Time Wasters – Part Seven

Time Wasters – Part Seven

Fear, Part Two

by Leslie Ludy | November 1, 2011

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

– Psalm 34:4

“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

Eric and I have been in full-time ministry for nearly sixteen years. I wish I could say that it has always been triumphant and full of victory. But looking back on our first several years of ministry, I remember walking through a season of extreme stress, confusion, and fear. Our marriage was strong, but it seemed that every other area of our lives was weak. Every time we tried to step out and fulfill the call of God upon our lives, a million roadblocks would stand in our way. Things like financial crisis, relational betrayal and backstabbing, exhaustion, stress, and distressing health problems became the norm. And every time we tried to take a step forward into something God was calling us to, one of us would inevitably be hit with some kind of debilitating sickness.

Though we saw many lives changed through the message we spoke, behind the scenes we sometimes wondered how much longer we could go on. I read that the Proverbs 31 woman “smiled at the days to come,” but after everything we’d been through, I found myself constantly worrying about the days to come. What else was God going to take me through? How much of this did He think I could handle?

I found myself subconsciously pulling away from an intimate relationship with God. For intimacy to flourish, there must be implicit trust. And I found that I no longer really trusted Him with all of my heart. I had always believed Him to be a Father that gave “good and perfect gifts” to His children, but that didn’t really seem true anymore. His Word exhorted me to have faith in His goodness and mercy, but how could I have faith when it seemed He had let me down so many times? How could I trust Him as a loving Father when He’d become a stern, reprimanding authority figure, always sending another miserable trial my way to keep my spirit broken? Scripture beckoned me to “be anxious for nothing.” But could I banish anxiety when I was constantly bracing for the next blow?

I spent several months desperately crying out to God for answers. I knew that fear was building a wall between me and Him, and with all my heart I longed for it to be removed. “Lord,” I prayed, “show me what is standing in the way of my ability to walk in the victory, strength, joy, and peace You intended for my life.”

He answered that cry of my heart – more faithfully and more fully than I ever could have imagined. Gently and lovingly, He opened my eyes to see His face more clearly and understand His nature like never before. And in the process, He armed me with a measure of strength and triumph I never knew He intended me to have.

Today, I truly do have victory over fear. It’s not that fearful thoughts never attempt to knock at the door of my heart, but now I know how to banish them before they have a chance to take root. I’d like to walk you through the journey God took me on to overcome fear. If you are struggling with fear, this is a journey that you can take as well - and on the other side awaits victory and strength, no matter how weak and fearful you may be right now.

How He Delivered Me From Fear

  1. He helped me understand His nature.

“If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me” (Is. 54:15 NASB).

When Eric and I were in the midst of those stressful years, it never occurred to us that some of the trials we were facing might actually be attacks from the enemy. We saw countless promises in the Bible about the bountiful blessings of God, but we assumed that this incredible abundance and supernatural provision should not be expected in every area of life. After all, there were plenty of Scriptures about God disciplining His children and taking them through trials. So, we figured that all of the difficulty, stress, and chaos in our lives were things He was allowing in order to teach us patience and dependence.

But as I prayed about the fierce attacks upon my life, God gently opened my eyes to the fact that the hits were not coming from Him – they were coming from the enemy of my soul. God did not want me to resign myself to accepting these attacks. Rather, He wanted me to call upon His name and allow Him to come to my rescue. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I hadn’t been resisting the enemy’s blows, because I had assumed they were coming from God – or at least being allowed by God for the purpose of discipline. And yet, when I really thought about it, I had to admit that the result in my spiritual life wasn’t the life-giving victory God’s loving discipline brings. Instead, it was the hopeless despair and discouragement that the enemy brings. I had always thought the most God-pleasing thing I could do when bad things happened was to simply accept them and move on. But God was showing me that when the enemy attacked, He didn’t want me to accept it. He wanted me to stand up and fight by the power of His Spirit.

All too often, when the enemy attacks us with darkness and confusion, we assume that our Lord is causing or allowing it. But in reality, we are attributing something to God that is completely contrary to His nature. We have to stop blaming God for the enemy’s devices against us. Yes, God disciplines us and refines us, but not in a harsh, cruel way. God’s ways bring light, not darkness, and life, not death.

To become the valiant women we are called to be, we cannot just roll over and play dead when the enemy attacks us. We must stand firm and resist (in the mighty power of Christ’s name,) not allowing Satan to hinder God’s purposes for our lives. As it says in Ephesians 6:10-11: “...be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Eric and I carefully studied what Scripture said about the difference between God’s nature and Satan’s nature so that we would better understand which trials were coming from the enemy and which were coming from God. As we identified the areas of enemy attack in our lives, we learned how to stand in faithful, wrestling prayer against those things. Becoming spiritually offensive, rather than just spiritually defensive, annihilated fear and gave me confidence I never knew was possible.

