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59 | Conquering exaggerated fear

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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast, I want to talk about conquering exaggerated fear.

My wife and I were talking to friends recently and they told a story of person who was being very careful about COVID including isolating herself and wearing masks when she needed to go out. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But then they mentioned something that provided a slightly different perspective on what was happening.

They shared that the woman was so consumed by her fear of the Coronavirus that she couldn’t sleep at night. It is one thing to respect the virus, but it is another thing to be so terrified that you can’t fall asleep.

When she was safe locked up in her house where the virus couldn’t reach her, she wasn’t actually being threatened by the virus, rather by the thoughts of the virus.

And you know this reminds me of another group who were unable to sleep because they were terrorized by fear:

14 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. (Numbers 14:1)

This verse is talking about the time that the Israelis were so consumed by fear that that many of them were crying into the night. They couldn’t go to sleep.

In the previous chapter, we find out what led to this night of terror.

Moses had just led Israel to the very border of the Promised Land and before entering he sent in 12 spies to gain a better understanding of what they would encounter.

When this group returned, 10 of the spies came back with an evil report and only two brought back a favorable one.

The ten spies were terrified by what they saw. They spoke of giants who were so large that the ten spies looked like grasshoppers compared to them.

And this negative report resulted in a spirit of fear sweeping through the nation to the point that people were unable to sleep.

The giants weren’t actually there surrounding the Israelis camp. The giants were dozens of miles away in the Promised Land, but had still managed to surround the people in their minds.

But as we look closer at what the 10 spies said we receive a clue about what was really going on.

Though they talked about how huge these giants were, the 10 spies probably should have stopped there because the next thing they said revealed the real issue:

33 There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33)

They added that we became like grasshoppers in our own sight. The ten spies looked upon themselves as grasshopper first.

It was their inner fear that exaggerated the danger. They were still thinking like slaves.

A couple of months ago a group of psychologists from several universities were studying people’s fears related to the Coronavirus and the possible ending of the lock down. They found that there were basically three groups. The first group, approximately 16% were basically very fearful of COVID and were dreading the reopening. The second and largest group had a moderate fear of the virus, but were looking forward to the end of the lock down, and the bottom group had few worries about COVID and considered the economic fallout from the lock down a much more serious problem than the virus.

Speaking of the group with the most fear, one of the psychologists said that many of them have pre-existing anxiety-related disorders. In other words, for some of them their inner fear turned COVID into a monstrous giant.

Along these lines, I read an interesting poll recently conducted by Franklin Templeton that exposed the exaggerated fears associated with COVID.

The people surveyed stated that they believed people under the age of 44 account for 30% of the COVID deaths in the US. In fact, this group only represents 2.7% of the Coronavirus deaths.

It revealed that many people have an exaggerated fear of the Coronavirus.

And this really showed up when they surveyed people according to their age group and then compared their perception of how dangerous the virus was with how dangerous COVID actually was for their age group.

For example in the 18-24 age group 59.1% said they were worried about the serious health effects from COVID, but their age group only accounted for .1% of the total COVID deaths.

Their fear was exaggerated nearly 600 times.

For those aged 25-34, 67.1% had serious concerns about COVID, but their age group only represented .7% of the deaths. Their fear was exaggerated about 90 times.

In fact, every age group except one had greater fears of Covid than their actual risk from the virus.

And oddly that one group involved those over the age of 65, where 77.6% had serious worries about COVID, while their age group accounts for 80% of the deaths.

Ironically, the ones most susceptible to the Coronavirus, had less fear than their actual danger to COVID.

Nevertheless, this survey tells us that the vast majority of people have an exaggerated fear of COVID.

So where is this fear coming from?

Well when we look back at Israel, according to Numbers 13:32, we are specifically told that the ten spies purposefully spread the fear of the giants though the Israeli camp. They were harbingers of fear.

And like then, we have groups, primarily the mainstream media, that is pummeling us with story after story about how dangerous COVID is.

I remember a few weeks back a person in his 20s had died from COVID in our area. Of course, it is very, very unusual for a person in that age group to actually die from the Coronavirus, as they are just not susceptible, unless they have serious underlying health issues.

Of course, this person did and that contributed to his death.

