The Spirit of Fear
The spirit of fear can be detrimental to all of us. In today’s study, we take a deep dive into the spirit of fear to see where it comes from, how it can hurt us, and how we can overcome this spirit.
There are many types of spirits that I believe can affect us in either a good or a bad way. I often preach about faith and how we should move to have a spirit of faith in the Lord and in His way. Recently, I preached a sermon on fear that you can read, watch, or listen to this site. Fear, the spirit of fear, is something that becomes very detrimental to us if we allow it to do so. In this bible study, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the spirit of fear and talk about where it comes from, how it becomes detrimental to us, and what we can do to overcome our fears. As always, I will use scripture (sound doctrine) to talk about this subject and help us deal with this matter spiritually.
Let’s take a look at an example of fear, in the bible
For this example, I am going to do a study on the children of Israel from Numbers, the fourth book of the Mosaic law and the fourth book in our protestant bibles. When I think of this book, I often think about the census that’s found in this book (Numbers 1:2). However, there’s some really good stuff that we can find in this book, for example, when Moses struck the rock to quench the thirst of the children of Israel and did not give God the glory (Numbers 20). The Lord rebuked Moses and prohibited him from entering into the Promised Land in this book. I started to teach a lesson on how the Lord rebukes us. Maybe I will get around to doing that at another time.
We, however, are going to take a look at chapters 13 and 14 for our study today. The children of Israel, at the start of Numbers, are in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 1:1). By the time we get to chapter 13, we read that the children of Israel have made it to Kadesh. They have reached a point where the Lord tells Moses to send 12 spies into the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-2). Before we go any further, I want you to see where they are on this journey from Egypt and how close they were to the Promised Land.
As you can see, they have made quite the journey from Egypt, and they are knocking on the doors of entering into the land of Canaan. Remember: they stopped at Mt. Sinai first and from there they traveled north to Kadesh Barnea. Also, the maps, if you have one at the back of your bible, are really good to look at as well!
Let’s remember that the land of Canaan is the land that the Lord promised to Abraham and Abraham’s descendants who are the children of Israel (Genesis 12:1-2, 7). Interesting sidebar: Terah, Abraham’s father, was in the process of moving to Canaan but passed away while he, Abraham, Sarah, and Lot were dwelling in Haraan (Genesis 11:32). I honestly don’t know what was so special about the land of Canaan prior to the Lord promising that land to Abraham. Scripture, so far as I have searched, does not mention the Lord telling Terah to go to Canaan or promising the land to Terah.
With what we know in mind, this land being a promise from the Lord should have been viewed as a blessing to the Israelites especially when you consider they were just in bondage in Egypt. Quick history lesson: Jacob (Israel) left Canaan due to a severe drought and went to Egypt where his son, Joseph, held a very high position and stored up food (Genesis 42-50) – that is how Israel literally ended up in Egypt. What we see in Numbers 13:1-2 is that the Lord is ready to fulfill a promise he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).
However, fear crept in and ruined what would have been the Israelites entering into the Promised Land, and receiving their blessing a whole lot earlier than when they finally entered into the Promised Land. Out of the 12 spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land, only two of the spies (Caleb and Joshua) returned with a good report (Numbers 14:6-7). The other spies, however, brought forth a completely different report that spoke opposite to the good report of Caleb and Joshua.
The 10 others conceded that the land was indeed a land of milk and honey (Numbers 13:27), however, they began to speak with a spirit of fear about the land (Numbers 13:28-29). I tell you, the other spies were so fearful of a land, a blessing, that the Lord had promised to them! They feared because the cities were fortified (Numbers 13:28), because the people of the land were strong (Numbers 13:31), and because certain people in the land were giants (Numbers 13:33). The fear in which they spoke from caused them to deliver a bad report on even the land itself; claiming that the land is a land that “devours” its inhabitants (Numbers 13:32).
