Today is Monday, November 14, 2011. On this same Monday in 1988, exactly 23 years ago, I was fired from my job.
In my previous post I described how, for many months that followed, I was tormented by fear and by panic attacks. All of that took place before I know about the spiritual basis of fear.
If that was the “Before” part, it seems natural to call this the “After” part. What I am about to relate is a real-life example of how knowing and applying passages from the Word of God allowed me to live in peace, just as God meant for us to live.
As I was saying at the end of the last part, my software business (PC Data Systems, Inc.) had all but vanished in the fall of 2001. But I trusted that God was in control, and had a plan.
Early in the morning of December 12, 2001, I had an experience that I can only describe as a message or a calling from God. If this ever happens to you, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I just knew it was God, and it seemed He wanted me to write. I felt called to be a Christian writer.
In January of 2002, God revealed why he had taken away my business
In a “Focus On The Family” broadcast, the guest was Dr. Bruce Wilkinson. His book, “The Prayer of Jabez” had made his name known to Bible Christians. Now he had a new book, “Secrets of the Vine”. The new book showed how Jesus’ teaching in the vineyard applies to our lives:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
It was that part about how the Vinedresser prunes the branches that arrested my attention. Wilkinson explained that sometimes God will “prune” away from us things He knows we can do without, and thus free us to do work for Him.
I slapped my hand on the kitchen counter and shouted, “That’s it! That’s why God allowed my business to go away!” He was making room in my life for the work He had called me to do.
So I began writing, and reading prolifically everything I could about how to apply the Word of God into my life. One of the early applications I found was from the great Apostle Paul. In one of his letters to his young pastor friend, Timothy, Paul wrote something that lifted me up from the bondage of fear. Here it is:
The “scripture card” image below contains one of the most important pieces of information I have ever learned. I share it with you trusting that you will find it as useful as I did.
What is fear, and where does it come from?
In that passage from one of his letters, Paul wrote about a “spirit of fear”.
A “spirit” of fear!
That bit of knowledge was an eye-opening revelation to me! It taught me that fear is not just a physiological response to circumstances. Yes, sometimes it is. That’s why God built a “fight-or-flight” mechanism into our bodies. We get a shot of adrenaline when faced with real danger, to strengthen us just in the moment we need it.
But Satan and his demons, as they always do, take the good things that God has given us and use them against us. Thus, more often than not, the fear we are feeling comes from demons in the spiritual realm. It’s their favorite weapon to use against humans.
Now, here’s how I used this to my advantage.
In the fall of 2003, our son Jeff was in his final year of art college. In the tradition of starving artists everywhere, he couldn’t afford to hire a model. Instead, Jeff asked me to pose for him. I agreed, and asked if I could pose holding my Bible.
As we composed the scene, I chose to open my Bible to Isaiah 43. My initial plan was to spend the posing-time segments””when I had to sit perfectly still””memorizing Scripture. The bottom of the right-hand page contained this passage:
43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
I knew phrases such as “pass through the waters” and “walk through fire” were poetic references to suffering. God doesn’t promise a trouble-free life. Sometimes we get soaked; sometimes we get singed. What’s important is knowing that God is with us through it all.
My initial intention was to learn new verses each time. Yet, session after session, I found myself wanting to see””needing to see””those reassuring promises from Isaiah: “…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… when you walk through fire you shall not be burned”. Little did I know just how important those promises would be.
“Stand therefore… take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”
The “after” part of the story took place a few months after the portrait was done. In the wee hours of a warm summer night, I found myself half-awake.Suddenly, as though being rushed by a wicked intruder, I felt the all-too-familiar wave of panic beginning to rise within me.
Ah, but this time I knew what to do. I knew the source of the fear, and I was equipped with the Truth.
Not wishing to wake Joanne, I rose to my feet and said softly, “Lord, I know you’re right here with me.” Then I began to recite God’s Words:
When you pass through the waters I will be with you… when you walk through fire you will not be burned.” (Isaiah 43:2
As I spoke those Words softly into the darkness of the bedroom, the rush of fear and panic subsided instantly.
