By Maria Kneas
(author of How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution)
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
I know something about fighting fear because I’ve had a problem with fear all of my life. My dad was sent home from World War II in a hospital ship after attempting suicide, and my Mom was always afraid he would try it again.
Fear is contagious. Children pick up what their parents are feeling. Every night, I had a nightmare about being chased by something horrible, but I didn’t know what it was.
When I was fifteen years old, Mom told me to let Dad know that dinner was ready. I found him lying in bed, unconscious from an attempt to commit suicide. Mercifully, we discovered him soon enough, and he recovered at the hospital.
I married a strong, healthy young man, and three years into our marriage, he had a massive heart attack. He needed a quadruple bypass but wasn’t strong enough to get the surgery because of the damage done to his heart. After a year of living with painful and debilitating heart problems, he died. During that year, every day when I was at work, I never knew if I would find him dead on the floor when I came home.
There have been other fearful things in my life, including cancer. The point is, even without persecution, we have to deal with fear. Drastic things can happen suddenly, without warning.
I had to overcome some fear in order to write this book, because the people who hate Christianity will not appreciate having this book be published. Some of those people work in our government. According to official government documents, I would be classified as an “extremist” and a “potential terrorist” because I am an evangelical Christian; I take what the Bible says about the end times seriously, and I believe that unborn babies should not be killed.1
The Bible says love is an antidote to fear. Therefore, anything we can do to increase our love for God and for one another will help get rid of fear. The Bible says:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Our natural human love is inadequate. However, we can ask the Lord to give us His love, to enable us to love the way He does. The Bible says He can do that:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5, emphasis added)
God can enable us to do things we would never be able to do in our own strength. We are weak, but He is strong. And He is faithful to help His own. The Bible says:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalm 73:26)
A good antidote to the fear of what men can do to us is the “fear of the Lord.” This involves more than just reverence. It also includes the fear of God’s punishment. If our love isn’t strong enough to enable us to do what is right, then the fear of the Lord can give us the strength to do it.
According to the Bible, the fear of the Lord also gives us wisdom and understanding. It enables us to be rightly related to God.
It’s good when we can do the right thing because we love God. But when we are unable to do that, then we can recognize God’s power and authority, salute Him, and say, “Yes, Sir!”
After my dad became a Christian, he used to talk about the importance of “taking God seriously.” That includes the fear of the Lord. The Bible talks about how important it is:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 33:18)
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. (Psalm 34:7)
There is a song based on that last Scripture about the angel of the Lord protecting those who fear Him. One night I had to walk through a dangerous neighborhood, and I was afraid. As I walked, I quietly sang that song. I started out feeling afraid, but as I kept singing, the fear decreased. And God protected me.
Another antidote to fear is keeping the big picture in mind—eternity. This world is not really our home. We are citizens of the kingdom of God. Our true home is Heaven, and our true king is Almighty God.
The apostle Paul said we are “ambassadors” for Jesus Christ:
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Think about what it means to be an ambassador. You have to leave your native land and live in another country, surrounded by people whose customs and values are different from yours. They may even be cruel and barbaric. (Can you imagine what it would be like to be an ambassador in a place like North Korea or Saudi Arabia?) You are only there temporarily, representing the government of your own country. At some point, your ruler will call you back to your native land.
The book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan describes us as being pilgrims on a journey through this world, on our way to Heaven. An old spiritual hymn has the same theme. Sometimes I sing this song when I read distressing news about what is going on in the world:
POOR WAYFARING STRANGER
I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world of woe
But there’s no trouble, toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go.
It helps to remember that our time here on earth is only temporary and that this world is passing away. Here are two Scripture passages that give us the eternal perspective. I often think about this. The one from the book of Revelation is one of my favorite passages in the Bible:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (Revelation 21:4 5)
Sometimes worship can dispel fear. About twenty years ago, a mammogram showed signs of possible cancer in both of my breasts, and I had to get a biopsy done. I asked my surgeon to use a local anesthesia, because that is less stressful to the body, and he agreed to do so. I wound up with two doctors cutting on me at the same time (one working on each breast). Evidently, they forgot I was awake, because they were talking about seeing things that looked like cancer.
That was a frightening situation. The more they talked, the greater my fear became. Then I remembered a Scripture passage:
I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)
They were playing music in the operating room. I asked them to turn it off, which they did. Then I began to sing a worship song based on Scripture. By the time I finished singing the first line of that song, the fear just drained away.
