Fear distorts reality.
Fear produces irrational responses.
Fear instigates mutiny.
Fear is a statement about God.
This is the ground we've covered so far. Let's start hitting at some solutions. How do we deal with fear?
In our Numbers 13-14 passage, God sent 12 leaders to scout the land. Ten of them succumbed to fear. But two did not: Caleb and Joshua. Why is Joshua and Caleb’s response so different from the other 10? Purportedly, all twelve of these individuals have had the same experience thus far from the time they exited Egypt to the time they arrived at the southern border of the Promised Land. Why are Joshua and Caleb in such a difference place than the other 10? The answer is simple: they know, remember, and trust what God had said about their mission.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey… - Exodus 3:7-8
God said and promised to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Joshua and Caleb know what God had said, remembered what God had said, and trusted what God had said.
Fear flourishes with ignorance, forgetfulness, and distrust. Just a few years later, God comes to Joshua, who is now leading the people of Israel and this is what he says…
Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9
Notice within the same train of thought, God connects the command to be strong and courageous with meditating on the Scriptures. Here in Joshua 1, God is commanding the opposite of what took place in Number 13-14. And the command to be strong and courageous doesn’t stand alone as if it is produced through rugged determination. There’s a connection between strength and courage and meditating on God’s Word.
If you do not have a robust, disciplined, consistent, deep, thoughtful devotional life, you are making yourself vulnerable to fear. Overcoming fear is not a matter of willpower. Fear flourishes in the vacuum of an anemic devotional life.
What is it about a robust, disciplined, consistent, deep, thoughtful devotional life that expels fears? Well, I think this kind of devotional life possesses a reorienting power. The ten scouts who succumbed to fear were comparing themselves to the giants in the land. Joshua and Caleb were comparing the giants to God. Do you see in the story how the ten who succumbed to fear were self-concentrating? They were preoccupied with comparing themselves to the task in front of them. Where is God in their picture? He’s missing. They are functional atheists. Fear is functional atheism. Meanwhile, Joshua and Caleb were leaving themselves out of the equation. Instead of self-concentrating by comparing themselves to the giants they were God-concentrating. They were comparing the giants to God. They were comparing the mission in front of them to God. That’s what led them to say, “Let’s go! Let’s go get it!”
Eighty years ago, as Notre Dame was preparing to play the USC Trojans in college football, Fighting Irish coach Knute Rockne was aware that his opponent had a far better team. So he devised a plan to intimidate the opposing players.
Rockne scoured the city of South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame's hometown), and hand-picked 100 of the largest men he could find—each at least six-foot-five and 300 pounds. He put the men in Fighting Irish uniforms and, at game time, marched them onto the field ahead of the real team. (Obviously, this was before the days of limited rosters and eligibility restrictions.)
As USC watched those giants line up on the sidelines, they forgot about their talent and their undefeated record, and they began mentally preparing themselves for a beating. Though none of the specially recruited men played during the game, their presence on the sidelines was enough to knock Southern Cal's concentration off balance. Knute Rockne's trick had worked; he had intimidated the Trojan players into giving up before the game even started.
This is how fear flourishes – when all our concentration is spent comparing ourselves to the giants; comparing ourselves to the challenges in front of us. Joshua and Caleb didn’t do that. They compared the giants to God; the mission to God; the challenge to God and said, “Let’s go.”