talked to this man at length and then I gave him the Gospel. The Good News of Jesus Christ. Several moments passed and a sad looked washed over his face. He finally said this to me,”I know what you are saying is true, but I'm not willing to give up my life.” I couldn't believe my ears. Here was a man who had just attempted to kill himself and he wasn't willing to give up his life. Now that I am much older, I have come to realize that this spirit–the flesh–resides in all of us, in dozens of different ways.
The spirit of flesh is preoccupied with self and is void of real love although it may often speak of love. Remember what Satan promised, “You will not die. You will become just like God, knowing good and evil.” Not only have we not become like God, we've become less than human as we fret and worry, scrounging out an existence. Satan controls this world of flesh and he is in charge of this world system that we all live in. Of course, the culmination of this world system will take place after the anti-Christ comes on the scene after deceiving all flesh. And when Jesus returns, He will destroy Satan and the demonic forces with a breath of His mouth. Make no mistake, my friend, this war is already over and won.
When you know who you are in Christ, the devil will have no power over you. As a matter of fact, you will have authority over evil. And the authority you have will be in direct proportion to your capacity to love. But we cannot take Satan on in our flesh, and to do so will mean defeat. What I'm talking about is the New Creation. The Holy Spirit actually resides in us and that is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
Of course, that's the Good News of the Gospel. Now for some news that some of you are not going to like. God allows the process of temptation to take place with us. Even Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested. You and I have to choose. Back in the Garden of Eden when fear did not exist mankind chose death. Now in a state of fear and death we must choose for life. We only get stronger when we are tested. How do we really know that we can stand against evil in our lives until we make a stand. Satan is a bully and a lier. If the Spirit of Christ did not dwell in me, Satan would have destroyed me a long time ago. In Christ you have to stand up to these filthy spirits. The Lord allows this testing to strengthen us and to free us from fear and to give us a capacity for love. He wants you and me to be free from that spirit of death in us. Suffering is involved. Death to our self centered nature is involved. Scott Peck wrote, “All neurosis is the result of an unwillingness to suffer legitimate pain.” And after we suffer a little while, the Lord will restore us. Either we will trust in God, who loves us and raised Jesus from the dead, or we will believe in our fears and the lies of the devil who wants to enslave us and keep us from really living. There is no middle ground for those who truly want to live.
Paradoxically, have you ever noticed how many people in the world–some of them downright evil and I don't use this word lightly–seem to have very little fear in their lives. They just rock along as if all is right with the world. Satan owns many people and the last thing he wants is to unsettle them with fear. These people are totally deceived. Much of the world will submit to the anti-Christ when he comes upon the scene, promising peace and more lies. There are many people who are actually empowered by Satan. These are the people who are puffed up with the illusion of power and filled with the spirit of evil though they may pose as an angel of light. These people are the same ones, who when the Lord returns, will hide in caves and will beg for the rocks to cover them. Those who do not personally know the love of Jesus, will find His return a terrifying event.
Like it or not, we are all involved in a spiritual battle, regardless if we want to be or not. It's like the man before World War II who was a pacifist and wanted to get away from the war and purchased an island in the south Pacific. Later, one of the major battles in the south Pacific was fought on his island. There's no place to run.
Jesus' kingdom is not of this world and that is why Christians look forward to His return. God has prepared a place of incomprehensible beauty for those who know and trust Him. This place lies beyond time and is so beautiful and vast and breath taking that only eternity can contain it. That doesn't mean we can't know the abundant life now, because we can. The kingdom of God is also within us. And God wants us to grow in love. And there is no fear in love.
How does all of this work out in our lives? Simply put, the answer is this: by putting our trust in the God who loves us. This is about a relationship with the living God. The God who has provided our salvation. He who is in us, that is, the Holy Spirit, is greater than he who is in the world. There are hundreds of ways this victory works itself out. Here's an example in my life: After marrying my wife I was a happy man! I like to think of myself as a man's man. I'm not the type of guy who wants to be taken care of by a woman. One morning when I was getting out of bed, I fell to the floor with a dizzy spell. I thought I was having a stroke. Fear absolutely engulfed me and all I could envision was me being an invalid and my wife having to take care of me. I was absolutely paralyzed by fear–nothing could be worse for me and fear ate away at me.
