When I was a teenager, there was a popular clothing brand called “No Fear” that was popular with skateboarders. Now that brand has gone and fear has become a feature of life for many people.
The brand was popular with skateboarding enthusiasts because in two words it captured the culture of skateboarding perfectly. I doubt you have ever seen a timid skateboarder cowering in fear unable to make his move down the half pipe. Skateboarding is about living life on the edge, taking risks, not being particularly concerned about possible harmful consequences. The entire culture of skateboarding is one of ‘no fear’.
The brand was successful because it connected with those living a ‘no fear’ lifestyle. I have often marvelled at these young urban folk throwing themselves around, inevitably falling yet being unconcerned with minor cuts and bruises, just getting back on the board and trying again until they mastered their art. Fear did not even feature on their radar.
Gripped & Crippled by Fear
I have been particularly struck over the last year how fear has gripped and crippled the minds of so many in the UK and around the world as a mystery virus emerged and circulated around the population. I still maintain the biggest protagonists in this war of fear have been the mainstream media and the State with their dystopian headlines and claims that have defied all sense of proportionality. In fact, minutes from the Government’s SAGE committee from March 2020 show there was a deliberate and concerted effort to ramp up the level of fear around Covid.
Viruses are nothing knew. They have been around for many generations and are a fact of life in the fallen world we inhabit, but they need not (and have not until now) control us. Covid 19 is a flu virus. Sure, it is not a particularly nice virus and can be particularly dangerous to some people who are more susceptible to its worst effects, but find me a virus people are happy to contract or that is not dangerous to some person somewhere!
We have lived with flu for our whole lives. We adapt, we work around it. For example, people do not shake hands if they’ve got a cold, they abstain from hugging people if they have got the flu. They stay at home to rest and recover. All this has gone on for generations without a single government mandated policy, half the NHS being shut down, much of education provision being closed, the economy being decimated, face masks being slapped on our faces and the nation being confined to virtual house arrest.
So why is it different now? Perhaps COVID-19 is a far more dangerous and deadly virus than others. Certainly earlier in 2020, we did not know quite what we were dealing with and it looked pretty dangerous from early signs in other countries, so only a few rejected the idea of a lockdown initially.
As time went on and we learnt more about the virus, many started to question lockdowns and other state mandated restrictions, but one thing remained: fear.
This fear has gripped so many people who were formally sensible and rational people. They have been so heavily influenced by the media headlines and deliberate barrage of state messaging through every platform imaginable. As a result they have succumbed to a crippling spirit of fear that has taken control over their lives. It determines what they think about, how they think and how they conduct their lives.
The problem is this: fear is irrational and deceptive. The more fear takes hold, the further away from reality it gets. When the state announces thousands of new cases, what they really mean is positive tests – many of which have absolutely no symptoms. When they announce deaths no context is provided to account for underlying health conditions, just a big bold headline that looks scary in isolation. There is always an element of truth and that is where the deception starts.
I have always had what I consider to be a healthy scepticism of the state. I am not suspicious of everything the state does, but I do not just assume that when the state does something it is for my or the nation’s genuine good.
I was so busy at work as covid kicked off last year that this scepticism was, to a degree suspended and I started to go along with much of what the state was saying around covid. I allowed myself to become almost overwhelmed with helping to keep the business of the hotel I work at afloat and feeling the burden of the worries that many of the team I lead had. I had to repent of this a few months later because all the noise around me distracted me from discerning what was actually going on.
‘Healthy’ Yet Death by Covid?
I always doubted whether healthy people were actually dying in great numbers from covid. That was, until the day it emerged a young woman about 21 years old had died of covid having not had any previous known underlying health conditions. For several days this story was pushed out by all sections of the mainstream media as proof the virus was killing young and healthy people. The level of fear shot up faster than the number of covid cases. The fear of what covid might be overtook the reality of what it actually is. Facts were replaced by fear. I was not totally immune and started to consider whether covid was something to be more concerned about.
Three days later, it transpired the young woman had been taken to hospital having suffered a cardiac arrest and was tragically dead on arrival. She had had some covid symptoms over the previous couple of weeks, but never tested positive for covid, even in hospital o rpost death. Yet for three days, news of a young healthy woman dropping dead of covid circulated around the nation.