After the story broke, in a post on Facebook, a woman began ranting that she didn’t want anyone to start talking about the person’s underlying health concerns.

She was terrified of COVID and she wanted to continue to be terrified of it.

She didn’t want anyone to talk her out of a fear. She didn’t want anyone to downplay her fear.

She did not want any mentioning facts that contradicted her fear.

Yet underlying health issues are a major factor as to why people are dying from COVID. On Aug 28, 2020, the US Center for Disease Control otherwise known as CDC released a report that 94% of the people who died from COVID in the US had underlying health issues.

This means that only 6% of the deaths were solely due to COVID.

The report went on to say that those in the 94 percentile group had on average 2.6 underlying health issues.

As one person noted this means the 94% died with the Coronavirus, not necessarily from the virus.

We also know that the elderly are particularly susceptible. As the Franklin Templeton study pointed out over 80% of the deaths involved people over the age of 65.

The elderly and those with underlying health issues need to be careful. But for the rest of us there is nothing wrong with respecting the Coronavirus, but we shouldn’t be terrified of it.

So how does God want believers to react during these times? In Isaiah 8 verse 12, the Lord said:

And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.

We are told not fear what other fears, but in addition to this, God tells us not to dread what others fear.

The word dread is the Hebrew word ‘arats’ that means to dread, be harassed or stalked by the fear. This means no matter where you are or what you are doing this fear is harassing you.

When you are home alone with no possible chance of catching the virus, and you are still plagued by fear, it means your fear is stalking you.

Then the Psalmist adds that we are not to fear bad news.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:6-7)

But this passage adds a critical point stating instead of fearing, we need to trust the Lord.

Look, it is one thing to have faith in God, the Bible says even the demons believe (James 2:19), but it is another thing to trust the Lord. Faith speaks of belief, but trust takes our faith to another level. It speaks of confidence or reliance, where you are choosing to fully rely on the Lord.

So in one sense you can believe in God, but not fully trust the Lord. This is an important distinction. We all need to move from faith to trust.

And during these trying times we need to start trusting the Lord.

So how should we respond when we are being plagued by fear?

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes:

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

But to properly grasp what the Apostle Paul is saying in this verse we first need to understand what was happening in Paul’s life when he wrote this letter.

When the apostle wrote this, he was sitting in a Roman prison awaiting his execution. Remember the emperor at that time was Nero. He was arguable insane and brutally turned on the Christians. Paul knew he was going to die, but he didn’t know how.

The Romans had several ways of killing people. Sometimes it was a form of entertainment in the Roman coliseum where they would unleash wild animals on defenseless Christians. At one point, Nero used living Christians as torches, setting them on fire, to provide lighting for his gardens.

Sitting in a large Roman prison where most of the prisoners were facing either a brutal death or torture or both, fear would be springing from everyone.

In the midst of this Paul says, we have not been given a spirit of fear, but rather God has given us a sound mind. Paul was living what he was preaching.

But here is what is absolutely important for you to understand. As a believer, you have already been given that sound mind. You don’t have to look for it. You already have it.

This means despite how you are feeling about what is going on in the world today, God has given you a sound mind and you need to become who you already are.

So what does it mean to have a sound mind?

Well, this is the only place in the Bible where the compound Greek word ‘sophronismos’ is found. The second part of this word, phroneo, is an all encompassing word that covers our mind, will and emotions.

To get a better idea what it means to have a sound mind, we only have to look at how this verse is translated by in other versions of the Bible.

  • The ESV translates it as self-control.
  • The NASV translate it as discipline.
  • The NIV translates it as “self-disciple.

In other words, the key to a sound mind is controlling our thought life.

When negative thoughts and feelings pop into your mind, you have to literally stop thinking about them.

But you can’t leave a vacuum, Paul says in Philippians 4:8, a letter he also wrote while in prison, you need to replace them with thoughts that are pure, admirable, right and pure.

The key is to trust God, claim your sound mind and take control of your thought life.

READ: Horowitz: Study: In 2 weeks in Denver more people died of heart attacks in lock down than of the Coronavirus AND Province reopening will be a challenge for some AND CDC: 6% of coronavirus deaths were solely from COVID-19

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