Today’s Reading: 1 John 4
For many years when researchers asked Americans about their top fears, here is how Americans responded:
Their number 1 fear: public speaking.
Their number 2: death.
Think of it. People would rather die than speak in front of people. That’s especially an issue for Christians because Christianity is very vocal: vocal in praise, vocal in witnessing, vocal in preaching. It’s tough to be a silent Christian.
Fortunately, 1 John 4 provides an antidote, a simple prescription, to fighting fear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (verse 18).
Perfect love casts out fear.
I don’t cast out fear “in the name of Jesus.” I don’t bind it. Fear is removed by displacement. Love removes fear. Love casts it out, not me.
Fear is actually a love problem.
Two explorers were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Keep calm,” the first explorer whispered. “Remember what we read in that book on wild animals? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, he will turn and run.”
“Sure,” replied his companion. “You’ve read the book, and I’ve read the book. But has the lion read the book?”
Reading books and going to counseling does not seem to deal with fear when the lion is looking you right in the eye. But John says love fixes fear.
When I am afraid to speak to someone about Jesus, the truth is, I don’t love them. In fact, I love me and my security and what that person thinks about me more than I love that person and their future and eternity! What an indictment.
The same is true when we have to correct someone. Think of it from a parent standpoint. If I refuse to correct my son or daughter, knowing their attitude or behavior is destructive, I am saying my refusal is because of fear, which is a love issue. I love being their friend more than their parent. I love keeping calm in my house. I love my peace and quiet, so I say nothing.
How about worship? When the Bible instructs me to lift holy hands, and I just can’t do it because I am self-conscious, isn’t that fear? Fear of what others think of me? And fear is a love problem. I don’t want to appear like a fanatic in front of people.
So how do we face fear?
I want you to think of a conversation that Jesus had with a very fearful man after His resurrection. Fear made him deny Jesus three times. His name was Peter, and the conversation was fixing fear with love. The apostle John captured the conversation in John 21:15-17:
“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
The man that Jesus was going to use to preach the first message of the church in Acts 2 was Peter. The man who couldn’t even speak to a little girl without denying Jesus was now going to have to testify of Jesus in the same place he buckled in fear. What is revelatory about Jesus fighting Peter’s fear is that Jesus never asked Peter, “Do you love sheep?” Jesus said, “Do you love me? Because if you love Me, then you will do the right thing for them.”
So the first thing we have to do to deal with fear is to ask God to help us love Him, and loving others is a byproduct of that perfect love.
If you hear something often enough, you start to believe it’s true. I heard this a lot growing up in the church: The words “fear not” appear 365 times in the Bible . . . one time for every day of the year. God put it in the Bible that many times so each day we face fear, we take one of the 365 for that day. A cool thought. So I decided to follow through and see if it was true.
Well, here’s the real story: it’s not there 365 times! Not even close. Depending on the translation you are reading, it’s there about 100 to 150 times.
Is it a letdown? Does it matter?
Here’s the fact: if it was there once, that’s all we need to see it in order not to fear again. Because with God, once is enough! If God, who cannot lie, said it once, that’s enough! If God tells me not to fear in just one verse, I can believe it. I don’t need it 364 other times.
Saying “fear not” 365 times a year does not release me from fear, but perfect love does because love casts out fear.
So how can I love Jesus to fight fear? Today, I don’t say to myself “fear not” to fight fear, but I pray this, “Jesus, help me to know how much You really love me. Because when I know how much You love me, I respond back in love. Perfect love is knowing You love me, and I in turn love You.”
That’s the following verse: “We love, because He first loved us” (verse 19). Love responds. His love for us makes us respond with love back to Him. There is something really perfect about that.