Faith Over Fear

0102. Faith Over Fear

In our previous article, we defined God as being love. However, we are only halfway done in understanding our relationship with God. The next task is to define ourselves, which we will tackle in this article.

Defining Ourselves

Much like our dilemma on where to start defining God, we face a similar task in trying to define ourselves. Where do we even begin? We are both intelligent and emotional beings. However, that covers too broad a spectrum. We can discuss what current culture values, which is achievement. Whether it is power, wealth, fame, or influence, we always seem to be measuring ourselves against both our contemporaries, as well as those who came before us. However, what drives us to achieve such results?

In our very first thought of the week, we talked about having a purpose in our lives. If we really don’t have purpose, then life can become quite meaningless. But even more fundamental than that, if each one of us has a purpose, what is the reason behind that purpose? In other words, what motivates and inspires us to have purpose in our lives? It is here that we will focus our discussion around two variables: faith and fear.

Defining Faith

So what exactly is faith? There are two facets to faith. The definition of faith is the belief in someone or something, typically without evidence or proof. There are lots of things you can have faith in. You can have faith in your family or your co-workers. You might have a favorite sports team or charity. You can even have faith in systems, such as the stock market and (gasp!) government. However, faith is most commonly associated with religious beliefs, most of it centered around our faith in God.

The other aspect of faith is how it manifests itself in our lives. We normally display our faith as a sense of trust or confidence. We will talk about our favorite team with other friends. We will chat about how much confidence we have in an investment we have made. When it comes to God, faith will manifest itself as either worship or obedience.

It is important to note that everyone has faith. We are beings genetically programmed to worship. Whether that worship is directed towards God, other things, or even ourselves, all of us desire to trust at least one person or thing in our lives. However, faith will be as different for each person as our fingerprints and genetic code. This is because factors such as culture, upbringing, and personal experiences all play a role in shaping an individual’s faith.

Defining Fear

Fear is a normal, emotional response to a perceived threat or danger. It is a survival-based emotion that can be triggered by a wide range of stimuli, such as physical danger, social situations, or even thoughts or memories. When a person experiences fear, the body’s “fight or flight” response is activated, releasing hormones, such as adrenaline, which prepares the body to take action to protect itself. Fear can also manifest itself with physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and shaking.

Fear can be both beneficial and detrimental to an individual. On one hand, it can help to protect an individual by alerting them to potential dangers, and helping them to take appropriate action to avoid harm, such as touching a hot stove. On the other hand, fear can also be debilitating, and can interfere with an individual’s ability to function in their daily life. Fear can cause anxiety and stress, leading to physical and mental health issues.

It is important to note that fear can be either rational or irrational. Rational fear is a response to a real and present danger, while irrational fear is a response to a perceived danger that is unlikely to happen. Similar to faith, culture, upbringing, and personal experiences all play a role in shaping an individual’s fear response to the stimuli that triggers it.

Defining Our Equation

Now that we have defined both faith and fear, how can we use those definitions to help define ourselves as human beings?

Based on its definition, faith serves mostly as a positive effect on our lives. First, faith can be a source of strength and resilience during difficult times. It can provide a sense of comfort and hope, even in the face of adversity. This can be a powerful tool for coping with loss, illness, or other challenges.

Faith can manifest itself as a source of inspiration and motivation, and can foster a sense of community and belonging. This can include acts of charity, volunteering, or other acts of service, where individuals feel that they are part of something greater than themselves.

Finally, faith can serve as a source of personal growth and self-improvement. Many people find that their faith provides them with guidance and wisdom that helps them to understand themselves, and the culture around them better. It can also be a source of personal transformation as people learn to let go of negative emotions, and to cultivate virtues such as compassion, humility, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Fear, on the other hand, plays a mostly negative part in our personal lives.  Yes, we have noted previously that fear sometimes can have a beneficial aspect by alerting us to harm from real dangers. However, the anxiety and stress that fear produces in our bodies tend to do us more harm than good.

In Dr. David Jeremiah’s book What Are You Afraid Of?, he describes nine common fears that Americans experience today in every day life. They are:

  • The fear of natural disaster
  • The fear of illness
  • The fear of going broke
  • The fear of failure
  • The fear of being alone
  • The fear of rejection
  • The fear of danger
  • The fear of depression
  • The fear of death

If you had to choose your worst fear on this list, what would you be most fearful of? Perhaps your deepest fear is not even listed. The fear of intimidation, being canceled, and betrayal are themes in our current culture. What is the depth of that fear?  Does it terrify you, or keep you up at night? Do you feel that fear right now, as if it is sitting right next to you? We do not mean to frighten you, we just wanted to demonstrate how small fear can make us feel right now just talking about it, let alone dealing with it.

