When I Am Afraid
Paul L. Garlington
It is time for me to broach the subject you have always wanted me to address but were afraid to ask, namely, fear. It is critical, at this juncture, to deal with this issue for there are far too many people who still believe that the only thing holding them in limitation, restriction, frustration and futility is lack of funds, education, vital contacts, breeding, etc. From my knowledge of the truth and more than a half century of personal experience, I can say to you, without fear of contradiction, that the only thing that is holding any of us back is fear. We capitulate to fear more than anything else. This painful situation is then further complicated by the fact that all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, deal with fear in one universal way: DENIAL. Underneath all of our anger, concerns, anxiety and frustration is fear (Don’t forget, the acronym for fear is--False Evidence Appearing Real). It is time to face our fear about confronting our fear.

“Be gracious, O God, for man has trampled upon me, fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me. WHEN I AM AFRAID, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Ps 56:1-4) When we think of the man who is the cause of the psalmist’s fears, what immediately comes to mind is the much quoted line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never tastes of death but once.” Isn’t it true that before we have even met this dreaded man who now looms larger than life, we have already died, “Many times,” from the fear of this man? Man here symbolizes the manifestation of a problem, some “evidence” of not good you believe to be present. Every fearful person suffers from knowing something God doesn’t know. They trust the testimony of their senses and not their heart. Therefore, they are utterly convinced that they see, looming on the horizon, a real presence that has power to hurt them. Moreover, they are stubbornly, yea even pridefully, committed to this problem they think they see. Hence, they will, paradoxically, fight for the right to believe that this phantasm that has them immobilized in fear and torment is really there. While this is an insane position, it is, nevertheless, held to with the tenacity of a pit bull. No wonder Paul says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (i.e., internal belief systems that form the bases of the illusions we now fear) and every high thing (i.e., arrogant thought, information God is not privy to) that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” (2 Cor 10:4)

Is God the only power? Is there any other creator? Then, pray tell, how can anything that even implies a presence, power and intelligence that is not good be true? What is your answer to this question? Shouldn’t it be, “No, a thousand times no!”? Can’t you see that the belief that the thing you fear has any substance in reality is an arrogant insinuation that God is not what God claims to be? This is what the psalmist means when he says, “They fight proudly against me.” But here is the bottom line: “When (not if, but every time) I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee (the One God, besides whom, there is none other).” Settle it, there is no man, woman, boy or girl anywhere that does not have to confront fear. Do I have to deal with fear? You better believe it! Sometimes, everyday. On occasion, many times during the same day. Now and then, I may enjoy a whole week without having to deal with fear. But, fear not, sooner or later, fear will raise its ugly head somewhere else again. IT IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF FEAR THAT KEEPS ME GOING. It is my commitment to truth that demands that I face the fear and press ahead in spite of it that keeps me keeping on. If you have a commitment to continue your celebration of reality, being yet more vile in spite of the presence of the feelings of fear, you’ll also observe that you have never felt more vibrant and alive. Moreover, you will discover that fear is in fact your servant, faithfully, relentlessly, calling your attention to areas of your life where you are still holding on to beliefs that contradict the truth that God is. Hence, if we do not fight and resist fear, it will become our servant in facilitating our return to our rest.

The people who have their act together are not people devoid of fear. Au contraire! They have it together precisely because of the fact that they are totally honest about their fear and like Jeshoshaphat, they receive it as a challenge to reaffirm their commitment to the truth that glorifies God. These are they who are most emphatic that returning to the former lifestyle is not an option for them. Being mindful of another country, they are committed to keep on moving. Remember the story I told you about the people who were on a journey to meet the king and they hear the roar of lions on their path? As they press on, the lions’ roar became louder and louder until it seemed like the very earth itself was trembling. Their knees were knocking and they had to contend with flop sweat. It wasn’t the absence of fear that kept them going. It was their 100% commitment to reach the king despite their fear that held them to the path. Imagine how their hearts soared when their perseverance, even while feeling fear, was rewarded by the revelation of the fact that the lions, yes the very ones who caused them to quake in fear, had been chained all the time and unable to reach them. Do you see it? The danger never existed! In the light of the revelation of truth, the lie is exposed and we then know there was really nothing to fear at all. How many of you have been waiting to get rid of fear before you decide to launch out into the deep? It will never happen! You have to launch out into the deep first, purely on the basis of the truth that has been spoken to your heart. Then you will prove experientially that there was really nothing to fear.

