I have just finished a study examining the need for opposites in our lives. There were one such opposite-paring that particularly stood out to me during my research: that of faith-and-fear. Essentially these two qualities describe how we view the unknown.
Faith is the hope of good things yet unrealized, whereas fear is the dread of bad things yet unrealized. While it might seem inconsequential whether we view the future in positive or negative light, the fact that it is the future means that we can influence and change it by our state-of-mind. Thus the faithful are more likely to bring about the future that they hoped for, and the fearful to bring about the future that they dreaded.
This is already very interesting, but I feel we are still only scratching the surface. For example while there is faith, there is also delusion. While there is fear, there is also preparation. I want to understand better where we draw the line between those. I want to know what the faith-filled life looks like, and how I can tell where I am on the faith-fear spectrum. Let’s dive into scriptural passages on these topics and see what lessons we can glean from them.
2 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Kings 6:15-17
But we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
Behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
Fear may be considered as nothing more than the realization that the world possesses more power than us. And that power, if turned against us, we are powerless to resist. Whatever securities we obtain, we know that they are insufficient if enough opposition comes to bear.
When one does not believe in God or His power then fear is the only natural response. Belief in God and His power is, by definition, faith, and so fear is the result of an absence of faith. Elisha’s servant could not see God’s presence in the world, and so he was left to fear. With his limited perspective that was all he could feel.
Without were fightings, within were fears
I find it very illuminating how this scripture casts violence as the outward manifestation of an inward fear. Those that have acknowledged the awful power of the world often then try to use it to gain power over others. They have felt its ability to bend them, and they know that if they can be made afraid others can as well.
And so after being made afraid we perform all manner of violent behaviors in an attempt to promulgate that same fear into others. A vicious cycle begins, one where we try to shore up against that which we cannot control by domineering over all that we can.
1 Samuel 15:24, Jeremiah 17:5
And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
Because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice
We have noted how fear is used to try and control others. Today we will look at what it is like to be the recipient of fear. In Saul’s case he chose to do something that he felt wrong about, because he feared. Where faith empower us to meaningful action, fear it seems is a principle of inaction.
Consider how the moment of fear is so often often described as being crippling, freezing, or paralyzing. It is a force by which men and the devil seek to prevent the undesired actions of another, or to cause them to perform an action that they feel contrary to. To the person being made afraid, then, their actions are not to achieve some greater good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.
Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord
Pilate feared the people, too, when they called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter feared the people when the identified him as on of the Lord’s followers during his trial. Each of them had their “heart depart from the Lord” because of their trust (or fear) in the power of the people, and did things they felt wrong about.
Many the vice is entered into by the root of fear. We fear what others will think of us, we fear not receiving approval, we fear being left alone. By those fears we willingly do the very things we know we shouldn’t. Not because we think those things are good, but simply to avoid or mitigate pain.
Numbers 14:9, 1 Corinthians 2:5, Psalm 34:4
Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears
Our modern culture often urges us to just let go of all our fears. That, frankly, is far easier said than done. Perhaps the worries that we put on ourselves can be released, all of those little frettings that really don’t matter. But when it comes to external powers threatening our basic needs, fear seems to be baked into our very nature.
We don’t just need a different frame of mind in these situations, we need deliverance! Fear is something that we have to be saved from. Otherwise it will always be a part of our lives.
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God
The Lord is with us: fear them not
And fear will only be let go of when our dependence on the world’s power has been replaced by something else. Our deliverance is in God showing us that His power is sufficient to save, and that His desire is to protect. Suddenly it doesn’t matter so much what the world can do, God can trump it all. God calls us and we are able to rise above that cycle of fear. We are able to trust in something higher.
Psalm 56:4, Matthew 10:28, Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-37
In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul
As we have mentioned, part of replacing fear with faith is acknowledging that God possesses all power, and that He can save us from every threat imaginable…if it is His will. The other element of surrendering our fear, then, is to accept the times when it is not God’s will. We need to believe that even in those moments we are still preserved in what really matters.