  1. He taught me how to take every thought captive.

Note: To explore these truths further, I encourage you to read our book Wrestling Prayer.

“...casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Martin Luther once wrote, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” We may not be able to keep fearful thoughts from entering our minds, but we can keep them from staying in our minds—by kicking them out the moment they arrive! Giving in to those thoughts and allowing them to linger only causes them to take root inside our hearts and begin to control our lives. In order to become spiritually offensive against fear, we must set up a guard station at the entrance of our minds.

In my journey to overcome fear, I learned how to aggressively take authority over every thought entering my mind. At first, it felt tedious and time-consuming, but the more I put this principle into practice, the more it became habitual in my life. Now, it’s something I do without even having to think twice about it.

Often a fearful suggestion will be quite persistent in its attempt to occupy our minds. The moment we kick it out, it will be back at the door of our minds, pounding furiously, demanding that we let it come in and stay awhile. When it comes to that point, it’s time to pull out the really big guns!

BIG GUN #1:

Meditating upon Truth. Lies are destroyed by Truth. When we are tempted to start believing lies about ourselves, others, or our God, it’s time to fill our mind with so much Truth that the lies will have no desire to come in and make themselves at home. In fact, they will be forced to run the other way! To fill our minds with Truth, we must fill our minds with Scripture. At the moment a fearful thought comes, choose to ignore the lie and instead dwell on the words of your King found in the Bible. It is not always practical to pull out a Bible at any time of the day or night; that’s why memorizing Scripture is a wonderful tool for those intense moments of mental temptation.

A great place to start is memorizing some of the Psalms. (Some of my favorites are Psalm 27, 32, 34, and 37.) Whenever you are faced with temptation to fear, those words of Truth can become vital weapons with which we can chase away those thoughts. The more you consistently fill your mind with Truth, the scarcer lies will become.

BIG GUN #2:

Praying offensively. There is nothing Satan hates more than seeing a lost sinner come to know Jesus Christ. When our enemy is attacking us with fear (or anything else), one of the very best ways to hit him where it hurts is to pray specifically that unsaved people in our lives to discover Jesus Christ.

One year before Eric and I were married, he and his sister worked together in a ministry position. Eric and Krissy made a powerful team, and it wasn’t long before Satan began to take notice of the impact their unity was making on the lives of those they worked with. Soon they realized that the temptation to become irritated with each other over small issues was becoming a common occurrence. They recognized it as an attack from the enemy. They decided that whenever they were tempted to give in to frustration with each other, instead of yielding to the irritation, they would pray for the salvation of their neighbor, Charlie. Those unified prayers dissolved the tension between them, and it wasn’t long before the attack on their relationship stopped altogether. They had hit their enemy where it hurts by using prayer as an offensive weapon. By the end of that year, Charlie had discovered Jesus Christ, and Eric and Krissy’s relationship was stronger than ever.

Note: To explore these principles even deeper, I encourage you to listen to Eric’s message Reckoning with Truth.

  1. He taught me how to cast my cares on Him.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and sup- plication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

“...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Instead of assuming that Christ doesn’t desire to answer our prayers when we don’t receive an immediate response, we are to press in with even more persistence, not letting go until our request is granted. Just as Jacob wrestled all night with God, saying, “I will not let You go unless You bless me,” we are to wrestle in prayer until the breaking of day (see Gen. 32:26).

If there is a problem in your life that you are worried about, don’t waste your time fretting over it, analyzing it, or processing it. Take it to God in importunate prayer. Wrestle until the breaking of day.

In my own life, I’ve found that when fearful thoughts come along, the natural temptation is to worry, fret, and think through all the “what if” scenarios that might possibly happen. But God says we are to “take no thought” for our lives and that we are to instead cast our cares at His feet - and leave them there! Whenever I’m tempted to worry about something, God shows me how to immediately bring it to Him instead. And once I’ve cried out to my faithful Father, knowing that He hears me and delights to answer my prayers, all my fears suddenly melt away. I’ve seen His faithfulness time and time again.

E.M. Bounds wrote,

Paul's direction is very specific, “Be careful for nothing.” Be careful for not one thing. Be careful for not anything, for any condition, chance or happening. Be troubled about not anything which creates one disturbing anxiety. Have a mind freed from all anxieties, all cares, all fretting, and all worries. What boundless possibilities there are in prayer to remedy the situation of mind of which Paul is speaking! Prayer over everything can quiet every distraction, hush every anxiety, and lift every care from care-enslaved lives and from care-bewildered hearts. Only prayer in everything can drive dull care away, relieve of unnecessary heart burdens, and save from the besetting sin of worrying over things which we cannot help.

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When we truly know our God and believe Him to be exactly as His Word says He is, we have no reason and no excuse for fear. No matter how far you might feel from victory right now, if you simply come to Him with a yielded heart and ask Him to deliver you from fear, He will be faithful beyond all your could ask or think.*

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