I knew better than to ask God to deliver me from my circumstances because he never answers those prayers for me. So I asked Him to deliver me from my fear and He did! It was a day later before I could see a doctor, but I was completely at peace. In a bubble of grace. I felt no sense of urgency. It turned out to be an inner ear thing and the problem was easily taken care of.
The reason I use this illustration is because often we pray for the wrong things. The Lord seldom, I guess I could say never when it comes to me, delivers us from our circumstances. We constantly pray and look for the wrong things. For years I was looking for financial security. It doesn't exist. And if we think we are financially secure, we're delusional. My brother told me of a man he knows, who lives in California, who is worth billions of dollars. This man became upset when he realized he would die one day and he couldn't take his billions with him. How can we get financially secure when the reality of death faces all of us? There is an insanity to many of the things we want and strive for.
I've had to work through a great deal of fear and pain in my own life, so the last thing I want to do is to sound simplistic. Like a lot of people when I was a child, I didn't get the love I wanted. Like a madman driven by passion, I ran down more dead end roads looking for love than most people can imagine. Love has never come naturally to me and for years my life was plagued with fear.
A couple of years back I was talking to the Lord and said to Him, “Why don't I have all that much to pray about when it comes to other people?” Instantly the Lord answered me, “Because you don't love people.” I thought about that for a moment and I said, “You're right.” Then the Lord said to me, “Do you want to love people?” I remember pausing for just a moment and then I said, “I'll get back to you on that one.” I was weary when it came to people and human relationships and for the most part people had been a disappointment to me.
Well, actually, I never did get back with the Lord, but thank God He got back with me. And I'm really glad He did. Now, every morning I start out by asking the Lord for a capacity to love. Paul wrote in the new testament, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it's not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on it's own way; it's not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” I simply don't have this capacity for love in and of myself. But Jesus does. And I'm learning to really trust Him. I don't pray these things because I'm a good man–because I'm not a good man. I pray these things because I have never experienced so much life in my life. Real life is about a capacity for love and God has given me that which I cannot do for myself. The more I love, the less I fear. And He is perfecting me in love.
There is no simple formula we can follow. Religious activities are meaningless if they are not led by the Spirit of Christ. We live in fearful times and if you have put your trust in the wrong things there's a good chance you're scared and battling fear. Let me encourage you to get to know the God who loves you. Courage is involved. You have to make a choice. The key to overcoming our fears is to intimately know the God who loves us. There are times in the midst of turmoil and conflict when evil is pursuing me that the Holy Spirit brings to mind these words, “Be still and know that I am God.” The God who created heaven and earth and all good things. He is right there and He is in control and turns these evil attacks on us into eternal good. He is the God of resurrection and eternal life. And after my spirit is quieted I am reminded that He does love us and we are never alone. The Lord is a gentle place of shelter for those who trust in Him. And in Him there is no fear. The more I learn to trust Him the more joy and peace I experience. And those fears that have haunted me all of my life are losing their power and fading away.
I find that my spirit is being renewed day by day. Actually I feel like I'm growing younger which is in sharp contrast to the aging of my body. My spirit longs for resurrection and so does my body. And that day is coming. We can rejoice in our sufferings now because the Lord is preparing us for an eternal weight of Glory beyond all comparison. And we were created for Glory. Glory that is only found in the presence of God. And in Him there is no fear.
If you would like to know more about the Lord and how He works in our lives, you can go to my website: TheQuestForGlory.com. I have an 18 minute audio message on the Holy Spirit that you can listen to, and you can also download a free copy of my book, The Quest for Glory. This is a non-profit endeavor for me. If you find any of these messages helpful in your own walk with the Lord, please share the website with a friend. Again, no spaces: TheQuestForGlory.com.
May God bless you with a life full of love and joy, free from fear.