Dr. David A. Jernigan
Maybe you have heard the saying, “A rose by any other name is just as sweet.” I doubt you have considered or heard that fear by any other name is always about something or some situation that is unwanted in your life.
You might think the statement about fear is just as obvious and self-evident as the statement about the rose; however, few people really comprehend its importance.
A wise friend of mine once told me a truth I have never forgotten. She said, “A person cannot be helped, coached or taught who hasn’t asked for help.”
As a doctor, I have the honor of helping many people overcome unwanted situations in their life. All of these people come to me asking me to help them get rid of unwanted things in their body, mind, and spirit.
Why do unwanted, fearful, and bad things happen to “good” people? The Bible says, “We are destroyed from a lack of knowledge.” Understand now that there is only one way to get rid of fear and fearful things in life. Once you understand and have this knowledge, you can stop being destroyed by fear.
Almost everyone in the whole country would be experiencing peace and joy if God had said, “Be a nice, good person and only good things will be added unto you.” However, God said, “Seek ahead of all else, the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and then all these things [benefits] will be given unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)
The Bible in 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out all fear” (emphasis added). Pay attention! This is the primary verse that this entire chapter is based upon. Remember, fear is always about something that is unwanted, therefore, “Perfect love casts out all unwanted things!”
I say this because so many people I have talked with about fear say that they are generally not fearful people…they just have a lot of things they don’t want to happen or they don’t want to continue to happen. These “don’t want” or “unwanted” things in their life are based upon fear!
When the Bible is talking about being perfect or having “Perfect love,” it is not referring so much to the concept of being perfect, such as being without flaws. In the ancient texts, the word “perfect” in this verse is talking about the highest level of maturity of love. This perfect love is not something we just get as part of the benefits of being a born-again believer, although it does require salvation and Christ within. This perfect love is a learned and developed thing as we live and learn to love God more with each passing moment and situation. (Phil. 4:12)
Perfect love is similar to studying diligently until you get your Bachelor’s degree, you study more and you get your Master’s degree, and even more and you get a Ph.D. in God’s love – you are literally being the personification and embodiment of His love. It takes time and practice. The better you do it, the better you embody and transmit God’s love to the world around you, the better you get at casting out all unwanted situations (fear) from your life.
One might think of the “Perfect love casting out all fear” as being like a bright light that chases away the darkness of the darkest night. The darkness cannot penetrate the light, but the light can absolutely penetrate the darkness. Darkness must retreat. Fear and unwanted things must retreat from the radiant love.
Young or new believers are often inexperienced with God’s Word and in understanding what it means to “Walk in the light as He is in the light”. (1 John 1:7)
As young believers, God’s love light shines through only to the degree that it is allowed by each individual, and only when the young believer remembers to do so, because they have not yet experientially learned to fully understand what it means to be filled with God’s love and to walk continually in His light. (Phil. 4:12)
A young believer, to the measure of his faith, has full sonship rights to “speak to the mountains of his life and tell them to be removed and it will be done;” however, it is an ongoing learning process that never ends that leads to the ever-greater perfecting of our love for God.
As a result of our lack of knowledge, we tend to keep turning our “light and love” off and the darkness of what we fear returns in the form of negative thoughts and events that we perceive are negative in our lives. For this reason, we must do as God says and, “Take every thought captive,” meaning until we attain great degrees of continual perfect love we have to stop the string of negative thoughts, or shall we say, “less than ideal thoughts” and redirect our thinking to those things which are edifying and good. (2 Cor. 10:5)
We must take full responsibility for our thoughts, and definitely our strings of thoughts, that inevitably lead us to ever more dark thoughts.
So here we see that it is useless to ask God to make us not think bad thoughts. He already instructed us to take responsibility for them. He also said for us to “Not LET our hearts be troubled; neither LET our hearts be afraid” (emphasis added). So again we see the error in thinking we can just ask for Him to make us not be troubled or somehow make us not be afraid – although that certainly would be easier, it seems, when one is first learning to control their thinking. (John 14:1)
Trying not to be afraid does not work. Trying to be brave doesn’t work. Believing to not be afraid does not work. Asking God to make you brave does not work. Asking God to take away the fearful situation does not work. Distracting your self from thinking about what you fear does not work. Resisting evil does not work. Taking anti-anxiety drugs so you are not afraid does not work. Reciting scriptures, while a step in the right direction, does not work…otherwise God would have instead said, “Reciting scriptures casts out all fear!”
Only by shifting all of the energy you have been using (trying to not be afraid) to building your ability (to be the personification and embodiment of God’s love) can you chase away all unwanted fear.
God made it very clear how we should learn to love Him. In Luke 10:27 it tells us that we are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Really stop and consider this verse. This verse is describing what a Ph.D. in Perfect Love requires.
It makes sense that a small flashlight shines only a small amount of light, and therefore it casts out only a small amount of darkness. A million-candlepower spotlight shines forth a very powerful light that instantly turns night into day! So it isn’t that a young believer cannot cast out darkness of some of the unwanted (fearful) things in their life, but the fully matured, completely love-filled believer can live without any unwanted things in their life and fear never enters their mind.
The mirror truth to the verse, “Perfect love casts out all fear” is the understanding that perfect love fills one’s life with health, peace, joy, and so many blessings upon you and your family that your barns will not be able to contain them all. This is not a vague concept, but an absolute promise from God himself! (Malachi 3:10)
It is interesting how Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, one of his most famous teachings, made the statement, “Resist not evil….” (Matt. 5:39) This simple statement fascinates me. “Resist not evil” is an example of how very often we read a sentence and think we understand it, when in reality the statement requires much contemplation and meditation in order to really understand what it means in daily application to its fullest degree.
I think most people would agree that “evil” things are fearful things. Evil is the topic or object of what is feared. We just learned that only “Perfect Love cast out all fear” (evil, unwanted things). It might be said that Perfect Love has no resistance against what is not wanted or evil, because the person walking in perfect love has all the power over darkness and has no place for evil/darkness. Like the powerful spotlight, the one walking in perfect love shines wherever it is pointed without having to mount an attack or put up walls to resist the darkness/evil.
To put up a resistance against what is unwanted empowers that which is unwanted because the person is not walking in the full power of the Light and Love of God. Resisting fear draws more power to that which is feared, as does trying not to be afraid. This is why God told us resist not evil…be Love!
So let’s really look at the whole “Be love” concept. You are to love the Lord thy God with all that you are…your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Basically, God wants you to completely love Him with every fiber of your being.
Paul in the Bible really understood this concept, though he admitted that he too had not fully achieved the highest levels he knew were available in the Perfect Love realm (Phil. 3:13-15). I like how Paul says in these verses that we may have areas in our life where we know how to walk in “Perfect love,” but for any other area where we do not walk so perfectly, God will reveal these areas to us so that we can work on these areas also.
We cannot achieve perfect love when we don’t trust Him. Worry is trust in reverse. Worry is another word for fear.
Love and fear cannot coexist in the same space any more than light and darkness can coexist in the same space. So if we really love God to the degree He is calling for us to do, then we absolutely trust Him in every moment in spite of what our circumstances are doing around us.
We must walk in the complete expectation that He is working everything out for His own purposes, and those purposes are for good and not evil. He specifically tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So God is telling us that with everything that is going on in our lives that we think is good and everything we perceive as bad…He is working out for good…for those who LOVE HIM and who are called according to His purposes. If you love Him, then everything you see is something God is working ultimately for something above and beyond all that you could imagine, or even think to imagine, that is good that you want! (1 Chron. 29:11-12, 1 Cor. 2:9, Eph. 3:20)
If that does not convince you…Romans 8:28 and 31 says it all… “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.” And “If God is for us [which He is] then who can stand against us?”
We must all get these concepts to be burned into our hearts as absolute truth. When we understand how God set up this world to work, we realize our only hope of having all the blessings He made available to us who really believe is this: to continually build ever greater our ability to sell out 100% to completely loving Him and doing what He has told us to do.
How do we build our ability to love God more?
First of all, we study his Word, the Bible, so that we know how to live and conduct ourselves in the manner in which He instructed us. This is concisely addressed in Proverbs chapter 3, which I encourage you to read and memorize.
We acknowledge Him in all we do and say and He will establish our thoughts. (Prov. 16:3) This verse is important for anyone who fights with controlling his or her thinking. Many people say that negative or fearful thoughts just pop in their head. The reverse truth to God’s promise in this verse is: don’t acknowledge God in all that you do and say, and the darkness will establish your thoughts and the negative or fearful thoughts will just “pop into your head.”
God already set the foundation for this verse earlier in Prov. 3:5-7, which says, “Trust in the Lord (God) with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Remember, you cannot truly love what and who you don’t trust, so trusting in the Lord with all your heart is the same as loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
If you want to really walk without unwanted things (fear), then you must trust Him in spite of how smart you think you are in any given situation.
Another way to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is to constantly seek to bring Him praise and glory. It is said, “If you want to know who is behind what is happening, you should follow the money.” If you want to know who is behind some extraordinary thing in life, just follow the glory. Consider the magician, who dazzles and baffles the minds of those watching him. Where does the glory for his near-miraculous deeds go? It glorifies the magician.
If a person is famous for being a great healer of the sick through any means, follow the glory to find out if he is with God. If the healer seeks to glorify their self and their methods, then God is not with them.
The healer must at all times strive to bring glory to the Father, reminding others that “Every good and perfect gift [including healing] is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) This is an intriguing verse, especially when we recall the analogy of the strong million candle-power spotlight which turns the darkness into light. God is the Father of heavenly lights and through Him is no darkness at all! (1 John 1:5)
Matthew 5:16 reinforces this by saying, “Even so let your light be shining before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
I encourage everyone reading this to read and memorize the entire chapter of Psalm 91. My parents had all the family memorize and recite this chapter at the dinner table when I was growing up. I thought it was greatly difficult at the time, but I now see the great wisdom in having this entire chapter “engraved,” if you will, upon our hearts.
In Psalm 91 you will notice many promises for “the good life,” but you must not miss the several points that say that all the benefits of God towards those who love Him are contingent upon the fact that 1) In verse one it says, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High…” you get all these benefits! 2) In verse nine it says, “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation…” you get all these benefits! 3) In verse fourteen God says, “Because you have set your love upon me [God]…” you get all these benefits!
Perfecting our ability to truly love and trust God – combined with our doing as He told us to do in His Word, the Holy Bible, as well as acknowledging Him in all that we do and say – is our highest calling in life!
Likely there was never a more comprehensive teaching of what “Perfect Love” is than that given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In the words of Paul, I too pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:17-23)
My continual prayer is that if anyone sees anything good in us, they see God in us, so that He can be glorified through His children, as the giver of all good things as He works in and through us all to want to do what He wants us to do.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9)