The thing that Jesus had to say to His disciples probably more than anything else the whole time He was with them was, “FEAR NOT!” Although the disciples were with Jesus and witnessed His awesome signs and wonders, yet they were still not immune to fear. If they, in the presence of Jesus, had to own their fear, why do you think you will escape it? Face it and settle it once and for all, everybody in Heartsight has to deal with fear, beginning especially with me. However, the very notion of coming to the end of my sojourn in this dimension having to say, “If only I had not capitulated to fear, I would have followed my heart,” was totally unacceptable to me. It is for this reason that I absolutely refuse to hunker down, hidden away somewhere in a cave, for fear of what will become of me. I have 100% intent to go for it. While, I appreciate the recent convention held in our city for would-be entrepreneurs, I insist that the greatest hindrance to the development of entrepreneurs is not lack of inspiration or know-how. It is pure, unadulterated fear. There are many people with exciting, creative, innovative ideas who find themselves hamstrung because they can’t get beyond the specter of fear. If you would be a successful entrepreneur, you have no choice but to take the position, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Now most people are deathly afraid of placing themselves in such a situation. I am not going to blow smoke at you. If you intend to be true to yourself, if you are committed to “go for it,” to march to the beat of a different drummer, you will have to listen to your own inner voice and move out based on what you are hearing in spite of fear. If your plan is to sit and meditate until you have no fear, you are in for a long siege. Trust me. It just doesn’t work that way. The only way to get rid of fear is to face it. Do the thing you fear; confront it even while your knees are knocking and your heart and pulse are racing. Otherwise, get ready for a life filled with regret.

So here again, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.” This is a decision. Not, “When I am scared spitless, desperately seeking God for a word, and if and when it comes, I will put my trust in him. And, moreover, if it doesn’t come then it’s every man for himself because obviously God is nowhere to be found.” No! You decide to put your trust in the eternal, unchangeable truth that God is while you are still in the throes of fear. You must always remember that no matter how afraid you are, you are still in the driver’s seat. Stop waiting for fear to disappear before you decide to act. It will never happen. As the Fram Filter commercial says, “It’s either pay me now or pay me later.” If you wait until later, you will discover inaction intensifies fear. But the people who do make decisions in the presence of fear that glorifies God even while they are feeling fear, and then act on those decisions not waiting for the fear to subside, they discover that the fear immediately begins to evaporate. But you must act!

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Do you get it? He is making a decision. Aren’t you sick and tired of being immobilized by fear? Haven’t we all seen people who know what to do, but they won’t do it because they are afraid? Inaction because of fear of making a mistake is far worse than any mistake you could possibly make. Why? Because you can always correct a mistake, you can’t correct a zero. If you take responsibility for your choices and learn from them, every mistake is redeemable.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Ps 27:1) Perhaps your immediate response to this inspired statement to truth is, “How come I don’t feel this?” Because you have to act as though it is so, giving all glory to God, before the fear starts to subside. You have to act as though you are not afraid. Being born and raised in the project ghettos of Buffalo, New York, I learned very quickly that, “trash talking”, was another way of acting as though you can handle anything put on your plate. Every day, in some form or another, you were forced to make a decision to either go into hiding, cut and run, or face the situation as if you can handle anything. Generally speaking, those who survived, never backed down. They moved ahead, talking trash to the point that their would-be foe was convinced it would not be a good idea to tangle with them. Life in the ghetto kept you at choice for you were constantly, in one way or another, being called for the question. Hence, its analogy to the jungle. In like manner, you will have to act decisively and your first action in the presence of fear is always the decision to trust God. The next is the decision to keep on moving. So when the children of Israel came to the Red Sea, what does God say? “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” And only when they began to go forward did they discover that God’s provision was to part the Red Sea, leading them through the dreaded waters on dry ground. While the crossing of the Jordan River was different, it simply proves that God has infinite variety for He never does it the same way twice. No wonder we call this journey THE ADVENTURE OF ADVERSITY. In other words, it ain’t nothin’ but a fun trip cause the fear was all based upon a lie. But I can certainly guarantee you this: He will deliver all those who put their trust in Him. He always has a way. Don’t bother to compare how God worked it out for this one or that one. Just be encouraged by the fact that, “He always comes through. He’s faithful and true.” “God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.” (Job 37:5)

“Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call...” The day you call is not when you are hunkered down in a cave crying out to God, like one who has already conceded to defeat, while at the same time, at the mouth of your cave, your enemies are talking trash to you. Nor is it the day, while still hiding in your cave, you’re sending out the bats under the cover of darkness of night to bring you some sign, apparently by sonar, that it’s all good. The day you call is the day you glorify God like David did and go against the giant giving honor to God, saying, “Whoa ugly! You come to me with sword and spear despite your great big size. I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45) All trash talkers know how to rap. All rappers can hear the rhythm and feel the beat. David is glorifying God; David is confronting his enemies. God can’t let him down. “...For those who honor Me, I will honor.” (1 Sam 2:30) When you do nothing about your fear, you are saying the thing you fear has power. When you go out against the thing you fear, in spite of your fear, you are saying, “God has all power. To others, I may appear like the biggest idiot in the world. But it’s now or never.” You must decide and act.

