PURSUING THE ETERNAL WORD
The Bible teaching ministry of John Lifflander

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VANQUISHING THE SPIRIT OF FEAR

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

"For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, And what I dreaded has happened to me." Job 3:25 (NKJV)

Two Descriptions of King Asa

The Bible says that King Asa was a good king. However, the records of his life in 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles appear at first to give two different versions of what he did during his reign.

"Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, 3 for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. 5 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him." 2Chronicles 14:2-5 (NKJV)

Let us note that in verse five we read that he removed the high places. Compare this to verse fourteen in the following Scripture from 1st Kings.

"Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David. 12 And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah. And Asa cut down her obscene image and burned it by the Brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not removed. Nevertheless Asa's heart was loyal to the Lord all his days." 1Kings 15:11-14 (NKJV)

The books of Kings and Chronicles at first appear to simply repeat Jewish history, but many times the books reveal two different perspectives of the same incident. In this case, it appears that we get God’s omniscient view in Kings, and man’s limited view in Chronicles. This speaks to us of how we may outwardly appear one way, but inwardly be another.

Asa appeared to man and perhaps to himself to have brought down the high places. In fact, we read in verse five of Chronicles that, "He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah". This he literally did. Men saw him do it, and if a human historian were relating what happened in Judah at this time, he would have noted these events.

However, in an apparent contradiction in verse fourteen of Kings we read, "But the high places were not removed". Now this statement does not specifically refer to physical idols. However, the verse previous to this one speaks of Asa "cutting down the obscene image of Asherah", so this seems to deepen the contradiction. Nevertheless, there is no contradiction. God’s view of what happened is revealed in verse fourteen, and it relates to spiritual high places. In other words, 2nd Kings gives us the spiritual understanding, whereas 1st Chronicles gives us the worldly, literal understanding. These two accounts of history are not redundant, they are complementary. It is as if we are viewing a building from the front, and then from the inside. We are looking at the same building, but we have more knowledge of the building when inside, than we do from the outside.

In this case, the building is King Asa, and we see what God sees "inside", that is, in his heart. From the account in Kings we understand that Asa appeared to man to have all his trust in God, but God knew that he had a spirit of fear which held a "high place" in his heart. We see then that the only contradiction here is the one that fallen man has – that of double-mindedness. Similarly, as Christians today may be truly serving God, and yet a spirit of fear may cause us internal anxiety. Consequently, even when we have peace, we may be nervous about the future.

A Carnal Response to a Spiritual Blessing

After Asa came to power, Judah was at peace. We read in verse five that, "the kingdom was quiet under him," evidently due to his godliness. No more raids came from Judah’s enemies, nor problems with other countries trying to take it over. Nevertheless, Asa’s response to this wonderful peace was not a faithful one. He began to arm himself and fortify the cities, not realizing that his lack of trouble had not only come from God, God was the only One who could continue to provide it.

"6 And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest. 7 Therefore he said to Judah, "Let us build these cities and make walls around them] and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us, because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side." So they built and prospered. 8 And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor."

"And Asa had an army…" The word for army here in the Hebrew is the word chayil (pronounced khah'-yil) and it means "strength, force, army and wealth." However, the root word for chayil is chiyl, and it means "to be in fear, anguish, to wait anxiously, to be distressed, to be pained." The whole point is that when we allow fear to rule us, we generally go towards a material solution for a spiritual problem. An army of our own making, which we have not gathered under God’s directions, simply betrays our fears and becomes anguish and pain to us in the spiritual realm. This is why the Hebrew word has a deeper meaning which reveals the true fate of those who use only worldly means to allay their fears.

Asa did not have a large army before God gave him peace. But now that he has peace he has decided he must maintain it through a material source. There is a curious contradiction here in that he gives God all the glory, and is definitely a strong man of God, and yet after God rewards him with peace, he is still dreading that he will lose it. In the opening Scripture we read how Job also dreaded losing what God had provided for Him. He even made sacrifices for his children, because he was afraid they might have sinned and would bear a penalty. However, basic spiritual understanding tells us that a sacrifice for someone who does not understand it or want to repent will reap no benefit for him. Jesus died on the cross, but sinners who do not avail themselves of His cleansing Blood, do not share in salvation.

There is Always a Bigger Army

Interestingly, after Asa builds his fortresses and amasses his huge army of five hundred and eighty thousand men, a bigger army begins to attack. Can we not see a pattern in this? Asa, trusting in the natural world for protection, immediately gets a lesson that there is not an army big enough to protect him if he continues in this realm. And nothing has changed. For the Christian today we can be certain that whatever blessing God gives us, if we seek to sustain it by worldly methods which are not ordained by God, we will fail. Let us read what Asa now faces:

"9 Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah."

