the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Haven't I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).
A few weeks ago I wrote an article for this page focused on Paul's words to Timothy about "fear." Paul said to reject fear in favor of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). The article went on to discuss the proper Christian walk in response to the COVID-19 hysteria.
Yet, how is it that fear undermines our Christian walk? To begin with, it's a sign we don't truly, deeply believe God is sovereign. That alone will derail our walk with the Lord; it strikes at the foundation of our relationship with God in Christ. If he's not in control of all things, he's really not in control of anything. This article won't go into detail on this subject, but please understand; if any one thing is outside God's control, there is nothing to keep that one thing from influencing another and so on - resulting in cascading failure. It is an inevitable scenario - unless God is omnipotent. Thus, either God is sovereign or he is not. The Bible unequivocally tells us Yahweh is the sovereign ruler of everything.
It's also interesting to note fear actually short-circuits our efforts to embrace Holy Spirit provided power, love and a sound mind. As you recall, power - in Paul's original context - referenced Timothy's authority as a minister. Fear diminishes physical and mental health, diminishing your ability to "take charge" in a circumstance where "power" is required. Fear also impacts your ability to express Christ-like love. Remember, love, as defined by the Bible, is active, not merely emotive. While love in action remains possible for someone with diminished physical and mental function, it will be just that - diminished.
Perhaps most important is the impact of fear on your sound mind:
Fear can impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
[Also] fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately. (Sue Towey, ed., "Impact of Fear and Anxiety," Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing (University Of Minnesota), accessed May 16, 2020, https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety, brackets added)
Thus, when you take your eyes of the Lord Jesus and give in to fear, you are in danger of taking the edge off your sound mind. At that point you are in danger of thinking and acting irrationally - or not really thinking or acting at all. In other words, when you give in to fear you may be prone to errors in thought and deed or immobilized, unable to bring your life and sphere of influence under the lordship of Jesus in a way appropriate to the situation.
We may wish for a spiritual "silver bullet" to slay the monster of fear but the Bible's prescription is actually given in the form of commands. This means it is our responsibility to overcome the debilitating effects of fear. Certainly we do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, but, just as Joshua received a command to be strong and courageous, we too are commanded, Be courageous! I have conquered the world. (John 16:33).
Next week, “The Color Of Courage.”