The topic was moving from fear to faith. I naively expected about 20 students, probably all female, would attend. When I found the door of the seminar room, I was sure I read the room number wrong. Dozens of students were crowded around in the hallway and dozens more stuffed wall to wall in the room. Turns out, my expectations were the only thing wrong in that moment.
Nearly 150 students were willing to bravely admit their fear and ask for help to move beyond it to live by faith. Having spent a lot of years sending students as missionaries, I was well aware that fear often keeps students from missions. Fear of leaving family and friends, fear of unknown places, fear of not making money over the summer. I thought our discussion might center on those types of fears.
Wrong again. On that sunny morning on the lawn outside the too small meeting room, I learned that our students deal with far more fear than I ever imagined. And it impacts far more than their decisions about missions. Fears they openly admitted included: fear of being rejected by loved ones, fear of making the wrong decision about the future, fear of letting others down, fear of being “found out”, fear of being alone, fear of succeeding. And they are tired of being controlled by it and looking for help to know how to live by faith instead of fear.
Maybe the things we talked about that day will help you as you walk with your students through their battle with fear.
In my opinion, Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:5-8 can be a very practical guide to learning to live by faith, even in the midst of overwhelming fear.
1) The Lord is near.
Living by faith requires that we recognize—and remind ourselves frequently—that God is near. He is present in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes living by faith is as simple as sitting still & deeply accepting the truth that God is near.
2) Do not be anxious about anything.
Anxiety and fear are like identical twins. Fear doesn’t exist without anxiety. And anxiety always feeds some kind of fear. They go hand in hand and look an awful lot alike. But, just telling ourselves “do not be anxious or afraid” never seems to work. Thankfully, Paul quickly tells us how we can move from anxiety/fear to faith .
3) In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Pray. Fears, needs, questions, wants—present them all to God.
But, don’t miss the ever import additional instruction Paul gives here—with THANKSGIVING. Whatever circumstance, relationship, hurt, rejection, uncertainty—what is there to be thankful for in the midst of it? Write it down and express thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving reminds us of how God has provided in the past and reaffirms our faith in His goodness and love. Perhaps that’s why He so often told the Israelites to do it.
4) And the peace of God which transcends all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
He actually can protect our minds from the lies that lead to anxiety and fear. He is the One who guards our hearts with a peace that cannot be explained. We experience that peace when we learn and dwell on truth.
5) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
This is how we participate in God’s work of guarding our hearts and minds. The effect of fear is different in every person, but it always begins with what we allow our minds to dwell on. Thinking about what we think about can greatly diminish the power of fear of in our lives. Paul lists several things to think about, but focus on that first one. What is true?
We know fear is fueled by LIES. If faith is the opposite of fear, what is the opposite fear? TRUTH.
Here are some helpful steps to take to begin to combat LIES with TRUTH.
- Take some time to identify the LIES that are fueling the fears.
- Ask God to speak specifically to those lies with TRUTH.
- Write down everything He shows you.
- Every time a lie or a fear threatens, combat it by thinking on the TRUTH God has revealed.
- Read scripture. Memorize it. Recite it over & over. Philippians 4:4-8 is a good place to start.
Not allowing our minds to dwell in anxiety or fear is a matter of obedience to God (2 Corinthians 10:5). And the only way to escape the hold fear has on us & move toward faith is to do what it takes to fuel faith—feed our minds with truth.
Ask your students what they fear. Find out how fear propels them to foolish action or paralyzes them from faithful action. Like me, you may be surprised at what you find. I trust Philippians 4:4-8 can be a help to you as you shepherd them toward a life of faith instead of fear.
Guest Blogger–Beverly Skinner (chair of BCNet Leadership Team)