Temptation is a common experience in the life of every believer (1 Cor. 10:13). We are in a spiritual battle and fear is a common temptation that all of us face.
Some fears are healthy and beneficial. It is wise and helpful to be afraid of rattlesnakes and grizzly bears. It is healthy to have a purifying fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is a reverential awe that is expressed by obeying God and hating evil.
We are not addressing healthy fears, however. We are talking about paralyzing fears which destroy one’s courage to do what is right and lead us into disobedience. Romans 8:31-39 addresses four fears that can paralyze. The answer to the specific fear is found in a promise of God.
A value of fear is that it can motivate one to seek God. David was delivered from fear when he sought God (Ps. 34:4). As we search God’s Word we will find promises that will enable us to believe God at our points of fear.
The Fear of Opposition
In Romans 8:29-30, Paul traced five steps in God’s sovereign purposes—from eternity past to eternity future. The chain began with God’s foreknowledge of His people; it will end with their glorification. God’s plan provides the comforting truth that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28).
The truth that God is for us counters any fear we might have of opposition against us. The “if” (vs. 31) in Greek has the force of “since.” Paul meant that since God is for people of faith, “who can be against us?” Any opposition that arises will be no match for God.
Ultimately, the opposition to believers will come from satanic spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12). Christians must lean on God’s strength and power (vs. 10). As the believer submits to God he is enabled by God to resist Satan (Jas. 4:7).
The believer’s focus must be on his superior resources in God. John declared, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Consistent with this, future saints will triumph over Satan during the future tribulation. We read, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their own lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11).
“Flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), or man, is not the ultimate opposition facing believers. When Satan uses “the fear of man” (Prov. 29:25), God’s promise that He is for us is designed to put our heart in a position of trust.
When Abram feared, God promised to shield and reward him (Gen. 15:1). Trusting God’s promises will deliver us from the temptation to fear. The book of Psalms records triumphal affirmations of overcoming fear by standing on God’s promises (3:3, 6; 23:4; 27:1).
God does indeed desire to preserve our lives from fear and dread of what might happen (Ps. 64:1).
After I surrendered my life to the Lord, I became involved in a ministry with other college students. We would go to some small towns in Alabama and conduct Christian-living seminars on Friday nights and Saturdays.
On Sundays we would speak in various Sunday school classes in churches. When I gave my testimony in one class, a woman came up to me and said, “Great suffering is ahead for you.” Her statement struck fear in my heart.
Whenever the subject of trials would come up after that, a cloud of gloom would hang over my head. Later one morning, God’s Spirit illuminated the promise of 2 Corinthians 1:5 to me. I learned from that verse that living in fear of what might happen does not come from God. He gives the believer more than adequate comfort (cf. 1 Pet. 3:13-14).
Several texts affirm the principle that we must replace the fear of man with the fear of God (Isa. 51:12-13; Matt. 10:26; 1 Pet. 3:14-15). Paul found it contradictory to try to please both the Lord and man (Gal. 1:10).
A businessman who was a close personal friend of mine was told that he simply could not stay in business if he made a certain decision that his conscience dictated that he do before the Lord. God used Hebrews 13:5-6 to speak to him. He experienced the living God who was for him. His business thrived, but more important, so did his soul!
“God [is] for us” (Rom. 8:31)! This is the essence of His grace. The key to understanding this promise in relationship to our fears is to grasp who God really is.
God spoke this world into existence. He controls all things. He is in all places at all times and knows all things. He does not change in His essence. He is infinitely wise, holy, living, just, merciful, gracious, and good. He is great. He looks on the most powerful man on earth as only a grasshopper in comparison with Himself. All the nations of the world are only as a drop in a bucket. This is the God who is for us!
The Fear of Lack of Provision
Will I always have what I really need? The gift of Jesus was the greatest gift that could ever be given. Romans 8:32 records that the Father had a part in the death of Jesus. Who delivered up Jesus to die? Was it Judas in order to get money? Was it Pilate because he was afraid of offending Caesar? Was it the Jews because they envied Jesus?
While all these will bear responsibility for their part, God delivered up His Son because of His great love for His people. God’s role was a part of His eternal purpose according to Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:19-20.
God’s past gift of Jesus’ sacrificial death also is a continual reminder that He will provide for our every present and future need. A human father who is worthy of the title “father” has a natural, inward urge to give good things to his children.