So if faith is a positive attribute, and fear is a negative attribute, then how can we combine them to represent ourselves? In our previous article, we defined God is love and put it into an equation. Let us do the same for ourselves with the following equation:

Faith Over Fear Equation

If we were to convert this equation into ordinary English, we would say you are a product of faith over fear. The first thing we notice is that our equation is a fraction. In mathematics, a fraction has a numerator, which is the top half, and a denominator, which is the bottom half. Some of the most common fractions are 1/2, 1/4, and 3/4.

If we just isolate the numerator, we notice that when the numerator is larger, the fraction is also larger. For example, 3/4 is larger than 1/4, because the numerator is 3, which is larger than 1. Knowing this, if we were to have a large amount of faith, would we feel bigger or smaller? That’s correct, we would feel bigger. Let’s say your team finished first in the league, and is heading into the playoffs as the favorite to win the championship. You would be feeling quite confident and pleased, as your faith in the team’s ability to win is quite strong. However, what if your team barely made it into the playoffs? Sure, you might be happy, but you might also be worried as you have less faith in your team, as it is the weakest among the contenders. Therefore, it makes sense that faith should be in the numerator. The stronger your faith in something, the stronger you feel.

Now let’s take a look at the denominator, where we have put fear. We notice that when the denominator is larger, the fraction is smaller. For example, 1/4 is smaller than 1/2, because the denominator is 4, which is larger than 2. Knowing this, if we were to have a large amount of fear, would we feel bigger or smaller? That’s correct, we would feel smaller. Let’s say the season is now over, and your favorite player on the team is set to become a free agent. You fear that the player will leave the team for a larger paycheck another team is offering. Or perhaps you fear the team will trade the player for draft picks so they can rebuild the team with younger players. And every time you think about it, you don’t feel good about your team. Now, would it be different if your team always spends the most money in the league, and could afford to pay the player their demands? Of course, your fear would diminish knowing that it is likely the player will re-sign with the team. So you don’t feel so fearful, and confidence is restored. Therefore, it also makes sense that fear should be in the denominator. The stronger you fear something, the weaker you feel.

Now that we have established the variables correctly, we will need to find support and justification for this equation, much like our previous article. So let’s take a closer look at the influence modern culture has had on our faith and fear.

Cultural Influence

From our discussion above, we know that faith has a positive effect in our lives, and fear tends to have a negative effect. Given this, we would surmise that a society with well-adjusted citizens would have affirmations of faith, and rejection of fear.  Unfortunately, this is not the case at all in our culture. The most obvious type of faith, that of the religious kind, is being actively suppressed.  It started with the removal of prayer in schools, then the removal of the Ten Commandments from courts. Nativity scenes in public squares are now a rarity, and illegal in many states. Basically, our culture has limited religious faith to the confines of our dwellings or houses of worship. If you dare to go beyond these boundaries, be prepared to encounter resistance. And this point was driven home during the pandemic. The time to use our faith to be strong and courageous against a faceless enemy could not have been any more opportune. However, what happened? The government and courts shut down all churches and other places of worship, and denied us our faith. Instead, they touted the faith of science. And that seems to be the playbook to replace religious faith. Culture will tell us there are other types of faith just as good. Wealth and material possessions are good substitutes for faith. The advancement of science now debunks religion. And you can achieve anything you want if you have access to the right technology. So go ahead and put your faith in it.

However, there is a problem with these substitutes. One of the negative consequences of faith will occur if the thing you put your faith in fails. Your favorite team changes ownership, and they decide to dismantle the team to rebuild and save money. For all the advancements of science, we still do not have cures for many diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and HIV. Material wealth can be destroyed in a natural disaster. Power and influence can be stripped with one scandal. And all the data and wealth you have stored in technology can be used against you by bad actors. Just ask those who have had their identity stolen by hackers. How many of us have put our faith in something, only to have it ultimately crushed? When something you put your faith in crumbles before your very eyes, it can be more devastating than having no faith at all. Yet our culture encourages us to put our faith in these things without regard to consequences of failure.

