The fear-driven life is self-centered. It doesn’t see the union we have in Christ, and therefore the perfect security we have in God. It sees only what it stands to lose—not what it has already gained!
Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible is?
It’s not “love one another.” It’s not “love God.” It’s not “do unto others” or “be ye holy.
The most frequent command in all of Scripture is some variation of this: “Don’t be afraid.”
This ought to tell us something about the kind of world we live in. But it also ought to tell us something about the kind of life God calls his children into.
The early days of faith may be awash in wonder, full of energy and wide-eyed boldness. But then days go by, and the walk begins to feel more normal, more mundane. The things of earth grow strangely bright. We hear competing messages, the noise of the world, the noise of our accuser, the noise of our internal anxieties, and insecurities begin to challenge the still, small voice of God. The things of God become less comfortable than the routine of daily life. The vision of God’s promise, which drove our faith so strongly in the beginning, begins to wane, perhaps seem less compelling, less immediately gratifying than the promises of the things around us. And as the fulfillment of the promise seems to delay day by day, so the opportunities for doubt and discouragement seem to grow.
And the truth is: there is always something to be afraid of. If you have trouble finding something, just turn on cable news—they will help you.
And this is why you can hardly go anywhere in the Bible without bumping into the words “Don’t be afraid.”
In Genesis 12:10-20 it’s possible this “ordinary life” dynamic settled in with Abram. Called by God out of his pagan world and culture, to leave everything he’d ever known and to embark on a mysterious journey with the one true God, he had a high passion, high commitment in the beginning. And when we get to Genesis 12, his trek has accumulated so far 800 miles. He’s put months into this thing. All along God is saying “I’m gonna give you this” and “I’m gonna give you that”…but not yet.
You can bet that over time, for Abram, the temptation to boredom with the promise grew.
And I will tell you: the more bored you are with the things of God, the more vulnerable you will be when difficulty comes.
And difficulty came for Abram.
You will notice there is a famine in the land (v.10) and Abram makes the logical choice to take his family to Egypt, because there’s food there. But the wheels of fear are already turning for Abram. They are going to Egypt because they’re afraid of starving to death, but once he starts in with the fear, it seems he can’t stop.
When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”
We have to say, first, that Abram is not being completely irrational. There is a logic to his fear. Just like there is a logic to inside all of our fear, right? Fear can be often very irrational but most of us when we are afraid have very rational reasons why.
It’s likely that most of the things we’re afraid of are real things. Real stresses, real problems, real circumstances, real possibilities. But it’s what you do with the reasoning that makes all the difference.
What does Abram do? He starts running the numbers. Egypt + Beautiful wife = Trouble. He starts playing the angles. And there is zero evidence here that his faith in the God who has called him plays into his thinking at all. He is being driven by fear. Not just informed by it, but motivated by it. And when you are driven by fear, faith takes a back seat:
1. The fear-driven life is faithless.
There is a good kind of cautiousness, the sort of wisdom that doesn’t jump in to every situation or make rash decisions. And then there’s the kind of cautiousness that has more to do with managing our own disobedience. “How disobedient can I be and still get away with what I want?’ And this comes when the vision of the things around us is greater than the vision of him who has called us. The less Godward you are looking, the more afraid you will be.
Ramon Presson writes:
The most repeated command in Scripture is “fear not.” It appears 365 times—one for each day of the year—and is usually followed by “for I am with you.” God would have us understand that factoring in his presence always changes the equation.
It seems like for Abram, God’s presence did not factor into the equation. He looked at the circumstances: famine, Egypt, beautiful wife, dangerous people. And he did not look at God. And so his perspective was skewed.
This is us when it comes to fear. We let fear drive our life when we start believing that greater is that which is in the world than he who is in us.
2. The fear-driven life is self-centered.
Look again at Genesis 12:13:
“Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”
What is Abram’s motivation?