I tell you, we ought not ever talk this way about something the Lord has promised to us! Genuine faith, the genuine believer, should never look bad on a promise from the Lord or fear what He has promised. Considering all that the Lord had already done for the people, these men should have been full of faith and trusting in God’s promise in that land! I tell you that the people should have also been full of faith in the promise of that land, but they allowed these men and their fearful report to stoke fears that I believe was already there in the people.
Where does fear come from?
Many people believe that fear and worry are one and the same, but I am not one of those people that like to tie the two together. I believe both fear and worry are two separate beasts. I am no psychologist and I have done no deep study on the matter of the two, but in living life, I find that worry is something that we often do voluntarily. We, I believe, can turn on and off the switch of worrying though many of us struggle with turning off that switch. We worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, and the next month but it is completely possible for us to “control” our worries by shifting our minds away from our worries.
I preached a sermon, not too long ago, where I spoke of how our worries can often drive us to success. You may agree or disagree with me on those thoughts, but this is something I have considered and thought over. I don’t believe that the same holds true when it comes to fear. In fact, I don’t believe fear ever pushes anybody to accomplish any good whatsoever. Fear comes from a place of insecurity in my opinion. As a black man, I can tell you that there are many people who feel insecure around someone who is black and because of those insecurities, people like me, have had to suffer from the fear of others.
Here is the definition of fear, according to dictionary.com: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
We believe that fear is voluntary but I believe fear comes from a place seeded in distrust and so fear is involuntary. Sure, we feel we can choose what to trust but fear often comes from a place of imagination (something not real) and it holds people back from being able to trust. “Imagination” is seemingly the only word I can think to use to describe what I am talking about because fear drives many people to believe or see something that is not real. For whatever reason, they are unable to unsee what is not really there and I believe that reason is due to trust (or the lack thereof).
Fear rings the alarm bells in one’s head and this “idea” that their under threat causes them to act to “protect” or to “secure” themselves. It is incredibly dangerous to be ruled by fear and, again, we see this often play out in our society with the absolute worst results. Fear, I believe, can lead to a place of anger, hate, and suffering; it can lead to wrath (inner turmoil) that eventually boils to the surface and becomes disruptive. Fear is what leads to people calling the police when two men are sitting in a restaurant quietly waiting for a friend. Fear is what leads to people calling the police on two black men peacefully grilling in a park. Fear is what leads to unarmed civilians being shot and murdered by those who are to protect and serve. Fear is what leads to people crying for a wall to “be built” to protect their family which lives hundreds and thousands of miles away.
I believe the Israelites never felt secure in their position, or even in the Lord, after leaving Egypt. I believe, in the back of their minds, they always feared dying in a wilderness because they thought they were “weak”. They, in my opinion, never fully trusted in the Lord, and His protection, which is why they were so filled with fear. One prime example I can think of to illustrate their fear of the Lord being a provider is when the Israelites didn’t trust the Lord would provide them with more food when He first gave them manna from heaven (Exodus 16). I believe the Israelites were genuinely full of fear, and they were struggling to overcome their spirit of fear all because their faith (trust) in the Lord was full (genuine).
The end result of fear
Because of the bad and fearful report, the Israelites stayed up that night arguing and crying about entering into the land of Canaan (Numbers 14:1). They complained about entering into the land and was even wishing that they had never left bondage in Egypt (Numbers 14:2). Their fear led them to wonder why God would bring them out into the wilderness for their wives and their children to become victims (Numbers 14:3). They dressed up their fears with concern for those who they considered weak and unable to protect themselves. I imagine they would have said their concerns for their children and their wives were real, but many people, today, still use women and children to dress up their own fears.
With all of this fear, and all of this complaining, the Lord essentially threw up a stop sign to the people. The Lord barred them from entering into the Promised Land and therefore blocked them from receiving a wonderful and great blessing. I want you to see how the Lord judged on this matter.
