Fear has the tendency to dominate: our attention, our minds and our confidence. Especially these days. We face so many situations that invite fear: loss of a job, the sickness of a loved one, natural disasters, neighborhood crime, a dangerous pandemic and more.
Paul Coneff, director of the Straight 2 the Heart discipleship ministry, uses the following three words to explain the roots of our common fears and temptations: protect, provide and prove. Satan often uses these three areas to pull us off track — tempting us to protect, provide for and prove ourselves.
In Matthew 14, we see this play out in the context of a familiar story. Jesus’ 12 disciples had just witnessed the incredible miracle of Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with the meager resources of just five barley loaves and two small fish. Wouldn’t you think that seeing a miracle like that firsthand would strengthen your faith beyond any temptation? What an irrefutable proof of God’s ability and desire to provide for us!
Yet, even in the immediate moments after this experience, Christ’s very disciples weren’t immune to Satan’s attacks. Jesus sent the disciples ahead of Him in the boat so He could have some time alone to pray. Yet, as their boat traveled on the water, a storm developed. Amid the storm, the disciples began to fear. And when Jesus appeared to them, walking on the water, their fear only heightened.
But Peter, an outspoken disciple and devoted follower of Christ, spoke up: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” His boldness and faith are certainly inspiring; in the midst of a dangerous and scary situation, he chose to put his focus on the source of safety and peace. He took a step in faith, and he began walking on the water toward the Savior. And yet, the moment the waves roared up again, those temptations and fears did too: trusting in self versus in Christ.
We can each see ourselves in this situation, in one way or another, but the good news is this: God’s response is already written! Just like He immediately met Peter’s need, He’s given us an answer for the fears we face, too.
The Belief That We Must Protect Ourselves
Whether it’s a physical threat or an emotional wound, we often find ourselves seeking to protect and defend. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we can do for ourselves that we forget the all-powerful God who is on our side. God assures us that we don’t have to worry about protection, whether it’s our hearts or our homes. Certainly, He expects us to take basic precautions, but He doesn’t leave the final word with us. Our lives are ultimately in His hands…and I’m so thankful for that!
“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” –2 Thessalonians 3:3
The Temptation to Try to Provide for Ourselves
This past year has been a trial in faith when it comes to provision. With hoarding of basic necessities and grocery trips becoming less frequent, there were times it was easy to fear and stress over basic provisions. Questions like “Can I provide food for my family?” and “Will we have enough to survive?” came up for the first time for many. Yet, God doesn’t want us to live in fear about providing for ourselves and those in our care. All the resources of the universe are at God’s disposal, and He’s eager to use them in our favor! He doesn’t intend for us to rely only on ourselves.
“Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 281
The Desire to Prove Ourselves
The moment sin entered our world, pain did too. Physical pain, yes, but emotional pain, too. At one time or another, we’ve all experienced heartache or hopelessness. In those moments, it’s all too easy to try and prove that we’re good enough. Satan loves to whisper lies that tell us we aren’t worth it or that God can’t love us. Yet, the Bible assures us of our identity in Christ. We have no need to prove ourselves when we have an Advocate who died in our place and continues to plead our case before the Father in heaven!
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” –1 John 3:1
None of us are immune to fear. But thankfully, we share a God who delights in coming to our aid and standing up for us. No matter what fear plagues you today, God can answer that fear with certainty and assurance. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).