Asa has five hundred and eighty thousand soldiers, and coming towards him are one million soldiers and three hundred chariots. Can we even imagine how big this army must have been? Not only was the opposing army almost double the size of Asa’s, they also had chariots. What an incredible response to Asa’s carnality. Asa was beginning to trust in the wrong source, but by God’s mercy, he is thrown back upon the supernatural power of God for protection.

"11 And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, ‘Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!’12 So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled."

In the first Scriptures quoted, we saw that Job, great man of God that he was, feared he would lose the blessing God had given him. Likewise, King Asa, enjoying the peace God had given his country, feared that he would lose it. What about us? Is there fear that some blessing that we now enjoy will be taken away? Will we attempt to secure a blessing from God by natural means? Will such an attempt work, or will the fear that it engenders hurt us rather than help us, for when the Savior walked the earth He said:

"…According to your faith let it be to you." Matthew 9:29 (NKJV)

So much unscriptural faith teaching has been falsely gleaned from this passage that its meaning has been brought down to a tawdry, materialistic level. But what it means to us is that we must believe God’s spiritual promises to us, when he says:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:35 (NKJV)

What a fascinating Scripture! In the same expression of the love Christ has for us, we read of being killed all day long for Him. Does this make any sense at all? Yes, for it refers to the fact that God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure (1st Corinthians 10:13).

How Do We Vanquish Fear?

Years ago my daughter was suffering from fears of being sick. Anytime she heard of, or saw a sick person, she became afraid that she would get the same illness. I began earnestly praying for her not to be afraid. In prayer I asked God to take away her frightening thoughts. But soon it became apparent that this was not the solution. Rather, the remedy could only come from her confronting these thoughts.

We sat down together, and I told her that the next time she had a thought regarding illness, I wanted her to fully imagine getting sick, suffering and dying. She was rather shocked at what I said. I could tell these were not the comforting words she was waiting to hear. Nevertheless, I continued to explain to her that fear was becoming a high place in her life. And the only way to dethrone the threatening thoughts was to imagine them coming to fruition. Her attitude had to become the same as Esther’s, who when confronted with possible death, finally said, "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16). That way, Satan could no longer use them against her.

Not Just For Little Girls

Whatever it may be that would plague us mentally, let us allow that scenario to be fully played out in our minds. And then we can say, "So what?" Nothing can be "held over our heads" if we have already dealt with it. What is our greatest fear? Being embarrassed in some manner? Losing our sight? Losing all our possessions? Losing our jobs? Being imprisoned for our faith? Whatever it may be, God will get us through it. We must make our peace with it, now. If we do not, and it continues to be an idol in our hearts, God must, in His mercy, tear it from us.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." 1John 4:18 (NKJV)

How does love cast out fear? If we love God, we know He will provide for us, whatever the situation. Corrie Ten Boom thought she might go to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in World War 2, and she did not know how she could deal with it. However, she remembered the wisdom her father had imparted to her when he told her as a child, "You get your ticket before you get on the train."

Yes, we get our ticket, or our ability to deal with the circumstances we may find ourselves in, as we begin to live in them. Today, it might be hard to imagine getting through some difficult trial. Nevertheless, should the time come, He will give us what we need. If God does not change the circumstances, he will change us in the circumstances. Asa temporarily forgot, but let us remember:

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God." Psalms 20:7 (NKJV)

"So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. 3 "And he shall say to them, `Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; 4 `for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.'" Deuteronomy 20:2 (NKJV)

Do we believe that God will fight for us in our difficulties, and finally deliver us from them? Or are we inclined to seek the world for help? We may wonder why it was a sin for David to count the people (actually his soldiers) when we read the 24th chapter of 2nd Samuel. The answer is that this checking of resources was tantamount to a lack of faith, which revealed that he was beginning to trust in the world and not in God. David was sinking into the mindset that Isaiah refers to in the following Scripture:

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord!" Isaiah 31:1 (NKJV)

Egypt speaks to us of the world. If our help comes from non-believing psychiatrists and psychologists, or popular self-help gurus, we are "going down to Egypt." In fact, there are only two sources from which our help can come from: the spiritual wellspring of all life, Jesus Christ, the Living Word, or the wisdom of the world, characterized by Egypt. And, if Egypt is our choice, we will never vanquish fear, because only God has the power to deliver us from it.

When trouble comes, instead of crumpling, let us rise up in praise to God, and declare:

"The Lord is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1 (NKJV)

"I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress;

My God, in Him I will trust.’" Psalm 91:2 (NKJV)

God is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear,

Even though the earth be removed,

And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,

Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls--

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17 (NKJV)


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