Here’s the Lord judgment for the 10 spies whose spirit of fear stoked the others spirit of fear:
22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.
Numbers 14:22-23 NKJV
Notice that the Lord considered that these men were putting Him to the test! After all, these men were talking badly about the Lord’s promise, and they were also not trusting in the Lord’s power. Fear blinded these men’s vision of the Lord and I promise you that fear can do the same to all of us. This could make you wonder, why did the Lord have Moses send the 12 spies into the land in the first place? Was this a test of their faith? I’m curious to see what your answers are so let me know in the comments below.
Let’s look at what the Lord says is in store for the people:
27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
Numbers 14:27-29 NKJV
See that the Lord considered the people to be evil (wicked) because they complained against Him. The people, like the spies, did not trust in the Lord and what He can do. I believe this is one of the biggest problems facing many in our society – they don’t fully trust in the Lord. Like the spies, the Lord prohibits them from entering into the land and says that those 20 and above would die in the wilderness. The people would end up missing out on the Lord’s blessing all because of their fears. As I said before, fear never leads to a good thing; it certainly never leads to a blessing from the Lord.
The people were made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, a year per each day that the 12 spies were in the land of Canaan (Numbers 14:34). The generation of Israelites who I never believed overcame their fears ended up dying in the wilderness. The younger generation, who they thought would become victims, had an example set before them as to what fear does to the relationship between man and God. Fear separates us from the Lord’s blessings.
Do you believe the Lord blesses those who fear the work required in receiving a blessing?
Blessings don’t just fall down into our lap! Work is often required for us to retrieve our blessings, so, therefore, fear and faith does not work hand in hand. Faith requires work and fear, on the other hand, will keep you from doing the work. Fear will hold you back from receiving your blessing – it becomes a detriment.
Unfortunately, many of us miss out on some of our greatest blessings due to our fear. We end up wandering around in our very own wilderness all because of our fear! God could have brought us through so much, and we could be on the border of our blessing, but we never cross the border all because we feared what was on the other side! Understand that God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)!
How do we overcome fear?
As often is the case, when we are talking spiritually, we must let go of our fear and turn it over to the Lord. Some will say, “that is always the answer! There must be something more we can do!” Truthfully, we must learn to trust in the Lord and to trust in Him fully. I want you to see one more thing here in this scripture. Only 2 people from that fearful generation of Israel would end up entering into the Promised Land and seeing the Lord’s promise fulfilled.
Joshua would go on to become the leader of the nation of Israel after Moses’ death. Caleb would also join Joshua in entering the Promised Land. I want you to see what the Lord said of Caleb.
But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
Numbers 14:24 NKJV
The Lord rewards the faithful! There was something different about the spirit in Caleb. What was different was that Caleb was not filled with a spirit of fear. In fact, while those other spies were crying out in fear, Caleb was boldly standing up to them!
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Numbers 13:30 NKJV
Caleb, you see, was full of faith and knew what God could do! When you turn that spirit of fear over to the Lord, you know that you can overcome anything; there is absolutely nothing that can keep you from His blessing! Caleb would have to wait 40 years in the wilderness, but he would receive that blessing.
We who are supposed to be faithful and living peaceably with all people must overcome fear. Why? Because fear can not only become detrimental to us, but fear can also become detrimental to all of those who are around us. I preached a couple of sermons recently on finding peace that I hope many will read one day. I feel that mankind is wandering in a wilderness nowadays when it comes to finding “global peace”. Why? There are too many men who stoke the spirit of fear in others and it prohibits the world from knowing any kind of peace.
Fear is what holds us back. One day we will know peace and that day will be when the Lord comes for us. Fear has held many people back from retrieving their greatest blessings, and fear, in my opinion, has held mankind back from achieving far more greater things. Don’t let fear hold you back from your blessings – trust in God!
I hope you enjoyed today’s Bible Study and will share this study with others! May the Lord continue to keep and to bless all of you.