Many the faithful disciple has prayed for relief from sickness, oppression, and even death, yet been told “no, this trial is one that you are supposed to pass through.” At first this might sound like being abandoned back to fear, but in reality it is being lifted to greater faith.
For in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full
If our hope is that depending on God will shield us from every pain, then our happiness is still tied to worldly security. We are still living in the “fear of the world.” And even if God did circumvent all worldly pain and give us all worldly pleasure, our joy would still be unfulfilled, because this world simply does not have what it takes to provide completeness. Fulfillment of the flesh is a game you just cannot win.
God wants something better for us. He does not want to merely mask our fears, He wants to help us overcome them. So sometimes He isn’t going to give us worldly comfort and He isn’t going to spare us worldly pain. What He is going to do, though, is help us through worldly pain with spiritual comfort. In this way He is bit-by-bit weaning us from the flesh and supplanting it with the soul. And in the needs of the soul He does provide all and we do find fullness of joy.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Faith and Fear is a dichotomy. It is a choice between which side we put our trust in, the power of the world or the power of God. Whichever side we trust in the power of we also give power over us.
Peter was filled with faith and he walked upon the water. The only reason why he got into any trouble was that he acknowledged the storm. He had been defying the laws of physics, but in that moment he regarded them, feared them, and gave them power. In that moment the storm, not the miracle, defined his reality. And he sank.
And he said, Come.
Jesus knew that Peter could do the miracle. He knew that Peter had the faith, even if only for a moment. Though Peter may have slipped, the Lord did not cease to invite him to keep exercising faith. Though Peter would slip again in the future, still Jesus called on him to lead the others.
“And he said, Come,” is therefore not a one-time invitation. Perhaps we will succumb to fear at times in our own discipleship as well. It is alright, the invitation to rise again remains forever in full force.
Hebrews 11:1, 7; Luke 9:2-3
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, prepared an ark
Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece
What exactly do the works of faith look like? In Noah’s case he was warned that something bad was going to happen and so he prepared. But later Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the essentials of life, and to instead trust that those would be provided for them.
Noah could be considered a fearmonger, or Jesus a flippant idler…if it wasn’t for the fact that they were both right in what they did. In the end the flood did come and the disciples were cared for. God’s ways ebb and flow, and under different contexts an action of faith can take entirely different forms.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
Because in the end faith isn’t just based in the unseen, it is also based on what is true. Sometimes that truth may be that there is danger and you must prepare, other times the truth is that you will be protected and need not fear. Acting in faith is not a rash gamble where you hope God will catch you, nor is it wearing tin hats “just in case” someone is trying to read your mind. It is an informed and conscious decision, an assurance based upon the foresight only God can provide.
James 2:17-18, 22; Ether 12:18
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Faith may require believing in something unseen, but is not meant to remain unseen. We believe in God and that compels us to do something. Then we see the miracle that comes of it. Faith will always push us to action, and in the performance of that action the invisible faith is conjured up into the observable world. Faith without works would mean that the perfection of faith, the manifestation of the miracle, never occurs. Hence why faith without works is dead.
And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith
The existence of God’s miracles in our lives depends on our being willing to exercise faith. To doubt the existence of miracles is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for then faith will not be exercised and no miracle will be seen. By our own choice we either live in a world of faith and miracles, or else in a world of fear and mortal limitations.
Isaiah 41:13 (NIV), Mark 9:23
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
All things are possible to him that believeth
I am the LORD…who takes hold of your right hand…Do not fear; I will help you
We have observed how faith is a principle of action, one where we choose our behavior based on the directions God gives to us. Perhaps the most basic example of this is that He gives us commandments and we follow them with the hope that we will have joy and fulfillment in so doing. That we do, in fact, experience a change of heart is something we cannot explain the method of with any mortal system. It occurs only as a spiritual gift, as a miracle. Perhaps it is a quiet miracle, but that makes it no less wondrous.
