You know the feeling well. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. You get goose bumps on your arms. Your mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. Your palms are as damp as wet sponges. That’s what FEAR does!
You certainly felt it as a child. Fear and childhood go hand-in-hand, especially at night—monsters under the bed, strange noises in creaky houses, branches scraping against window screens. We’ve all been there and remember those feelings. But, as you and I know, fears don’t disappear when we grow older—they just change shapes and names. Adults wrestle with fears like heights, the dentist, and identity theft. Those fears keep adults up at night and even make people ask their doctors for something to “calm their nerves.” Fear is real and powerful.
Here’s what happens in a nanosecond: Our five senses send a message (“Danger!”) to the brain’s thalamus, which sends the message to the amygdala. The amygdala does two things: One, it sends a message to the prefrontal cortex (“Help!”), which initiates the “flight or fight” response. And two, the amygdala sends messages to glands to start releasing chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol (the STRESS hormone). Those chemicals raise our heartbeat and blood pressure so we’re ready for the choice: Flight or fight?
All of that happens in less than a heartbeat. Without thinking, we react. That’s just how powerful fear is. On the one hand, that split-second reaction might save our life when we jump backwards to avoid an oncoming truck. On the other hand, fear might ruin—or greatly diminish—our life when we react negatively or carnally without thinking.
Satan loves to blow up our fears into crisis-sized proportions so we are afraid that not even God is big enough to rescue us. Satan’s goal in spiritual warfare is not to hurt you. His goal is to hurt your perception of God. If Satan can make you afraid that God doesn’t love you . . . that God has forgotten you . . . that God isn’t going to meet your needs . . . that God isn’t going to deliver you . . . that God is toying with you—if Satan can make you afraid of any of those things, then he will have won the battle. He doesn’t have to destroy you; he only has to destroy your biblical understanding of who God is.
What is the opposite of faith? It’s not unbelief. The opposite of faith is fear. If you have faith in God today, and Satan can destroy your faith and replace it with fear tomorrow, he will have won the battle.
Just before Jesus entered the hour of His passion in Jerusalem, Peter declared he would lay down his life for Christ’s sake (John 13:37). Within a matter of hours, Peter was frozen with fear after seeing a band of soldiers and officials arrest Jesus. He was so afraid that he denied even knowing Jesus three different times.
Satan definitely capitalized on Peter’s fears, didn’t he? Peter was transformed from a rough-and-ready Galilean fisherman into a fearful liar. He wasn’t expecting to be asked three times whether he knew Jesus. But in those moments—those nanoseconds in which adrenaline and cortisol were coursing through his veins—he did something he later wept for having done. Such is the power of fear to tie us up in knots. My goal is to stop the blame game when it comes to fear. I want us to stop being tied up in knots by Satan’s fear tactics. I want us to change our “fear knots” into “fear nots!”
Yes, we are to blame for being captured and immobilized by fear. But knowing Satan’s tactics and God’s promises can change all that. We can go from fearing God’s plans to trusting His plans. We can go from relying on our human reason to depending on God’s wisdom to find biblical solutions to life’s challenges. And we can learn to distinguish Satan’s temptations (which never line up with Scripture) from the Holy Spirit’s leading (which is always consistent with Scripture).
Peter yielded to fear but was restored to faith. Satan lost the battle. And he will lose the battle with us if we learn to turn “fear knots” into “fear nots!”
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org