Mentioning the word ‘fear’ might have you begin thinking about what you are afraid of. Let’s face it – we all fear something or many things. Fear can be situational, which we try to avoid at all costs; like public speaking or being vulnerable. Fear can be irrational, such as the fear of clowns or of germs. Many fears are historical, meaning, we can trace the specific fear back to a point in our past that can leave us feeling afraid in the present.
What does fear do to us? I began praying, respectively, to what fear does to us as Christ-followers. Shortly afterward, two impressions came to my mind. Each impression dealt with Christ-followers walking towards the destination the Lord has for each person.
The first impression was a man who was on crutches. He knew where he should go (what God is calling him to do and become), but he was delayed in getting to his destination. His intentions were good, but fear had handicapped his walk, thus slowing him down. It will take him longer to get to what God is calling him to because of the fear that had crippled him.
The second impression was a woman who was lying on her side, lifeless. She looked like she was sleeping, eyes closed with no desire to get up. Although the Lord has a destination in mind for her, fear had completely paralyzed her. Negative past experiences, combined with anxious thoughts of ‘what ifs’, made her rationalize away any desire to walk towards what Christ had for her as she, continuously, succumbed to her fears.
An acronym for fear is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. Fear is present because we assume the worst, even though it could be the furthest thing from the truth. Fear masks itself as a reality, but, it is an illusion. We see this in a variety of ways, don’t we?
· You do not start a project, or something new, because you do not want to experience the possibility of loss or defeat. It is the fear of failure.
· You wait until the last minute to commit, even if it’s too late because there might be something more interesting going on… you should be there! It’s the fear of missing out (FOMO).
· You have been hurt before, so you’ve made a decision to not open up. You need to protect yourself. At the same time, there’s a deep longing that no one understands you or can relate to you, and there’s no one around to talk to about it. It’s the fear of vulnerability and a desire to belong.
If fear is all around us, how do we overcome fear?
Jesus gives us the solution in Matthew 14:22-36. Jesus had his disciples go onto a boat while He went alone to pray. During this time, however, the waves swelled and kept the boat at bay because of the intensity of the winds. It was at this time, they saw a figure walking towards them on the water. Imagine how frightening that would be?
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said (Matthew 14:26-20).
I appreciate how Jesus immediately responded to their fear. He didn’t wait but met them exactly where they were. It’s important that we communicate to God that we are fearful so He can comfort us in the midst of our personal storms. We should not take it in and try to deal with it in our own strength. We shouldn’t avoid the fear if God has called us to go through it. Rather, we overcome by reaching out to Christ with what we are afraid of, regardless of how ridiculous it may seem.
Peter seems to be bolder than the rest. It was his own idea to come out onto the water in the first place! What happens next demonstrates the overcoming nature we need to carry with us when it comes to dismantling and taking out fear:
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:29b-33).
Did you see what just happened? As long as Peter was walking towards Jesus, he was able to walk on the water without sinking. Once his eyes left his Lord and Savior, he begins to sink. Once he glanced at the waves, caused by the torrential winds, he succumbed to his fear. Jesus illustrated this point to make it clear to us…
We overcome fear by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
It’s that simple… but is it really? Many times, it takes a great amount of faith to keep our eyes on Jesus and not on our circumstances – those waves – that are ready to knock us down…those very real difficulties life throws at us that makes us wonder if we have what it takes to keep walking towards Christ. Those waves that distract and dissuade us from keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3) seem so real:
· They can be present insecurities that swell up ready to take you out when you know you should take the next step forward. “What will people think of me?” or “I’m not holy/good enough” cause you to drown.
· It can be a lack of stability – emotionally or financially – that tends to cause you to focus on waves. For some, it has kept you stuck in the boat as the other disciples, and the Lord Jesus has been telling you to ‘come’ for some time.
Faith in Christ is what keeps us afloat – even supernaturally! When we are weak, we do not wait until the fear dissipates, we step out in faith through it. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus will help us overcome and do things we normally would not be capable of, just like walking on water was for Peter.
For those that have a fear of failure, there’s comforting news for you – Peter failed. He gave in to the fear and started to sink! Despite this, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him (vs. 30-31). Therefore, there’s no need to fear if we fail because Jesus is with us through it, even if we do! God is not asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us to step out. Or you can look at it this way – who received more of the blessing? Peter who walked on water or the disciples who just sat in the boat? As we get past our own limitations and the fear that so easily immobilizes us, we are encouraged to walk towards Jesus because that demonstrates trust, real faith in that we believe in what He has said and will do.
I pray that this message of overcoming fear has encouraged you in your walk with Christ. There are always reasons to be fearful, but “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV). Therefore, I ask that you step out in what God has been or is calling you to do. If you need help figuring out what that is, use these questions to ask yourself, or others you trust, to get you walking on the water towards Jesus.
· What do you fear and how does it affect the way you live? Does it lead to worry, anger, doubt, or attempts to control others?
· Although Peter initially had fear, he stepped out and looked towards Jesus. The only problem was that he stopped looking at Jesus. The point is clear: look towards Jesus and keep looking to Jesus, especially when the storms of this life are raging against you. What does looking to Jesus look like for you?
· Faith is simply taking the next step towards Christ. Peter took one step to get out of the boat and onto the water. Peter was doing just fine until he lost sight of his next step and focused on the waves. What next step has Jesus asked you to take?
· When Peter had faith, he walked on water. When he had fear, he began to drown. The same is true for you –fear will sink you. Is there any fear that is influencing and controlling your decision-making?
Don’t forget – Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33) and you have overcome, “because greater is He [the Holy Spirit] that is within you than he [Satan] that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Have a blessed week!