The Power of Fear, Weak Faith, and a Sovereign God

Josh Buice

Fear

Fear is so powerful that it can completely debilitate a person. It operates in the mind and often focuses on real or imaginary threats by exaggerating the possibilities rather than considering a more balanced outcome or positive solution. Fear focuses on the negative rather than the positive and although it functions in the mind, it affects the body as a whole.

My small group is reading through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book titled “Spiritual Depression” and he does a good job of diagnosing the root cause and pointing his readers to a proper solution. At one point, he observes, “That is always the trouble with weak faith, it comes back again to questions which it has already solved and answered. If you have ever believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, you must, in some shape or form, have met with and dealt with the difficulties or you would not have arrived at faith. Well, why go back? It is sheer folly.” 1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).

The Folly of Weak Faith

When the disciples found themselves on the boat in the middle of a severe storm at sea—they were terrified. The waves were coming into the boat and they believed they had reached the end. They literally believed they were about to die. It was at that moment that they did the unthinkable, they woke Jesus who was sleeping and rebuked him for his lack of concern for their welfare. It was at that moment that Jesus responded by saying:

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm (Matt. 8:26).

The folly of weak faith was put on vivid display in the boat that day. What we learn is that even the strongest of Christians can exemplify weak faith at times. Jesus was there in the boat, and the disciples demonstrated that they did not know him as they should. They had spent time with Jesus, heard his preaching, and just prior to this scene—they had watched him heal people with all manner of diseases and cast out demons with a commanding authority. Yet, when they found themselves in the storm at sea they were resolved that they would perish. There was no thought of Jesus intervening and bringing about instant calm.

Consider how many people are gripped by fear. Christians are not immune from the trap of fear. For instance, some people are so afraid of COVID-19 that nearly two years after the disease appeared they have yet to return to church. We must remember that we live in a broken world filled with all sorts of threats, but real threats should not overshadow real responsibilities and spiritual needs. Consider how many people sacrifice their spiritual health in order to preserve their physical health and they substantiate their decision based on fear.

Consider how many people sacrifice their spiritual health in order to preserve their physical health and they substantiate their decision based on fear.

Compare the death rates of COVID-19 to car accidents. According to the 2018 statistics, there were 33,654 motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., causing 36,560 deaths. As of 2019 prior to the COVID-19 season, the leading cause of death in the country was car accidents. No state had any exemptions from this determination. The top 10 states with the most fatal car accidents are: 2Statistics found here [Accessed 1/28/21]: https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/fatal-car-accidents-by-state

  1. Texas (3,305)
  2. California (3,259)
  3. Florida (2,915)
  4. Georgia (1,407)
  5. North Carolina (1,321)
  6. Pennsylvania (1,103)
  7. Ohio (996)
  8. Tennessee (974)
  9. South Carolina (970)
  10. Illinois (948)

Needless to say, as people continue to drive around town to carry out the daily needs of life while staying away from church because of the supposed threat of COVID-19, they are actually subjecting themselves to a very real threat of death by automobile accidents. The folly of a weak faith keeps us from doing what we need to do in order to protect us from being subjected to a perceived threat. While COVID-19 is real, it has likewise been politicized, weaponized, and exaggerated in such a manner that has debilitated some people who find themselves trapped and unable to function properly. This is the power of fear.

The Solution of Fear

According to Hebrews 11:1, we as Christians live by faith and not by sight. That doesn’t mean that you make ignorant decisions or pay no attention to real threats that are out there in this world. In other words, we wear seatbelts because it’s lawful in most states and it’s also a good idea considering the fact that car accidents are a common threat to our health. However, we don’t stay home and refuse to drive because car accidents are possible.

We must come to see that we live in a real world filled with devils and disease—and we will experience real threats to our health as we operate in the public sphere. However, our Lord has promised that he will not leave us nor forsake us.

We must come to see that we live in a real world filled with devils and disease—and we will experience real threats to our health as we operate in the public sphere. However, our Lord has promised that he will not leave us nor forsake us. In fact, we can experience threats at our home as we change lightbulbs on ladders, but we nevertheless weigh the odds and take necessary risks in order to have lights in our home.

The solution to fear is strong faith that refuses to be crippled by fear. In my foreword to Darrell Harrison and Virgil Walker’s new book, “Why Are You Afraid” I write the following:

If the creator of life holds our very next breath, why would we be gripped and controlled by fearful circumstances that are beyond our ability to foresee or manage? Really the question comes down to whether we trust God to manage the affairs of life. The circumstances of life include the laws of nature, depraved human hearts, wicked politicians, small spiders, car accidents, disease, and death. Such circumstances include both large and visible public policies and microscopic airborne illnesses. Is this our Father’s world? Does he rule over all things?

Each morning as we prepare for the day before us, we must keep our focus on the only One who can control all things and preserve us moment by moment. Failure to understand how weak we are and how strong God is will result in crippling fear. Remember the helpful words of the Puritan author John Flavel once said:

Among all the creatures God hath made (devils only excepted) man is the most apt and able to be his own tormentor; and of all the scourges with which he lasheth and afflicteth both his mind and body, none is found so cruel and intolerable as his own fears. 3John Flavel, A Practical Treatise on Fear, in The Whole Works of John Flavel, vol. 3 (London: W. Baynes and Son, 1820), 239.

References

References
1 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).
2 Statistics found here [Accessed 1/28/21]: https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/fatal-car-accidents-by-state
3 John Flavel, A Practical Treatise on Fear, in The Whole Works of John Flavel, vol. 3 (London: W. Baynes and Son, 1820), 239.
Author Fear

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.