“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (martyred missionary Jim Elliot).
“But after death — which is the cause of the Soul’s departure from Self, that is, of its losing every Self-appropriation whatever; for we never know how strongly we cling to objects until they are taken away, and he who thinks that he is attached to nothing, is frequently grandly mistaken, being bound to a thousand things, unknown to himself” (Madame Jean Guyon).
As I sat meditating on the Lord recently and rolling over my own fear concerning my financial situation, the Holy Spirit said, “The fear of losing is people’s greatest fear.”
Personally, I had never thought of the deepest fear as that of losing. However, as I began to ruminate over this, I realized what God was saying. Before I begin, let’s review a little about fear through the pages of Scripture.
“Do not fear,” or its equivalent, appears 365 times in the Bible. That’s one warning for every day of the year! Think God is serious about this?
After sinning in the garden, Adam and Eve experienced the first negative human emotion: fear.
Adam: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
This is called the Shame-Fear-Control stronghold. Shame: “I was naked.” Fear: “I was afraid.” Control: “I hid myself.”
This is daily repeated by us humans. We have inherent shame—it sticks to us like Velcro (unless we kill our consciences), we are afraid (“I may be exposed for who I am really am”) and we “hide” (wrap ourselves in a pretense of always in control, super cool, “the man,” “the woman who has it altogether – looks, brains, sexual appeal, etc.) to ensure we can’t be real about who we are. This is a sad commentary on humanness. Most of this is a sham, and it leaks out eventually when we see headlines that the latest “sexist man alive” or “most desired woman on the planet” loses their cool and does something totally insane.
Fear has a number of “supporters.” Worry, unbelief, need to control, anxiety, isolation, apathy and alcohol and other drugs. According to the American Heritage Dictionary fear is: “An emotion of alarm and agitation caused by the expectation or realization of danger; Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.” Fear can also have a positive side by causing us to avoid danger, such as that written by King Solomon.
“The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge… (Prov. 1:7).” The medical and psychological definitions are as follows. “Fright, dread. Primitively, the emotional reaction to an environmental threat; it now also, presents itself frequently as an indicator of inner problems. …. (Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary). Panic is: “A sudden overpowering terror, often affecting many people [Fr. panique, terrified].” Terror is: “an intense, overpowering fear. [Lat. terror <terrere, to frighten.]” Anxiety in principle is the very same emotion as fear because the physiological responses in the body are similar. Anxiety is defined as: “A troubled feeling; expressing a feeling of dread or fear, especially of the future.
Incidentally, on the physiological side of things, researches found recently that anxiety may be a leading cause of stroke and heart disease:
LONDON (Reuters) – People with heightened activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain linked to stress, may be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke, scientists said on Thursday in research that could lead to new ways to treat stress-related heart problems.
Publishing their work in The Lancet medical journal, the researchers said the stress signaled in the amygdala is also linked to increased bone marrow activity and to inflammation in the arteries, which can cause heart attack and stroke.
Fear of Losing
Christ’s challenge for every Christ follower is that of losing his or her life. (I use the term, “Christ follower,” because the name Christian has essentially lost its significance in our society). This act of losing our lives is repeated throughout the Gospels:
Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity
For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].
For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].
For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].
I believe to be fair to the rest of Scripture, Jesus’ challenge here is separated into two categories: 1) The fear of not following Him at all results in eternal separation from God; 2) The fear of not giving up our lives results in a loss of kingdom rewards. In Luke 9:23 Jesus uses the little word “if,” in “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” This means we have a choice. The immediate response for most is the fear of losing their physical lives, for following Jesus, but these verses don’t speak so much to this as to the fear of losing what we have.
To gain our lives, as Christ said so clearly, is to lose them. This is a kingdom paradox. Most preaching today deemphasizes this truth in favor of “Come to Christ to have your life fixed,” to “find prosperity and success” or “for fire insurance.” There’s nothing wrong with any of these except for the fact that Jesus’ call to people who would follow Him was to “lose their life” in this world:
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5:15 NIV).
For the Christ follower, giving our lives to Jesus gets us into heaven, but losing our lives for His sake, gains us much more in eternity. It’s always been interesting to me how much the Rich Young Ruler wanted eternal life when he approached Jesus. (Mark 10:17-27). “What must I do (the emphasis on I) to gain eternal life?” Jesus knew his hang up – his bank account, so His challenge to this young man was to give it up. Sadly, he loved the stocks more than eternal life and walked away from Christ.
Fear of Losing Enumerated
Psychologists have a long list of phobias, and they add more to that list each year. Some of these border on the absurd, but let’s limit this simply to the fear of losing. You probably have your own list to add to mine. These are not particularly in order except for the first two.
- Fear of death and dying. This is usually number one. People fear what they don’t know, and if they don’t know The Way, The Truth and The Life, (Jesus, John 14:6) they have reason to fear.
- Fear of public speaking. This is often number two. This explains why often people won’t identify with Jesus or testify about Him. The fear of man brings a snare (Prov. 29:25).
- Fear of loss of reputation. This is huge. Jesus didn’t care about his reputation (He gave it up – Philippians 2:7-8). The Message puts it this way: “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Some people will do anything to preserve their reputation, even denying Christ.
- Fear of the “simple” Gospel. Often people join “more sophisticated” churches because in their intellectual pride they want to associate with theological positions that are actually opposed to Scripture. The Pharisees were famous for this.
- Fear of losing friends. Any Messianic Jew will tell you that in finding Jesus they may lose friends and family. In Syria and other places around the globe, becoming a Christian means losing your life!
- Fear of loss of economic status. We love our houses, cars, beach houses, etc., and we fear losing them. Like the Rich Young Ruler, we may care for these things a bit too much.
- Fear of the Holy Spirit. Really? How many churches do you know who deny the power of the Holy Spirit because of their traditions? They continue to stand on Scriptures that don’t hold water. Along these lines, some Christians fear speaking in tongues. One reason God gave tongues was to separate those who are embarrassed by His gift from those who aren’t!
- Fear of not being “politically correct.” Political correctness is the bane of freedom of speech. I’m not applauding insensitivity, but many churches in the future, in order to avoid losing their tax-exempt status, will preach a politically correct gospel, if they’re not already doing that.
- The fear of losing our health. Regardless of what we do, sometimes this happens, but we CAN do things that will help maintain it. I just got back from Gold’s Gym…
- Fear of getting old. I can relate. Hey, I’m there! My best friend for 45 years, now gone to heaven, used to laugh about our being in “the Golden Years,” when, as they say, “what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work!” The Bible says of Isaac that when he died he was “satiated with life” (Gen. 35:29 Amp). I’m claiming that!
- Fear of losing a relationship. This includes platonic or sexual relationships for the sake of the kingdom. Not long ago someone I love very much told me she “preferred a secular life.” I’m not sure what that meant except that serving Jesus first was not her priority.
These are just a few thoughts on what we fear to lose. These stepped on my spiritual toes, as I contemplated what I’m afraid to lose, but in the “paradoxical” prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, I pray we would all learn to live this out:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Joseph Beckham is the author of Overcoming Bipolar Disorder & Other Mental Difficulties: A Christian Perspective.
Get the print version today at https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=overcoming+bipolar+disorder+%26+Other+mental+difficulties&type=. The print version also will soon be available on Amazon, ITunes and other book distribution websites along with the epub version, which is already available. Joe is also the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls – http://amzn.com/1493781286