There is a growing trend among Americans that I find interesting. According to a recent article more and more of us are paying huge amounts of money to go to Survival School. For $550 experts teach individuals “how to break through zip ties and telephone cords (the most common materials used as binding by kidnappers), smash a car window without making a sound, pick tumbler- and padlocks, puncture the tires of a pursuit vehicle with homemade caltrops, call for help using a ham radio, kill an attack dog—and, of course, how to escape from handcuffs.” And this is no small niche business, one owner of such a school approximated that his annual revenue would top $200,000.
For me, the main question was why? Why are people spending money on something like this? One owner of such a school answered, “I think everyone [who takes the class] wants to feel a little bit more secure. For some people it’s just a hobby, but there are a number of people who look at the world, and say, ‘Things are probably not getting better.’”
As I read those words I was reminded that we truly live in fear. Fear that we will lose our jobs, our homes, our families, our livelihood, and, in some cases, our lives. The reality of such a situation is that this can become such a massive burden on us. When we are spending money, time, and both physical and emotional strength trying to overcome fears of things that, in most cases, will never happen to us, we are unable to enjoy the beauty of the world we are in, the love we experience in relationship to others, and, most importantly, the joy that comes through Jesus Christ.
While lamenting such a state of mind among ourselves and our neighbors will only drive us deeper into despair and fear, realizing that such an outlook is not new is reassuring. The “everything bad that could possibly happen to a person will” mentality is not new; people have been crippled with fear since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Following Cain’s murder of Abel we see such a fear in Cain’s request that God protect him from those who may seek to take his life (Gen. 4:13). God’s response to Cain’s request is where we can find rescue from such fear in life. God promised that he would be protected; that anyone who came against Cain in an attempt to take his life would fall under the righteous judgment of God (Gen. 4:15).
When fear creeps into our lives, the proper response is not tactical escape training or withdrawing from the world; the proper response is to remind ourselves of the God we serve. The psalmist does this time and time again. In Psalm 86, we read the psalmist asking God to step in during his hour of trial. Some trouble is coming against him and fear is his natural response, but we see him do something vastly different. We read in Psalm 86:8-10,
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.
Fear was a real possibility; but the psalmist reminds himself about whom God is. He is unique and superior to all other “gods” (v. 8); He is the ultimate center of all worship and will draw the nations to Himself for His honor and glory (v. 9); and this worship of the nations will happen because He is mighty, the worker of marvelous things and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This may seem odd to us because this is not the practical response to fear we look for from the Bible. We would rather hear, “Everything is going bad? You are afraid? Then withdraw from the fearful things and protect yourself by fleeing the world.” But, how does the psalmist respond? He preaches to his own soul. He reminds himself of the greatness, the power and the majesty of God. This is the only abiding solution to fear because it reminds us who truly is in control. There are none like Him; He is the center of everything and the worker of great and wondrous things. If He is for us, who then can be against us!
What boggles my mind is what the psalmist does next. Rather than asking for physical protection, he asks God to teach him; and this instruction is for a specialized purpose. We read in Psalm 86:11,
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
He asks that God would teach him so that he may be joyfully obedient to God’s standards (“may walk in your truth) and that his heart would be grounded in a fear of God. Why is this so important? This is the place we overcome fear because with a desire to worship God through joyful obedience we keep from allowing the world to overly influence us. It is God we seek to please and God who is the source of our comfort, satisfaction and joy.
But this is also the place we overcome fear because fear of God frees us from fear of men (“unite my heart to fear your name”). As I heard a pastor say once, “The more we fear God the less we tend to fear men.”
Is fear keeping you from living the joyful and satisfied life made possible for you through the work of Jesus? Do you fear men more than God? Jesus came to counteract the works of the enemy who desires only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came to give us life; a life free of fear. It is only through Him that we will find life in all of its fullness.