In short, it is by faith that we accomplish the things that we cannot accomplish, things that require God’s assistance to even be possible. Actions of faith are never made by us as individuals, they are always a team effort between us and our maker.
I have enjoyed each of the studies that I’ve done for this blog, but frankly this one might have been my favorite. It seemed as if each day was bringing up realizations and questions I had never considered before.
Having completed this study I definitely feel all the more firmly that fear is truly the antithesis of faith. Obviously “doubt” also comes to mind as an opposite to faith, but I feel that fear is the more active principle that serves the same function to exercise evil that faith serves to exercise good. If faith is the currency of God, fear is undoubtedly the currency of Satan.
I particularly enjoyed learning how faith does not represent just any belief or action, but only the ones that are based upon truth and performed in collaboration with God. Having realized that, I now see how much more faith I have left to exercise! I do try to do good things, but usually I’m trying to do them all by myself. That’s putting my trust in my own strength and not in God’s.
I will try to overcome that failing by implementing the lessons we have reviewed this past week. Let’s take a look at what some of the key points were.
Fear is a Tool to Cripple Others
The first step to making any change in our lives is to first realize that there is a problem that needs correcting. Because most of us live in a state of fear by default, it may take some eye-opening to realize what a crippling influence it has been in us.
Fear is a primary instinct used by the body to promote self-preservation. It has a healthy purpose in compelling us away from dangerous situations, and we even speak of the “fear of God” as a positive quality of respect for our Maker.
But to be effective, fear by necessity must be quite powerful. And being so powerful, it becomes an obvious tool for misuse and abuse. Very easily fear can be inappropriately amplified until it defines our entire decision-making process. At that point others can use targeted fears to steer us into actions that we are morally opposed to.
We might experience this abuse of fear from a person that has a position of influence in our lives. Also Satan certainly uses fear when he pressures us to sin. We even put fear on our own selves when we try to force a change of behavior through negative self-talk.
2 Corinthians 7:5- But we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Jeremiah 17:5- And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
Fear Can Be Overcome Only By Deliverance
Freedom from our toxic fears is something we cannot give to ourselves. Seeing that we are mortals, all that we have power to assuage our fears with are mortal things. We therefore try to shore up against our fears by obtaining worldly powers, things like money, beauty, and influence. The problem is that each of these assurances from the world are still inseparably connected with…fear. Each of them is finite, lost in time, or taken by force. In gaining them we fear the inevitable losing of them.
To ever truly be free we need to depend on something that is not based in this corruptible world. We need to depend on a power that mortality can have no influence over. By necessity, then, our deliverance has to come from God.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Psalm 34:4- I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Faith is the Essence that Replaces Our Fear
This dependence on the power of God takes the form of faith. In order to increase our reliance upon our Creator we have to exercise it. He has assured us that it does not burden Him for us to rely on His power, rather it is something that He wants us to do. By exercising our faith and inviting His miracles into our lives our assurance of His reality, His kindness, and His power grows day-by-day.
Not only will our foundation shift from one of fear to faith, but our own identities will reform as well. We will be become better, happier, and more fulfilled individuals while in this life, and fully perfected souls in the next.
Malachi 3:10- Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Psalm 56:4- In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Faith Accomplishes the Impossible
Our faith grows firm as we see God accomplish in us the things that were impossible by any worldly process. The miracle I have personally seen, of which I am the most amazed, is the quiet change of heart within me. I have experienced healing and restoration that I frankly deemed impossible. I deemed it impossible, because then I lived more in the fear of the world, and the world could do nothing for me.
Often an action of faith is one that takes me outside of my comfort zone, that sees me approaching those I would not approach, saying things I would not say, doing things I would not do. Thus I become the person I would not be, the miracle occurs that would not occur, and the world becomes a bit more His.
Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)- For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you
Mark 9:23- Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.