Tuesday, June 17, 2014

fear has to do with punishment

I'm afraid I'm speaking from a powerful, supernatural experience when I say fear is like a plague. I learned it spreads easily if it's not "taken captive."  And I don't think I'm the only one. Hmmm. Maybe I am. 

Fear wants to embed itself in our minds. Each of our fears begin with a subtle, negative thought: "You're not going to succeed. You're not good enough. You're stupid. He/She doesn't even like you. You'll never amount to anything. You're sick. He's sick. They're sick. They are lying to you. Stop trying, it's hopeless. Everyone hates you. Get that new car so you can finally measure up to their standards. You can't learn anything new. You'll never overcome that addiction. You'll never get married. You'll never get a job. You're a loser. Don't even try, just give up now.  If you just tell a little white lie you can get ahead. Go ahead, everybody's doing it! You're going to have to get plastic surgery for you to have any value. You are still a bad girl. You are always going to be a bad son. God can't forgive you for those sins!  If people knew the real you they wouldn't like you!" And so on.

Even as Christians, we can begin to live fearfully and withdraw. Isolate ourselves.  Afraid of condemnation. Ashamed of our guilty past. Yep. It is possible for two main reasons: 1 - We have an evil enemy who lies to us; and 2- We still have so much more to learn from our Father in heaven.  If we're teachable -- if we humble ourselves and seek God, our Master Teacher -- then we can be on the road to recovery.

For starters, fear does not come from God. So if we are captivated by fear, we are obeying a voice other that God's. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" ( 2 Timothy 1:7).

If left untreated these negative thoughts -- literal lies from the enemy of our souls -- work their way into our hearts and become strongholds. And fear does not come knocking, no, it slithers in through our unbelief and seeks to root itself in our minds and hearts. It begets little seeds called anxiety, stress, unbelief,and pride. Remember, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy" but Jesus came to earth to give His children "abundant life!" (John 10:10).

It's up to us if we are going to push back the darkness with the light of God's word or stay isolated. Will we put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and fight back with truth? 
Or will we become consumed with fear as our little world grows smaller as we give up things we used to enjoy?
Isolation caused by fear is not God's way.

At this point isolating ourselves is probably the worst thing we could do. We make the decision we are going to control our lives and circumstances so we won't get hurt, so no one can touch us. H-U-G-E mistake. Yikes. We're already believing lies at this point and they are driving us away from God and His truth. Troubled people who isolate themselves go deeper into darkness.

We fight back with the light of God's word: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

When the Holy Spirit tells our hearts that we have a problem we should run to God and seek the truth about our situation. Ask Him,  "God, what is the truth about my situation? What is the root of this issue I'm having?"

Anytime I ask God for relief from a personal struggle, I have to ask that question, "Lord, what is the root of this recurring problem I'm having? I'm so tired of being enveloped in fear."   My inner joy was being choked to death. The enemy was wearing me down over a long period of time.

I look back now and I realized I was hearing from Him in whispers all the time. I kept hearing these kind of verses in my head during my fearful thoughts: ""Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? " (Mark 4:40), and "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matthew 8:26). This is so cool, God was setting me up to deliver me from this stronghold. He is so amazing. And I'd respond, "Lord, I don't know why I'm afraid so often! I know and love you, I know your word...what is going on with me?" That's when I prayerfully hoisted my white flag of surrender. He brought me to a very familiar verse: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). Ouch. I had to ask Him to rescue me and He lovingly answered my prayer and told me the truth.

Here it is: For years I have struggled with thinking I'm going to be "punished" throughout my life by God for my sins...past and present. I was foolishly believing the only reason bad things would happen to me was because I'm a "bad girl" and He was ready to punish me for bad choices. In my wrong thinking I left out the truth that God's Son Jesus Christ took my punishment on the cross so I could be free from that!  I'm forgiven! I'm free! Fears are gone! Sad isn't it? But God has sustained me and blessed me abundantly in spite of this junk. Awesome, isn't He?

And another thing, I don't recall anyone putting a post-it label on me growing up that said, "bad girl" either. More lies. More darkness exposed. 

It's become striking to me just how strong a stronghold is. Here's what I mean -- I memorized the following verse long before He freed me from my personal torment of punishment. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When He opened my eyes to this truth I began to dig for more nuggets and found them: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2).

One more verse has kept me going, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater that the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Now I can clearly see why God says, fear has to do with punishment. He also awakened me to the fact of another powerful truth...our fears distract us and hinder joyful service to Jesus Christ and others!

We are the Body of Christ. Be glorified, Jesus!