Superman is dead… I don’t know when it occurred, I don’t remember the moment that I realized I was mortal. What I do know is this feeling of Fear lurks around every corner like never before.
Perhaps it began with a serious car accident I experienced in late 2012 – an accident I walked away from uninjured but my beloved Ford truck was declared DOA. Or maybe it was the diagnosis of medical condition that I did not fret, but soon began to hear random stories of people with the same condition dying of cancer at too young of an age. Perhaps it is the uncertain future of my young adult children, or… The list could continue for all us.
However, a new twist to the Fear is my new found ability to expect the worst now in all situations. In my “Superman” days, my positive thinking saw challenges as small obstacles to leap over in a single bound – in my own strength and wisdom, I could handle it all. Yet now, when faced with even the possibility of challenge, the Fear I struggle with clouds my mind with feelings of defeat. The fear of the unknown – whether it is death, finances, or family – has begun to cripple my relationship with God as I pull back for faith-based living that involves embracing the unknown in the hope and power only God can provide.
I am sure I am not the only person, nor the first person, to experience these debilitating feelings of Fear. The first Christians must have struggled with Fear as the apostles often wrote to encourage them to persevere despite hardships and persecutions. To the church in Colossae, Paul gave final greetings from various co-workers. Of these individuals, Paul mentions, “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12).
Recently as I read these words, God’s Spirit spoke a fresh perspective from which I could find victory over the Fear. New strength surged in my spirit; new hope chased away the lurking feelings of doom, and a new focus for challenging times was employed.
This one verse has many implications:
First, the struggle with Fear is a wrestling match that must be done through the power of God. This is a prayer issue. I am not able to rationalize the Fear away, as the Fear often causes me to over-think any challenge. A different approach is needed – surrendering the unknown future of the challenge to God in prayer. Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7). The result of going to God in prayer with the fearful situation is that the power of God guards the very parts of my life that Satan attacks with the fear – my feelings and my thoughts. Through prayer, the power of God steels my mind and my feelings to resist the “doom and gloom” thinking and instead focus on what God is able to do.
This leads us to the second implication from Colossians 4:12, standing firm in all the will of God. The focus is to be on God – not on myself. “The whole will of God” includes the difficult situations that God has allowed in my life to accomplish His Kingdom’s purpose. God’s will implies God’s sovereign power that is never thwarted by human choices and conditions. Even if difficult challenges await me; even if I must enter into the “unknown," I must recognize God is still in control, God does know the result. I can stand firm because I am in the will of God. Hebrews chapter 11 lists numerous heroes of faith, who did not receive what was promised, but lived the will of God in faith, looking forward to that which only God could provide. While these saints experienced challenges, persecution, and death (all fearful situations), they were honored for their faith-based actions because their focus was on God, not the Fear.
The last implication that I recognize from Colossians 4:12 is this is a matter of spiritual maturity. In other words, through daily spiritual practices I will grow in my spiritual maturity, I will find new strength to live by faith and not by fear. The new maturity leads to greater confidence, greater assuredness, and greater hope. These qualities are the result of standing firm in God’s will, despite the fearful feelings. This has a positive cyclical effect in my life. As I stand in God’s will through faith, I experience God’s presence, which leads to greater maturity; resulting in greater assuredness that God is active in my situation. This leads to an inclination to stand firm in God’s will in more challenging situations, which leads to greater experiences with God’s power; resulting in an increasing hope and dispelling the Fear.
Standing firm in all of God’s will despite the Fear is a growing process. Some of us remember the early 1990’s movie, “What about Bob?” starring Bill Murray. “Bob” was a very fearful character, the opposite of Superman. However, through “baby steps” he was able to overcome previously fearful situations as he learned new aspects of himself and life. This is similar to the process of beginning to stand firm in the Fear, as I embrace more of who God is and His will. May you pray for me as I pray for all who read this, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.