The fear caused many people to suspend their cognitive abilities. One person I know who I consider to be a sensible, rational person who is usually the one calling caution to misleading headlines and the need to establish facts and context before rushing to judgements. Yet on this particular issue, when I pointed out the nation had been deceived into thinking covid was killing young healthy people and as a result was causing irrational fear, he responded, ‘facts do not matter in this case because it’s important young people understand how deadly this virus is’.
This is the sort of unhinged irrational response that covid fear has caused. Those days of skateboarders and their No Fear lifestyle are long gone. Facts have been dispensed with to make way for covid fear. But we need not be so governed by such fear.
The book of Psalms is full of wonderful nuggets, but perhaps one of the best is Psalm 46. It opens, “God is a very present help in time of trouble”. It goes on to say, “therefore we will not fear.”
God is above and beyond covid and indeed everything of this world. He holds the whole world in his hand and he is soverign.
The word fear is written over 500 times in the Bible. Over half the mentions is a command not to fear man, the other half is a command to fear the Lord. Fear of man and anything that is not of God is very real, yet totally irrational and a creation of the devil.
Satan creates fear, God destroys it.
God creates life in all its fullness, Satan limits life and attempts to hold us hostage by filling us with fear that stops us from achieving our God given potential.
Overcoming the Covid Fear
So how do we respond to this level of fear circulating and how do we avoid becoming captive to it?
The starting point is recognising that the church cannot possibly support those crippled by fear if the church is itself gripped by fear. Sadly too many in the church have been overtaken with covid fear and its left those who refused to bow to the spirit of fear looking like extremists.
Overcoming fear and avoiding being controlled by it in the first place require the same actions on our part.
First we need to get ourselves into the Word. If we do not read the scriptures then we will not understand that fear is not of God. If we do not fill our minds with the things of God, the devil will soon fill the resulting void with fear. If our mind is full of the Word of God, there is no space for fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind”. I put it to you that if you are gripped by fear, then you are not sound of mind.
Overcoming fear requires us to do things differently to how the world tells us. The Bible tells us to, “be still and know that I am God”. We live in a world that does not really do being still. The world tempts us to rush around making rash decisions. The temptation to ‘do something’ is often too much pressure for many. God teaches us instead to rest in him and renew our strength.
Psalm 46 goes on to say that if God can cause wars to cease and the waves of the seas to calm, then surely he has he power to rid us of all fear.
The sad reality is we have become so conditioned by the world that we fear man and the things of this world far more than God himself. Some of us could do with reminding ourselves of this basic truth: God is sovereign and he is in control.
The world should be looking to the church in a time of pandemic and asking, ‘why are they not scared’? There should always be something distinctive about the church. Sadly we have just joined the bandwagon of covid fear and even now when the state permits churches to gather, many have chosen not to.
We need to be careful where we get our information from. The mainstream media is not there to inform us, it pushes its own agenda. It is deceptive because in the case of the BBC, it claims to be impartial when it is anything but. Ask yourself this: Do you follow mainstream media to find out what is going on (and therefore reliant on them to tell the sum total of what becomes your knowledge), or do you follow to find out how they report on what they report on?
Discern to Overcome Fear
We must be discerning of everything. Some of us do not even realise the spiritual battle that is raging all around us. It is a battle for control of the mind, a war of deception. The problem of deception is it always contains an element of truth.
We have got to refuse to listen to the lies and whispers of the devil. We have to be constantly on our guard and when he comes, tell him to get out by declaring we are children of the Most High and that the Lord God is sovereign over our lives.
The devil flees when you resist him. He goes and pesters someone else. But you cannot resist the devil unless you first submit to God. James 4:7 is often only half quoted, but the need to submit to God, that is to place yourself under the authority of Christ is the first step to being able to resist the devil. You cannot resist in your own strength just as you cannot discern in your own mind.
We need to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit for it is the Holy Spirit who does the resisting for us. It is the Holy Spirit that discerns and helps us to sift right from wrong, light from dark and partial truth from absolute truth.
Job was a man where much suffering came upon him, yet not once (despite pressure to do so) did he deny God. Not once did he blame God. Not once did he fall foul to fear for he knew God was soverign and in control.
We need to rise above the temporary circumstances of today and declare the permanent goodness and glory of God. We need to take time away from the noise of the world. We need to submit to God continually in order to be able to resist the whispers of the devil. When we do these things and get our life in order, fear of man will evaporate and be replaced by a healthy fear of the Lord where we recognise just how awesome a God he is.
Choose this day whom you will serve: Being crippled by fear of man or or living in the freedom and victory of fearing the Lord?