Faith Over Fear?


I’m not typically one to dismantle popular clichés. That’s not what this is. This is not a polemic to the contemporarily popular rally cry: “Faith Over Fear.” Rather, consider this blog post a biblical qualification of it.

Biblically speaking, faith unqualified cannot be the alternative to fear. In some instances, fear requires faith and faith requires fear. For example, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” (Proverbs 1:7). And consider Jesus’s own instruction that we should not “fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matthew 10:28). There is a kind of fear that is healthy—a gift from God, even—as faith-filled Christians navigate the entanglements of a world that is increasingly out of step with God’s design and God’s desire. Respectful, awe-inspired fear of God leads worshippers into a faith that leans on his goodness and grace. Biblical fear acknowledges God’s right to and capacity for judgement then falls desperately into his loving arms where forgiveness and grace abound.

“Biblical fear acknowledges God’s right to and capacity for judgement then falls desperately into his loving arms where forgiveness and grace abound.”

“Faith,” likewise, should be understood biblically if it is to be applied helpfully. What is the kind of faith that overcomes fear? Especially through a pandemic, shouldn’t we know what overcoming faith looks like if we are to live by it? For some, faith is in “the science.” For others, it is in their ability to sniff out a conspiracy. Still for some, faith is in their ability to claim health and wellness in the power of their own piety.

The faith that overcomes the world is the faith that is immovably settled in the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5). This is the faith that overcomes: the faith that resigns every fear of man to the overarching glory of Christ as God continues to unfold his gospel story in our day. The faith that overcomes fear is one that worships Jesus through the troubles of the present day, not around them. The faith that overcomes fear is concerned not with whether I will contract the virus, but with whether by my contracting or not contracting the virus, God might be glorified, his church edified, and his kingdom multiplied.

“The faith that overcomes fear is one that worships Jesus through the troubles of the present day, not around them. The faith that overcomes fear is concerned not with whether I will contract the virus, but with whether by my contracting or not contracting the virus, God might be glorified, his church edified, and his kingdom multiplied.”

As it turns out, the glory of Christ and the advancement of the Great Commission are the end of both biblical fear and biblical faith.

With this in mind perhaps we can now ask the question: Is faith a biblical alternative to fear?

Maybe. But only when it looks like power, love, and sound judgment.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”

(2 Timothy 1:7)

Faith that overcomes fear is:

1) Faith that demonstrates the Holy Spirit’s power. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power…” The Holy Spirit is the demonstrator and deliverer of the power of God. Those Christians who exercise faith over fear can point to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, guarding their hearts and minds and guiding their decisions and directions. Is the power of the Holy Spirit on display in your life through this pandemic? If so, how? Where?

2) Faith that loves. Faith that does not love is not biblical faith. It has been to our shame that through this pandemic some Christ followers have disrespected, chastised, and degraded other Christ followers. Faith that loves does not cancel people. Faith that loves is redemptive and restorative, full of both grace and truth. Jesus said it is our love for one another that sets us apart as His followers in the world (John 13:35). Not our arguments. Not our alarmism. Not our cancel-culture. Are your words and actions loving? How has the self-sacrificing love of Christ been displayed through you in this season of cultural crisis?

“Faith that loves does not cancel people. Faith that loves is redemptive and restorative, full of both grace and truth. Jesus said it is our love for one another that sets us apart as His followers in the world (John 13:35). Not our arguments. Not our alarmism. Not our cancel-culture.”

3) Faith that is expressed in sound judgment. Christians who are walking in the Spirit and loving like Christ should be the most intelligent, most disciplined, most judicious people in the world. They will pray in faith and act in prudence. Their faith will work itself out in practical wisdom, not keep them from it. They will not compromise biblical conviction but will take precautions based on the wisdom that God’s common grace has afforded mankind. In this pandemic, does your faith keep you from sound judgment or lead you toward it?

Is faith the opposite of fear? Perhaps. But only when that faith is firmly anchored in Christ while is demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit, loving people, and finding expression in sound judgment.

In any case, if faith is to overcome fear it must be more than a clever saying. How is your faith in Christ being displayed through the fear of this pandemic?

Grace and Peace,

Tony

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