All during that procedure, I kept on singing. One of the nurses knew the songs, and she sang along with me. I was at peace, focused on God instead of my ailing body. I was thinking about God’s love and faithfulness, instead of worrying about my future. (As a result of that biopsy, I had a double radical mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy. The hardships I went through brought me closer to God. Being faced with your mortality changes your priorities, and it makes you know that you need God.)
No matter what happens to us, God is always worthy of our praise. The Bible says:
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:3)
When we “magnify” the Lord, we don’t make Him bigger. He is already much greater than we can possibly comprehend. What we do is make ourselves more capable of recognizing His greatness. When we do that, God seems larger to us, which makes our problems seem smaller by comparison. Here are some Scriptures that remind us of how great and mighty our God is:
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. (Isaiah 66:1)
I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19:1)
One thing that can cause fear is sins we have not dealt with. That puts a barrier between us and God, which makes it more difficult for us to turn to Him and to trust Him. Therefore, it is good to habitually invite God to search our hearts and show us if there is anything we need to repent of. King David said:
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
America has become a sex-saturated society. As a result, much of our entertainment contains things intended to incite lust. So do many commercials. Jesus warned us:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
Obviously, that principle applies to women as well as to men. Our society takes such things lightly, but God takes them very seriously:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [lustful], Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance [contentions], emulations [jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Obviously, nobody is going to be perfect this side of Heaven. We will keep falling into sin. The point is, when we sin, are we distressed about it? Do we repent? Do we make a serious effort to stop doing it? Do we keep asking God to help us overcome it? Are we doing it more and more, and getting hardened to it? Or are we doing it less and less? What direction are we moving in?
When it comes to repenting for sins, abortion can be a real stumbling block, because the world keeps telling us that what a pregnant woman has inside her is not a baby. The problem is, how can you repent for something you think is not a sin?
This is a strange double standard, because the world will put Americans in jail for destroying an eagle’s egg. They know there is a baby eagle in there. Everybody knows that a pregnant cat has kittens inside her, and a pregnant dog has puppies inside her.
The world tells us that what a pregnant woman has inside her is only a “fetus.” Well, the word “fetus” is just a Latin word that means “child.” Doctors like using Latin terms for things.
There are many photos of babies in the womb who are sucking their thumbs. They are obviously babies and not blobs of tissue. Even sonograms can be clear enough to show that.
The Bible makes it obvious that what a woman carries inside her is a baby. In the Gospel of Luke, we are told that Mary became pregnant supernaturally when the Holy Spirit came upon her. Then she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist.
As soon as Mary walked into the room, carrying her recently conceived baby in her womb, the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb recognized Jesus and leaped for joy. We are also told that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while he was still inside his mother’s womb:
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (Luke 1:41-44, emphasis added)
For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15, emphasis added)
God can call a person to ministry before they are born. We see this with the prophet Jeremiah. God told him:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
If you have had an abortion or have encouraged anybody else to have one, then please repent. God will forgive you. He loves you.
You might find it helpful to read Psalm 51. David wrote it after the prophet Nathan confronted him about committing adultery with Bathsheba and setting up her husband Uriah to be killed, which in essence was murdering him. The Bible says that David had a heart for God, and he repented (1 Kings 11:4). In the Gospels, Jesus is called the “son of David” (Matthew 9:27, 15:22; Mark 10:47-48).
One thing that can cause fear is the fact that occultism is becoming mainstream. Satanists and witches desire to put spells and curses on Christians. In case you think such things are not real, the Bible says they are:
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. (Exodus 7:10-12)
Notice that Aaron did something supernatural in the power of God, and then Pharoah’s sorcerers did the same kind of thing, using “enchantments” (spells). However, Pharoah’s sorcerers were not able to harm Moses or Aaron, because Aaron’s serpent ate (“swallowed”) the serpents of the sorcerers.
The bad news is that occult power is very real. The good news is that God is infinitely greater, and He takes care of His own. He is willing and able to protect us.
When you drive down a country road, you can go off that road on either side and wind up in a ditch. When it comes to the occult, we can fall into two ditches.
One ditch is to deny the existence and power of the devil and his demons. This means denying the Bible, because Jesus is often shown casting out demons. And according to Mark 16:17, Jesus gave those who believe in Him the power to cast out demons. We see a number of examples of this in the Book of Acts.
