Have you ever been in a social situation, and even had a good time, but then hours later started to obsess about what you had said, and what people would think of you for what you had said? It didn’t seem all that important at the time, but those few words became colossal giants of stupidity in your mind after the fact. Perhaps you frequently find yourself feeling ashamed, and beat up on yourself long after conversations are over with.
Or, you worry constantly that people will misconstrue something that you did or said, and that they will be critical of you in speaking to other people. In fact, you are sure they will say something unkind about you to others. Maybe you don’t speak much in gatherings, not because you have nothing to say, but because you would rather not give anybody something to take hold of and use against you. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt,” right? Or, if you want to get really spiritual, you justify yourself with Proverbs 17:27, 28 — “He who has knowledge spares his words … he who shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
It is the fear of man, and it is crippling. It takes many forms, and has many complicated twistings and turnings to it, but if we are feeling insecure about how other people view us, or if our focus has gotten off of Jesus and onto other people, the fear of man is the culprit behind it all.
I had to deal with the fear of man in my own life recently. I did not initially recognize what it was. I thought I was having problems with people being critical of me (and some were), and I thought people were attempting to intimidate me (and some were), but what I did not realize, until the Lord began to speak to me about it, was that the problems I was encountering were only symptoms of the deeper problem — the fear of man in me.
This is what the Bible says about the fear of man and how we are to respond to it:
Proverbs 29:25 — The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
Psalm 56:11 — In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me.
Hebrews 13:6 — So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Most of the time, when we fear that others are thinking or speaking negatively of us, they are not. It is all in our own imaginations. Think about it: do you spend all that much time obsessing over what other people say or do? Most of us don’t ponder the actions and words of those we come in contact with, to any great degree.
There are times, however, when even good Christian people do criticize or try to intimidate us. What then? We do not have to submit to what they say or do. They are often unwitting agents in the devil’s plot to hinder our ability to move forward in what God has for us. We must firmly resist the temptation to be intimidated by the tactics of others who are not behaving rightly. They are responsible for their actions, and we are equally responsible for our response to them.
The fear of man often begins very subtly as negative imaginations centered around how we think others perceive us. As we indulge such imaginations, the evil one begins to get a foothold in our thinking, and pretty soon we find ourselves developing a pattern of worry over how others view us that is difficult to break. The imaginations come around more and more often. We start to focus on the body language and voice inflections of the people we are afraid of, and begin to read things into them that may not even be there. We eventually respond outwardly in a negative fashion toward those we fear, whether it is open hostility or simple avoidance of them. As the fear of man progresses, it tends to affect all our relationships. We expect to be rejected by others, and begin to exhibit that fear of rejection to a widening circle of our acquaintance. It hinders us from living the emotionally healthy lifestyle that is our inheritance as children of God. It becomes a stumbling block to us being effective and productive in God’s kingdom.
How do we get free of the fear of man? The first step is recognizing the problem. Once we face what is really going on, we repent of allowing it to have a place in us. Repentance means we ask God’s forgiveness for indulging the sin of the fear of man, and we renounce it (put it away from us, with the decision to not give it a place anymore) verbally. Because for many of us the recognition comes after the devil already has gotten a hold on us, the next step is receiving deliverance. This does not necessarily mean we must go through formal deliverance ministry from other Christians, but if you find that the steps I mention in the following paragraphs are not entirely taking care of the problem, by all means call in fellow believers whom you trust for support and reinforcement. This may mean that you ask them to add their faith and prayers, with the laying on of hands, to your own.
Deliverance is part of the salvation package that Jesus won for us on Calvary, and we can receive it simply by calling upon Jesus for it. If you look at the original Hebrew and Greek words that our English Bible translates “salvation,” you will find that salvation also encompasses healing and deliverance. Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 both say, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” These are quotations from Joel 2:32, which tells us, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” (KJV) Romans 11:26 refers to Jesus as The Deliverer. Your deliverance is just as surely provided for in Jesus’ atonement as your salvation from hell. There is no question about it in Jesus’ mind. Call upon Jesus to deliver you from the fear of man. It is as simple as that. Ask Him to do it and believe He does it as you ask. You need not worry or wonder whether your deliverance is complete.
After repenting and receiving Jesus’ deliverance from any footholds the enemy may have gotten, there is one more crucial step that we must take in order to obtain our full freedom. Yes, the deliverance is complete, but we must cooperate with that deliverance by changing our thought patterns. This is the step that Christians often fail to accomplish. The mind must be disciplined to come into a new way of thinking. In one sense, we need the Holy Spirit’s help with this, but in another sense it is up to us. We ask the Lord to transform and renew our thinking (Romans 12:2), but we are responsible to do our part in forming the new habit of thought. Old habits are hard to break; we must work at it. If we notice the old way of thinking entering our mind, we immediately rebuke those thoughts, and refuse to indulge them. This step takes a little time, but it is absolutely essential, if we are going to come into a full victory. Many times Christians think Jesus did not deliver them from their problems when they asked Him to, and they keep running from one deliverance ministry to another, hoping that this time it will stick. The truth is, Jesus did deliver them, but they failed to do their part in disciplining their thoughts and actions from that point on.
So far, we’ve described the process of getting free of the fear of man, but how do we stay free? Always, the antidote to the fear of man is trusting the Lord and having a godly reverence for Him. When we trust Him, there is no opening for fear of any kind to enter, or reenter. Psalm 57 tells the story of David’s own battle with man-fear, and how he dealt with it. He remembered that it was “God who performs all things for me” (v.2), and that he must fix his heart on God and deliberately praise Him (v.7).
May you take hold of your freedom today. Jesus wants you to know the joy of trusting the Lord to perform all things for you, and of moving forward into your God-given destiny with all the fear-chains completely gone from your life.
© 2007 by Lee Ann Rubsam. All rights reserved.