by Robert Dean
Series:2nd John (2002)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 31 secs

Distractions to the Spiritual Life; Worry


  1. Distraction is always the result of arrogance. Arrogance is putting its emphasis on self. Remember, there are four arrogance skills: a) Self-absorption, where we begin to put our eyes on self. Once we begin to focus on self and whatever we want, then the next step is that we begin to get into our desires, whatever it is that we are absorbed with, and this leads to b) self-indulgence; c) self-justification—we need to justify our self-absorption and self-indulgence. Self-justification leads to d) self-deception, where we have generated our own view of reality, our own view of the world that revolves around our own impressions of life and whatever impresses us about life. So all distractions begin with self-absorption with our eyes on self rather than our eyes on God, and as soon as our eyes start to focus on self and self-absorption then we become the centre of life rather than God as the creator.
  2. When we are arrogant and self-absorbed we become more concerned with what impresses us than what impresses God. We become more impressed with what stimulates us than with the Word of God. We become impressed with our own emotional stimulation and achieving that emotional stimulation becomes more important than doctrine. Others become more impressed with pleasures than they are with doctrine. Others become more impressed with psychological stimulation than they are with doctrine.
  3. Whenever there is an emphasis on self that is the gateway into worldly thinking. The Scripture says that we are to do away with worldly thinking and we are to be conformed to the thinking of Christ. When we get into worldly thinking it always leads to fragmentation of the soul. Any system that is not based on the Word of God is ultimately going to lead to failure in life and misery.
  4. Human viewpoint or the cosmic system always has a substitute saviour, a substitute Messiah or Redeemer—something, someone, is going to provide that real happiness and stimulation.
  5. The cosmic system, human viewpoint, always starts with a shift to arrogance and reliance upon self.


The problem of emotion as a distraction to doctrine

The problem with emotion is when we get into emotional sins such as fear and worry and anxiety. Problems with these mental attitude sins have their roots, as with many other mental attitude sins, in the idea that somehow we can control that which seems to be threatening our security. That is one of the greatest of deceptions of arrogance: the idea that we can control our security. Our security is totally in the hands of God. He is the one who has numbered the hairs on our head. He has already from eternity past determined the time, the manner, and the place of our death. There is nothing that we can do to alter that, it has been determined before hand in the counsel of God. There are many things in life where our volition has an impact. Our volition can determine whether we are happy or whether we are miserable, whether we will spend eternity in heaven or not. Our volition is going to determine what we do with the spiritual life that God has given us. There are many things in life where our volition is going to play a part, but our volition has nothing to do with the time, the manner, and the place of our death.

The doctrine of fear

1.  Fear is used two different ways in the Bible. The first is to describe a mental attitude sin that is characterised by anxiety, worry, panic. It is aroused by either real or perceived dangers. In this case sometimes our imagination is our worst enemy. It is aroused by impending crisis, disaster, or the fear of approaching evil. It is related to apprehension, consternation or dread. Fear and all other mental attitude sins are a sign that we are converting the outside pressures of adversity into the inside pressure of stress in the soul. Remember that adversity is inevitable but stress is optional. Fear is related to emotionalism; what happens when we let our emotions run away with us rather than thinking rationally and coherently on the basis of Bible doctrine. When fear takes over we become an easy prey to irrationalism and to false thinking. The other side of fear, the way it is used in the Scripture, is in terms of reverence, respect or awe. For example, in 1 Peter 2:17 NASB "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." Here it a sense of respect, honour or obedience, to understand the authority relationship with God and to obey Him. Deuteronomy 17:19 NASB "It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes." Leviticus 25:17 NASB "So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God." Psalm 11:10 NASB "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do {His commandments;} His praise endures forever." Proverbs 1:17 NASB "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction."