The other ditch is to “see a demon behind every bush,” as the saying goes. Here’s an example from my life. I’m overweight. One day I was eating a candy bar, and a woman who claimed to have a deliverance ministry tried to cast a “demon of chocolate” out of me. That kind of nonsense gives Christians a bad name.
When God confronts the devil, it is not like a wrestling match. It is more like squashing a bug with your finger, or flicking a fly off your shoulder. Almighty God has absolute power over the devil. God allows him to do some things, but the devil is on a leash, and eventually he will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). Look at what Jesus said:
But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:20, emphasis added)
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19, emphasis added)
We see a physical example of this when the apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake. The natives knew this snake was deadly, and they expected Paul to die, but it didn’t harm him at all:
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6, emphasis added)
What happened to Paul demonstrates God’s protection from deadly physical things. However, the “power of the enemy” means spiritual dangers as well as physical ones. God is able to protect us from curses and spells.
God protects us. However, the Bible also tells us we should protect ourselves by putting on the “armor of God.” We are to be active, not passive:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18, emphasis added)
According to this passage, we are not to be passive. God expects us to love the truth, have faith, get the Word of God in us (develop a working knowledge of the Bible by reading it and studying it), and pray “always.” Obviously, we can’t be on our knees praying all day long, but we can have a spirit of prayer. We can be aware of God, and stay in communication with Him throughout the day.
Before my husband died, we could be in the same room, doing different things, and not talking to one another. However, we felt one another’s presence. We were aware of the other person, even when we were intensely focused on something else. There was an awareness of the one we love, and it was easy to talk from time to time.
We can be the same way with God. We can have times of intense prayer, but we can also talk with Him as we go about our daily routines—when we are cooking, or walking somewhere, or driving, or eating a meal.
God has ways of communicating with us. One of them is bringing Scriptures to mind. Another is nudging us, like a sheep dog nudges the sheep to get them to go where they need to be:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
A good example of God leading us (or nudging us) is the Christian mother whose son is a soldier in Afghanistan. One night she wakes up, feeling an urgent need to pray for her boy, so she prays her heart out for him. Then several weeks later, she gets a letter from her son, saying that his unit was ambushed. Some men were killed, and others were wounded, but he was not harmed. The mother looks at the date when the ambush occurred, and she realizes it happened during the time she was praying for her boy.
For an excellent study of the armor of God, I recommend the website by Berit Kjos, The Shepherd’s Way. Look at the section titled “The Armor of God” (www.shepherd.to).
In addition to this article, under the section titled “Bible Studies” there is a more in-depth study of this called “A Wardrobe from the King.” This is a series of studies (one for each piece of the armor).
The Bible tells us to “cast” our cares (fears, anxieties, worries, and concerns) on God because He cares for us (loves us and takes good care of us). That means giving our cares to God, and leaving them with Him—not taking them back again:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
This is easier said than done. We have to learn how to do it. Like many things in life, it takes practice. We can ask God to enable us to do it, to give us the grace for it, and to help us appropriate and work with the grace He gives us.
This morning, a prayer came to me. I would like to share it with you. The prayer is based on some Scripture passages, so I’ll give them first:
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15, emphasis added)
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13, emphasis added)
O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18, emphasis added)
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14, emphasis added)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, emphasis added)
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15, emphasis added)
Lord, how do I let Your peace rule in my heart? You told me to do it, which means it is possible to do it, and You expect me to do it. However, I have fear and anxiety in my heart, which means that Your peace is not ruling in me. Please forgive me for not doing what You told me to do.
Lord, I don’t know how to do it. Please show me how. Teach me. You are the Creator. I’m just a creature. You are my Father. I’m just a child. You are the potter. I’m just the clay. Please change me. Make me into a person who does it as a way of life.
Lord, please give me the grace to do it. Deal with anything in me that hinders Your peace, that blocks it in any way. Be glorified in my life. Fill me with Your peace and Your love in a way that gives You glory.
You said that perfect love casts out fear. But I have fear in my heart. That means I don’t have enough love for You or for others. My love isn’t good enough. It isn’t strong enough. Please put Your love in my heart. Let Your love be shed abroad in my heart.
You told us to be lights in the darkness. Showing Your peace and Your love in the midst of trials and tribulations is one way of doing that.
I want to bear good fruit for Your Kingdom, and this fear and worry are getting in the way. Please set me free from them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This has been an excerpt from Maria Kneas’ book, How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution.