Overcoming Fear

In my recent book, “God and the Bottom Line”, I wrote: Have you ever allowed fear to keep you from taking advantage of opportunities that could have been very beneficial?  I wanted Christians to realize the advantages they have with the Holy Spirit giving them purpose and direction in life.  Having worked with thousands of employees over the years I believe fear and the unwillingness to take risks at work or in life stymie many individuals from reaching their full potential.  Following is a condensed portion of the chapter I wrote on overcoming fear.

I believe in self-fulfilling prophecy.  We can become what we want to be—a success or a failure, depending on how we think of ourselves.  When we think positively, we can become highly motivated and more productive.  If we think negative thoughts about ourselves, we become less enthusiastic and block our full potential.

In the work environment, what people think of us and the impression we give can affect others around us.  When we are positive, most people want to be around us and choose us to be a part of the team.  If we are negative or fearful, others may find it difficult to work with us and our negative attitude can decrease not only our productivity but also our coworkers’ productivity.

Each of us must deal with various kinds of fears and we manage them in different ways.  Some people grab fear by the horns, taking it on as a challenge to learn new skills, hone talents and build confidence.  Others run at the first quiver of fear.

Fear!  Isn’t it a lack of trust in God?  Physical and spiritual walls must be broken through if we are to be free to stretch our endurance, abilities and potential.  Athletes learn that they can catch their second wind only when they are willing to go through the pain of breaking through a wall of resistance.  Once they push through that physical wall, their task becomes easier and their energy and endurance increase exponentially.

Just as athletes experience a physical wall of resistance, Christians encounter a spiritual one.  It’s called fear.  Most often this barrier is more difficult to break through because the Devil and his spirits of darkness often put the “wall of fear” before us.

Workplace fear is not the same as physical fear.  Fear in the workplace hampers people and quite often they are unaware of it.  I have worked with some of the most physically imposing people I have ever met.  They have no physical fear and enjoy hobbies like skydiving, hang gliding and rock climbing.  They thrive on facing the danger inherent in these activities.  Yet strangely enough, in the workplace they are paralyzed by fear—fear to take the initiative and accomplish a needed task that’s beyond their job descriptions, fear to accept promotions, fear to stretch out of their comfort zones.

Workplace fear can be defined as fear of failing and/or fear of the unknown.  I have known a number of men and women who settled into jobs they hated; not only were they bored, but also they endured verbal abuse and humiliation.  Even so, the thought of quitting terrified them.  On the one hand, they stayed put because they were afraid of the unknown—new job, new coworkers and new bosses.  But on the other hand, they refused to take a more challenging position because they were afraid of failing.  When put on the spot, most people, whether Christians or not, can see the absurdity and even the humor of workplace fear.  It is, after all, illogical to be afraid of failing because typically nothing of great importance is at stake.  One who tries something and fails is not injured physically, sent to jail, or subjected to mayhem.  He doesn’t lose his house, her dog doesn’t die and the kids don’t run away from home.  It is easy to see the wisdom of Franklin D. Roosevelt words:  “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

But knowing this doesn’t automatically change anything.  Generally, people suffering from workplace fear simply cannot, or will not, be talked out of it.  It seems to be a matter of head knowledge having little or no effect on heart knowledge.  And this brings us, once again, to the subject: Which nature is in control?  Is it our worldly nature or our spiritual nature?

When the Holy Spirit fills our hearts and guides our lives, we have no room or need for workplace fear or any other kind of fear.  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”  ( Rom, 8:15)

I have known a number of people who experienced “failure” but in time came to realize that God let them fail to lead them in a new direction.  A number of lessons can be learned from failure.  For one thing, it strengthens us spiritually.  For another, failure not only teaches us to be dependent upon the Holy Spirit, but also it opens up unlimited possibilities.  Every circumstance in life, including failure, can become an eventual blessing.  The Apostle Paul wrote: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Rom 8:28)

For those who are inclined to ask: “What good is an advantage that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians if it doesn’t translate into success?”  I offer the following rather homespun explanation.  The Christian who depends upon the Holy Spirit is sensitive to His leading and is like the athlete who listens to an experienced coach.  The coach can’t guarantee an athlete’s induction into the Hall of Fame, nor can he guarantee a gold medal for the athlete, but he can train him and teach him everything he knows, giving him every advantage, allowing him to consistently do his best.  The Christian advantage does not guarantee presidencies, chairmanships, wealth, achievement awards, fame or recognition, but it will lead the Christian into the direction that fulfills his God-given purpose.

Workplace fear may be overcome by listening to the Holy Spirit with spiritual ears, keeping everything in perspective and doing our best to remain coolheaded in the midst of madness.  It takes time.  It takes determination.  It takes practice, but it works.

The entire Israeli army was afraid to fight Goliath, the Philistine.  But a teenage, David took his sling shot and overcame the giant.  I Samuel 17:34 – 37 – “But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”   Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”   Do you see the advantage of being a Christian?  If the Holy Spirit is leading, you must be willing to trust Him.  Otherwise, you may lose your advantage and fear can block your potential that God has given you.

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