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The Crippling Effect of Fear

by Ian Simons
Pixland/Thinkstock
 

When the Israelites left Egypt they left with a high hand (Exodus 14:8). They were rejoicing, but God gave them a warning that they would be pursued by Pharaoh and his army. Somehow this warning did not have much of an impact upon them. They also forgot the promise that went with this warning. As a result they became overanxious and panicked.

Do we ever go to pieces because of panic? God can help us. In fact there is a command in the New Testament to not worry. We find this instruction in Matthew 6:31-34. Let’s concentrate first on verse 34 which says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (New King James Version used throughout in all quotes). Why do we worry about the things that might happen when they might not happen? Do we paint a dark picture or do we believe that God will take care of us? Notice the word “therefore” in verse 34. In the preceding verses, Christ had been speaking of physical needs. The dissertation starts in verse 24 where He speaks of the problem of serving two masters.

In verse 25 we find this same word “therefore”. Jesus is giving us the solution to the problem. Dropping down to verse 32 and verse 33, He summarizes it all by saying that God knows our needs. We should avoid mental conflict, put out doubt and concentrate on what is really important. Another significant point is made in verse 32, where Christ uses the words “your heavenly Father”. Do we sometimes forget, the way the ancient Israelites did, that we have a relationship with our heavenly Father? Many of us have children and we love them, but God loves us more.

To expand on the theme of physical needs, let’s take a look at Psalm 33:17-19. Verses 17 and 18 explain that we should not rely on what is physical, but should rely on God. Verse 19 gets to the real point of it all. In times of famine we cannot eat money. Yet, God can look after us even when there is no food available. Remember Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17: 9-16? Likewise, God can also deliver our “soul” (life essence - compare with Matthew 10:28) from death. This is a reference to the second death, because many of God’s servants have been persecuted and put to death. As a general rule God will protect us from danger, but the absolute promise really refers to the second death. What is more important than this promise?

Let us return to the story of the ancient Israelites. We find the story of their exodus from Egypt (a type of sin) in Exodus chapter 14. In verse 4, God says to Moses, “then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them.” God warned Moses what was going to happen, and presumably Moses told the Israelites. Then God went on to say, “and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army.” Israel forgot the second half of this prediction. When Pharaoh pursued with his army the Israelites panicked. They became paralyzed with fear (Exodus 14:11-12).

Have we ever allowed fear to paralyze us? Extending the analogy, has Pharaoh (Satan) ever pursued us? Certainly he has (1 Peter 5:8). Have we ever panicked when he pursued us? I know I have. But Christ tells us not to worry. God has warned us that we will have trials (pursuit by Satan). However He has also said that He will deliver us (Psalm 34:17-19). He will not permit a trial that is too great for us to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Many years ago I said to my pastor, in referring to a particular trial I was going through at the time, “I can’t take it any more.” He stopped me dead in my tracks. “Yes you can” he said. “You can take a lot more.” Since then I have tried to never again complain about a trial. I was panicking, in a way, and not fixing my eyes on God.

Let us now take a look at the outcome of Israel’s trial. Exodus 14:13 relates the story of Israel’s deliverance. The situation looked impossible, but Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid.” Stop panicking! “Stand still (calm down) and see the salvation of the LORD”. We know the rest of the story and we know about the dramatic rescue of the Israelites.

We know that we are going to have trials. We know that we all will die, but we also know that God can save us from the second death. What else is really more important than that? We know that trials will come, but God will help us through, and provide a way of escape that we may be able to bear it. Don’t let fear interfere with our relationship with God. Our heavenly Father loves us more than we can know and He will not let us down.

Don’t let panic deter us from our goal of the Kingdom of God. One of the lessons of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is that God can save us from sin and help us overcome. With God’s help we can put sin out of our lives, and make it into the Kingdom of God.

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