What did David say? “THIS I KNOW, THAT GOD IS FOR ME.” You know it too, but you are afraid to own the truth you know. But even when you are acting like you don’t know this, God is still for you. Why? Because, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim 2:13) We cannot have any life apart from God’s life. “I am the vine; ye are the branches.” So God’s life is your life. And God cannot deny Himself. The wholeness, completeness, perfection that is Infinite Being must be eternally maintained because God cannot deny Himself. Why is all fear based on a lie? Because since God’s life is the life I am, and God cannot deny Himself, how can I be abandoned without God ceasing to exist? Isn’t God the eternal ONE who changes not? Do you get it? Settle it! Go ahead, get out of your boat (security), try to walk the water. Whoever drowned in the infinite ocean of divine goodness? You simply cannot, hence, will not be abandoned.

This fear of getting out of the boat is the fear we have of doing new things, launching out into the deep in areas we have never been before. We fear that we are going to be abandoned. BUT THIS I KNOW, GOD IS FOR ME. Why? Again, God cannot (not will not) deny Himself. Furthermore, if God cannot deny Himself, obviously human performance is not a contingency. We are talking here about divine inability to act inconsistently with what God is. God has absolute confidence in Himself AS us. Face your Red Sea, face your giants, and experience what it means to be more than a conqueror because God cannot deny Himself. So in spite of the fact that Abraham, having already claimed the One God as his only God, knuckled under to fear and lied to Abimelech about Sarah, “...God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, ‘Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.’ Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, wilt Thou slay a nation, even though blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’?...In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.’ Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know...Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet...” (Gen 20:3-6) Can you see it? Once you’re committed to the truth that God is the very life, self, mind that I Am, none of our so-called human failures can cause us to be abandoned because God cannot deny Himself.

In the light of this truth, can you now understand the true meaning of the cross? When Jesus commits His spirit to God, He goes into the grave saying, “God will not leave My soul in hell, neither will You suffer Your holy one to see corruption.” Why? How can Jesus take that conviction into the grave? Because God cannot deny Himself. We live and move and have our being in God, and God cannot let Himself down. In spite of your fear, in the presence of your fear, even though your voice may be quaking in fear, you have got to make the bold confession, “THIS I KNOW, THAT GOD IS FOR ME.” God is not for us because we as humans are good, or we think we are better than somebody else. God is for us because God must be eternally true to all that God is. This is true even when I don’t believe it! This is true even when I am overcome with fear! This is true because it is the truth that stands alone! We don’t have to believe it, we just have to act like it is so. We don’t have to believe two plus two is four, we just have to act as if it is so to get the right answer. The reality of the situation is that truth does not require a believer to be what it is.

“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.” What then is the secret of not being afraid? Put your trust in God. “What can man do to me? Thy vows are binding upon me, O God (and our only vow is to love the One God with all of heart, soul, mind and strength); I will render thank offerings to Thee.” Isn’t it obvious here that the only reason you are immobilized by fear is that you have broken your vow to love the One God? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 Jn 4:18) Clearly, it is loving exclusively this One God, besides whom there is none else, that is the perfect love that literally decimates fear. If you doubt me, I challenge you to concede all glory to God who is without challenger or rival, acting on the truth that stands alone, and see if your fear will not immediately begin to diminish.

Now that you know what to do about your fear, begin to confront it immediately. Take a sheet of paper and write these words, “If I had absolutely no fear, I would...(fill in the blank).” Observe how everything begins to come together mentally as soon as you put pen to paper. Yes, even this seemingly insignificant act is the beginning of your taking the bull by the horns. If you will persist, you will suddenly observe the truth that positive action in the face of fear is the death knell to all fear. You have already begun to take back your power. Stop waiting for that mystical moment when all fear will subside to be replaced with boldness and confidence. Why? Because that day is not coming. It will never come! But here is the good news. Get up and move in spite of your fear, and regardless of what you encounter along the path, you will hear the divine voice echo within you, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is 41:10) “...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God...” (Is 43:1b,3a) “So that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)



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