Jesus reasoned that if a man, who has an evil nature, will give good gifts, the heavenly Father will be far more generous (Matt. 7:11). The Bible promises that those who fear God and seek after Him will not lack anything they need to fulfill God’s purpose for them (Pss. 34:9-10; 84:11).
As God’s people, we have no need to envy the unbelieving world and the apparent temporal pleasures they enjoy. We should rather feel compassion for the lost because of their dependence on the fleeting things of the earth.
The provision of a simple meal eaten in an environment of love is greatly superior to a lavish feast eaten in the atmosphere of malice and anger (Prov. 15:17). The gift of a clear conscience is far greater than the gift of great wealth (16:8).
The gift of peace amidst very simple provision is far superior to abundant material resources where there is strife. God promises not only to provide for us but also to give us the best. We brought nothing into this world when we were born, and no hearse containing the body of a deceased person pulls a trailer loaded with earthly possessions behind it on the final trip to the cemetery (1 Tim. 6:7).
We can rejoice with what God gives other believers because we are not in competition with anyone. Our goal is simply to fulfill His unique plan for each of us. God promises to give us all we need to accomplish this (1 Cor. 3:21-23; cf. Matt. 6:33).
The Fear of Rejection
If you reviewed your life, you might agree that the fear of rejection is a powerful motivator. This fear can motivate what we say or do not say and what we do or do not do.
A person who has a genuine relationship with God will rest in the truth that no one can bring new information to God’ s attention that will cause God to reject him. To be sure, Satan is the “accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10). The devil seeks to throw the fear of rejection at us. Even our own hearts may seek to condemn us (1 John 3:20). However, it is imperative that we remember an irrevocable decision by the highest court in the universe cannot be appealed. God Himself has justified, or declared righteous, the believer in Christ (Rom. 8:33).
When struggling with thoughts of feeling condemned, the believer is to remind himself that Jesus bore his curse, or condemnation, on the cross (Rom. 8:34). Jesus, the Judge of the world, reveals God’s kindness in bearing our judgment so that we can escape eternal rejection and condemnation (Acts 17:30-31; Gal. 3:13).
As the living Savior, Christ currently prays for His people (Rom. 3:34; Heb. 7:25). Far from condemning His people, He comes to their aid (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15-16).
The Fear of Being Separated from God’s Love
Where is God’s love when believers face great distress or are persecuted or imperiled? Does God care about Christians who die by the sword? Is His love present during special temporal challenges?
Romans 8:36 quotes Psalm 44:22, which likens God’s people to sheep being led out to be slaughtered. In fact, Paul often found himself exposed to the threat of death (2 Cor. 11:23).
Trials are not without aim or purpose. Trials are designed to develop a deeper trust in God and not ourselves (2 Cor. 1:9).
We are not to fear man, who at most can kill the body, but rather to fear God, who can throw both body and soul into hell (Matt. 10:28). This eternal perspective enables the believer to lean on God’s love.
The psalmist ended his cry for help by affirming his hope in God’s mercy, that is His loyal love (Ps. 44:26). Accomplishing God’s eternal purpose was more precious to the apostle than preserving his own life (Acts 20:24).
Such a perspective makes us more than conquerors. God’s love enables us not only to endure trials but also to experience more of God.
When George Mathison became blind, his fiancée rejected him, saying, “I don’t want to marry a blind man.” The difficult trial inspired him to write a famous hymn titled “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.”
God’s eternal promise is that nothing can separate us from God’s love, which casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
What is your fear, and how will you face it? Fear during trials is a universal emotion. We cannot escape fear, but we can conquer it. If not dealt with, fear can easily paralyze us and lead us away from God. Fear can make us vulnerable to the temptation to go down a road of disobedience.
If we respond correctly, healthy fear can draw us closer to God. Is fear affecting you negatively or positively?
A positive response to fear will motivate us to seek God (cf. Ps. 34:4). As we seek God, we need to search for a promise from Him that addresses our specific fear. Our faith in the specific promise will deliver our hearts from a position of fear to a posture of faith.
Romans 3:31-39 has given us four specific promises that answer four specific fears. All believers will be tempted to fear opposition. We will also be tempted to wonder and be fearful about whether we will always have what we will need for our material provision.
We all will be tempted to fear rejection. This is a fear that can become a very debilitating motivation in our lives. We will also be tempted to feel unloved.
A review of these fears will enhance our understanding of Romans 8:31-39. Our understanding of these verses will be enhanced if, while in the midst of our temptation to fear, we trust the promises cited by the apostle.