2.  What gives rise to fear in the life of the believer is a neglect of Bible doctrine. In the spiritual life we go through three different stages. The first is spiritual childhood. One of the things that characterises spiritual childhood is spiritual curiosity. We are loaded with questions. We want to know about truth and we want to know how to live. But as we begin to grow up spiritually our questions become answered. We are motivated during those early years of childhood by that spiritual curiosity—we want to learn; but as our questions are answered that motivation to learn begins to be diminished because our questions are answered. We aren't as interested, not as enthusiastic now that we know the answer to those questions. So we come to church not so much to learn but our motivation now begins to shift. As we reach spiritual adolescence our focus will shift on those eternal realities—realising that to day we are living in light of eternity—and this is where we begin to develop that personal sense of our eternal destiny. We begin to realise that the decisions we make today are going to count for eternity. So the motive now shifts to who and what we are going to be in eternity. But something else is happening. We are no longer there to have our questions answered, we are now going to be primarily reminded of what God has done for us. We are reminded again and again and again of the spiritual principles, the promises of God, the procedures of God, so that we don't become complacent and begin to revert our process. Then we get into spiritual maturity, and as we go into spiritual maturity the focus is that we are no longer so self-absorbed but we begin to develop our personal love for God. We begin to learn what it means to love other believers as Christ loved the church in terms of what we call impersonal love for all mankind and impersonal love for all believers. We call it impersonal because it doesn't demand a personal relationship. Then we are to become occupied with Christ. He is our focus and He is the author and finisher of our faith; we are to keep our focus on Him. The result of this is that we will share the happiness of God. We need the reminder of what God has done for us day in and day out because the natural drift of the sin nature is for self-absorption and towards anxiety, fear and other mental attitude sins. The drift is always towards self-absorption and it is only the teaching of the Word that begins to reorient our thinking and pull us back to reality, to stabilise us in the midst of those crises and difficulties of life. It is always the neglect of doctrine that leads to the failure to realise that security comes only from God. It is that principle, the failure to realise that security comes from God, that is the root of all fear. Mark 4:37 NASB "And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. [38] Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?' [39] And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. [40] And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?'" This is one of those miracles that demonstrates not His reliance on God the Holy Spirit to solve the problem but where He is demonstrating His own power as the creator God who sustains the universe, who is the one whom we can rely on in the midst of our crises. The disciples were typical of believers when they are in carnality. They hit some crisis, some difficulty, something that upsets them, and they start blaming God for the circumstances—Don't you care about me, God? Why did you let this happen to me? This is typical of the believer who is not operating on doctrine. Jesus here instantly juxtaposes fear with a lack of doctrine. Fear is a lack of doctrine. It is not simply a lack of trusting but not trusting what we know. Faith has the idea of not only the act of trusting, the act of reliance, but it also refers to the content of faith. It is the neglect of doctrine and the failure to realise that security comes only from God that is the root of all fear.    

3.  Fear is a failure to think under pressure. It is the realisation that our own attempts to provide security are absolutely fruitless and therefore we go into irrational anxiety and emotional sin. Fear is the basic emotional sin that is produced by arrogance. Once we become self-absorbed and arrogant the first sin that is produced is fear. Genesis 3:8 NASB "They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. [9] Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?' [10] He said, 'I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself'." The first emotional reaction after Adam had fallen as a sinner because of his arrogance is fear. Fear is the root emotional sin. So sin is a failure to think under pressure, it is a panic reaction because we realise we can't control the details of life or the negative circumstances surrounding us, and so we begin to think on the basis of emotion and become irrational, and the results of that are always fragmentation. 

4.  For the believer fear begins with a failure to learn and apply doctrine. Once a believer is out of fellowship then fear begins to fragment the soul. Once we quit relying upon God we begin to operate on the sin nature and fear of the first product of that, and remember that fear cannot coexist with the operation of the Holy Spirit in our life. We are either walking by means of the Spirit or we are walking by means of the flesh, which is the sin nature. With doctrine we can say that the battle is the Lord's but with fear we cower in uncertainty and we focus on the circumstances rather than the God who controls the circumstances. People who operate on fear are intimidated by life and the circumstances of life, and they let the circumstances enslave them. The believer who lives in a state of fear lives with an emotional cancer that eats away at his soul. Fear in turn eliminates motivation from personal love for God and eliminates a personal sense of our eternal destiny. As we succumb to worry, anxiety and guilt we begin to reverse course in the spiritual life. Faith and fear cannot coexist at the same time. Principle: Fear of anything will never prevent the anticipated disaster.

5.  The absence of fear is rooted in an understanding of God's love and the motivation that that provides for our spiritual life.

6.  God's love provides us with all the security that we need. Failure to abide in fellowship is a rejection of God's provision and a rejection of the security that only God can provide. Fear, worry and anxiety are key signs that our confidence is not in God but in man.

7.  The snowballing principle appears. The more things we surrender to fear, the more things we will fear. The extent to which we surrender to fear the greater will be our capacity for fear. The extent to which we surrender to fear the greater will be our capacity to fear. The greater our capacity for fear the more we increase the power of fear in our lives. The more that fear increases in power in our lives the more we will be controlled by fear and the less we will want to do. So that the more we increase the power of fear in our lives the greater our mindset as a failure as a believer and the greater our chances as a failure as a believer. Fear is a sign that we have put an abnormal emphasis on self. When we indulge our emotions rather than focus on doctrine we will always end up in mental attitude sins.

8.  A nation that operates on fear destroys itself from the inside. A financial panic can cause an economic collapse. A military panic can cause a military disaster. When people make decisions based on fear they will fail to fly when they travel. As a result of that the airline industry will begin to collapse. Related industries—motel, restaurant, etc—also begin to collapse, so there is a downward spiral to economic failure. Because people are afraid and they refuse to travel they can destroy the economy of a nation, all because doctrine is no longer in the nation and people will no longer trust God. They try to trust in circumstances and the result is fear, worry and anxiety. The solution to fear, then, is to trust God and to know His promises. Psalm 27:1, 3 NASB "The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? …. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In {spite of} this I shall be confident."