As disturbing as how culture deals with faith, it might be even more unnerving to learn how it deals with fear. In today’s world, fear is a weapon that is not just utilized, it is cultivated. Want good ratings? Just keep airing bad things that people fear yet cannot turn their eyes away from. Want to win an election? Just make the voters fearful of the other candidate. Want to advance your cause? Just spread fearful consequences if no action is taken, even if there is little rationale for it. Want to increase your sales? Use the fear of limited supply to motivate people to buy. Just look at the amount of toilet paper sold at the beginning of the pandemic. How many times do we hear the sales pitch: “Buy now, because prices will never be that low again!” Finally, do you want to increase your viewership and subscribers? Then just create a state of being left out. They have even branded a term for it: FOMO, or the fear of missing out. So what type of impact will fear have on us, when we are constantly bombarded with messages of fear across all cultural spectrums? As we have stated earlier, fear is an emotional response. Therefore, it is not unexpected that we will be emotionally exhausted, and unable to combat the debilitating effects of fear.

In looking at our culture more closely, we find that it promotes a spirit of fear on a broad scale, and either suppresses faith or promotes faith in things that can fail. Given what we know about the equation we have developed, what conclusions might we be able to make about the well-being of the citizens in our society? There is more division, more violence, and more dissatisfaction. When polls are taken, we see all-time lows in trustworthiness in our political and corporate leaders. For the last decade or so, whenever a poll is taken about whether the country is headed in the right direction, the answer has been a resounding no, regardless of which political party is in power. And despite all the advancements in technology that make our lives easier and more convenient, we are suffering from more physical and mental health issues than ever before. Therefore, unfortunately, it appears that culture has proven the validity of our equation.

Activating Our Faith Over Fear

So now that we know what effects a God-omitted culture can have on our well-being, how can we use that knowledge to our advantage? Believe it or not, the answer lies within the equation we have developed: You are a product of faith over fear. Therefore, if we want to feel better and stronger about ourselves, we need to increase our faith and reduce our fear. While the answer is simple, achieving this desired goal is most definitely not, especially in light of the cultural norms we just explored.

First we need to discuss what to put our faith in. As previously discussed, putting our faith in things that fail is not a long-term solution. That being said, is there anybody or anything that hasn’t failed? If there is not, then our natural instinct to have faith is doomed from the start. Fortunately, there is one entity who has never failed, and that is God. If we read scripture, we will find stories littered throughout the Bible of how God has come through for humankind again and again. Sometimes for individuals, such as Abraham and David, and sometimes for his chosen people of Israel. In Ezekiel 37:1-3 (CSB), Ezekiel is given a prophecy: “The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I replied, ‘Lord God, only you know.'” After Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire, Jews were scattered across the world and the land was desolate for nearly two thousand years. However, in 1948, when Israel defied the odds, and became a nation once again, God fulfilled the prophecy and demonstrated that he always upholds his word. Sure, we can argue about the timing of these events, but the fact is that God has never failed, and there has never been a biblical prophecy that has been proven false.

In Mark 11:22-24 (CSB): “Jesus replied to them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, everything you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.'” If we put our faith in God, then we will level up in ways we would never imagine. Now, before we start using God as a wishing well, it should be noted similar to the Ezekiel prophecy, God measures time differently than we do. So while we would love instant gratification like everything else we are used to in this world, God will work according to his schedule, and not ours. This in itself is a test of faith, for we need to show patience, and believe that God will eventually fulfill our needs.

One of the interesting things about increasing our faith in God is that the second part of our equation, reducing our fears, is a natural by-product. If we show faith by giving our fears to God, then we will feel the heavy burden from this culture’s fearmongers lifted. Isaiah 41:10 (CSB) tells us: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am the Lord your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” Psalm 34:4 (CSB) tells us: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears.” In the New Testament, love is introduced as a powerful weapon to combat our fears. 2 Timothy 1:7 (CSB) tells us: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” And 1 John 4:18 (CSB) tells us: “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.” There are plenty of more bible verses, as a quick search will demonstrate, but the message is clear: do not fear, for God is on our side. He always has been, and all we need to do is to show a little faith.

You hear it all the time: we are all just trying to better ourselves throughout our lives. However, if we want to be serious about bettering ourselves, then we need to trust God, and choose faith over fear. Only then will we find the strength in the Holy Spirit that resides within us, to deal with the storms that come our way. Always remember, you are a product of faith over fear.

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