Monday, March 30, 2009

Give No Place to Fear

Do not … give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).
The devil delights in fear and knows how to use it. Take Job, for example. We know that God allowed satan to go after him, but I believe that was because Job himself allowed it. Peter said that satan is like a roaring lion, going to and fro, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). So satan went looking for how he could devour Job. Paul said, “Do not give place to the devil.” He cannot come in on us if we do not give him a place, and if we give him place, he will not pass by an open door but will go right on in. That is why James said, “Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee” (James 4:7). If we resist the devil, he must flee.

So, it was not enough that God allowed satan to pursue Job. He would also have to find Job with his guard down, leaving a place for him to enter in. I think we find that place in Job 3:25, where Job says, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.”

Where did this fear and dread come from? Certainly not from God, for it was not the fear of the Lord, but the fear of circumstances. Job inadvertently opened himself up to the work of the devil by first listening to his whispers, then by meditating on his lies, letting himself be filled with worry and all the things the world fears. Then he probably started speaking out his worries and fears instead of trusting in the goodness of God, which is much greater. Before long, what began as worry turned into great fear and dread; satan soon found that opening and played it for all it was worth.

But what if Job had not been full of fear and dread that these things might happen? What if he had not dwelt on them, letting them become magnified in his heart? The devil would have had no other way to get in, for Job was a righteous and upright man (Job 1:8). But fear left an open door into his life.

The word “fear” has sometimes been defined by the acronym F.E.A.R. — False Evidence Appearing Real. Job worried that these things might one day come upon him. They appeared real to him long before they actually came to pass. Some might say that this was just coincidence, but isn’t it interesting that the very thing Job greatly feared and dreaded was the thing satan actually ended up doing to him?

Now, satan does not usually go for outright terror. That would be too obvious for many Christians and they would not fall for it. But if the devil can’t get terror going, he’ll gladly work on low-level fear, the little worries and anxieties of life. Worry is like a seed, just as faith is like a seed, and when it is planted in the heart, it can spring up quickly into paralyzing fear.

God has not given us the spirit of fear. Neither full-grown fear nor the seedling of worry comes from Him. Rather, God has given us the spirit of power, love and sound mind. This power is actually the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit. This love is the love God has for us, and when we let it fill our hearts, it casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The Greek word for “sound mind” speaks of self-control. It is about the discipline of understanding and living by the truth. That is how we resist the devil and overcome fear: We believe the love God has for us, and the power we have in Him, and we live by it.

The best time to deal with fear is when it first enters in as anxiety. As Barney Fife might say, “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!” Jesus put it this way:
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
The world is anxious, seeking after all these things. But for those who know the Lord Jesus, that problem has already been solved. Our job is to seek the rule and reign and God, and His way of doing things. Everything else will be taken care of. No worry, no fear. Just divine power and love, and a sound mind. For God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Do not give the devil a place in your life by letting worry and fear into your heart. Believe the love God has for you and the divine power at work in you, and be at peace. Seek His kingdom, and whatever is needed will be provided.