What do you fear most in life? I imagine that many of your greatest fears involve something being taken away from you—a person, a position, or a possession. Maybe you are afraid that you will lose a loved one through death or desertion. Perhaps you are worried about losing your job and, as a result, your prestige and financial stability. Or maybe you are fearful about losing your health or physical well-being.
Parents fear their children will become enslaved to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Young adults fear they will not be able to find well-paying jobs that allow them to live independently from their parents (some parents share that same fear!). Middle-aged men and women, who have more years behind them than ahead, fear their lives won’t count for much. Senior citizens are afraid of being lonely. And Christians of all ages look at current events and worry that our culture is unraveling. You could add your own personal and particular fears to that list.
The truth is, there are seemingly endless situations that tempt us to fear in this life. Whether it is the corroding effects of our culture or the issues that confront our hearts and homes, this world can be a frightening and dangerous place. However, if you and I are to survive when faced with overwhelming fears or difficult situations, the number-one rule to follow is this: Don’t panic.
Face Your Fears with Faith
The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were enduring hardship and fear because they dared to live faithfully for Christ in a pagan society. In the first century, many people indulged in “sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3), and they ridiculed followers of Jesus who didn’t participate in their immorality. Not much has changed in 2,000 years, has it? Peter encouraged these first-century believers to remember that while the world is hostile to Christians, God’s grace is sufficient to deal with these hostilities. When Peter wrote to these early believers, he gave two commands that are just as relevant to us today.
First, we need to be disciplined in our thinking. Peter instructed, “Prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13). The mind functions as command central for the body. That’s why the Bible stresses the importance of right thinking. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And Philippians 4:8 admonishes us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).
A church member told me that he used to watch cable news every night before he went to bed. He said it made him so anxious and depressed that he decided to stop watching the news before he went to sleep. He now listens to sermons before he goes to bed. He said, “Pastor, it’s the most amazing thing. I drift off to sleep listening to those messages, and then I sleep well all night.” (He’s not the only one who has fallen asleep listening to my messages!) Seriously, though, this person has learned one practical benefit of filling our minds with the Word of God.
If we are going to “prepare [our] minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13), then we must refuse to fill our thoughts with things that tempt us to fear. What sights, sounds, and experiences are you storing in your mind? The things you allow in your mind will affect your actions, so make every effort to keep your mind free from things that could cause you to compromise your commitment to Christ.
Second, we need to be disciplined in our conduct. Peter wrote, “Keep sober in spirit” (1 Peter 1:13). In other words, we are to be calm, steady, and controlled—not giving in to our “former lusts” (v. 14). Instead, we are to pursue a life that pleases God. Peter said, “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (v. 15). Your choices may be different than those of your friends, coworkers, or neighbors—but if you are committed to living a life that pleases God, you will honor Him in your words and actions.
How can we live holy lives in the midst of today’s secular world? It’s a matter of perspective. Are you primarily concerned with the things of earth, or are you keeping your focus on Jesus Christ? In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter encouraged believers to “fix [our] hope completely on the grace to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our anticipation of Christ’s return strengthens our faith and gives us hope during difficult days.
Stand Firm in God’s Grace
Peter concluded, “This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (1 Peter 5:12). The grace of God stiffens our spiritual spines with courage. This is the same message you and I need to hear today: God’s grace is more than enough to help us rise above the fears that grip our hearts.
Whenever you are tempted to become anxious about the turbulence in our culture or in your own life, you can take courage in Jesus’ unchanging promise: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).