In a moment it was over. The feeling of impending doom was gone! Do you know why? Because to do battle with satan is to do battle with a bully, and that’s how bullies respond. When confronted with greater strength (in this case, the power of God’s Word), they run!
“It Is Written…”
In so doing, Jesus gave us a model to follow. I’ve used it countless times.
You’ll note that my circumstances had not changed. I still had the same problems as before. But because I turned to Him in faith, God honored His promise of protection by preventing Satan from tying me in knots of fear. You know how God says in Malachai 3:11, “…I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.” That promise comes right after He challenges us to put Him to the test by honoring Him with our finances. Well, here is a real-life instance of God keeping His Word!
Train For Battle Before The Battle Begins
The other crucial part of the process was the fact that I had pre-decided what I would do when facing fear. That’s how the victory is actually won. Like a soldier in battle, you have to know ahead of time what you will do. I knew that fear and panic are really battles against satan. So, following Jesus’ model in Matthew 4 (“It is written…”), I had rehearsed in my mind over and over my plan to attack Satan’s lies with the Truth of God’s Word.
A week or two later, a devil took another run at me as I slept. I dreamed I was lying awake in bed, in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. In my dream, the bed was shaking so hard it woke Joanne. She asked what was happening, and why the bed was shaking. I told her a devil was trying to overwhelm me with panic. Then-still in the dream-I said to Joanne with just a bit of a smile, “Watch this!”
Once again I quoted God’s promise from Isaiah 43:
When you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you walk through fire…” (Isaiah 43:2)
Suddenly, I was awake. The dreaded feeling was totally gone! I nearly burst out laughing in the middle of the night as I realized how God had just come through for me again!
The next morning, I related my dream to Joanne.
“You have,” she observed, “hard-wired yourself so completely that Satan can’t even get to you in your sleep!”
Do you see why I like to encourage people to do Scripture memory? That’s how you get victory over demons. Look at these Words regarding Satan from the lips of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:
There is no truth in him… he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44)
To deal with Satan is to deal with lies. When the lie Satan places in your mind says””as it did in my case””“ You’re all alone in this, and you’re going to lose everything”, don’t panic. Instead, rest in the comfort of God’s promises: “I’ll be with you even in this time of trouble. As you persevere and put your trust in Me I’ll bring you through it. In the process, your faith will grow stronger.” (That’s not a quote, but it’s a paraphrase of what God will do for us, when we release our problems to Him.)
Now, I’ve read the Barna polls, and I know that about 2/3 of Americans do not believe that Satan and his demons are real. This, despite the fact that there are 250 references to demons, by various names, in the New Testament.
But to deny the existence of demons is to call Jesus a liar. Stated simply: If you deny the existence of Satan or his ability to attack you, he has you!! You’re playing right into his hands.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus also said,
If you remain in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Peace and freedom are yours WHEN you know God’s Word. And so now you can see where I got the title for this story from:
What was I doing when I quoted the Bible and banished the devil? I was keeping my mind on God, not on my problems. I was preaching the Gospel to myself.
Remember that old saying: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”? That’s a lie! (Satan probably started that.) The truth is: “What you don’t know can never help you.” In my case, once I did the work of knowing, and began acting upon that knowledge, God did the part I could not possibly do.
God meant for us to use His Book. He loaded it with word pictures showing how He relates to us and how to live in harmony with Him. It’s packed with truths and principles that He gave us. Those truths are our weapons against an adversary who knows we’re defenseless without them.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God…”
The transformation process I’ve just described was not instantaneous. Like forming any new habit, it took time for God to burn His Truths into the creases of my brain. All I can honestly tell you is that I’ve lived by the principles of God’s Word for years. And, despite current circumstances that would drive many to panic, I live in complete freedom from fear.
I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future!
“Portrait Of My Father” by Jeffrey Smith