Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
—1 John 4:17-18
When these verses speak about fear being a consequence of someone not being perfected in love, it is not saying that we must perform well enough to make our love perfect toward God. It speaks of a spiritually developed understanding of God’s perfect love toward us. When this understanding becomes a part of who we are, fear has a hard time tormenting us.
Spiritual maturity comes through an intimate relationship with God. He knows us intimately and wants to give us His wisdom for everything. We need His wisdom to deal with all life's issues, especially how to deal with fear. We mature in our confidence in God’s love for us when we spend time with Him and allow Him to reveal who He is and who we are in His Word.
Every Christian—no matter their maturity level—will deal with fear trying to gain access to their mind. And fear is a good indicator of our spiritual maturity. If we deal with fear by refusing to entertain the least negative thought, we can keep that thought from developing a bad image in our minds. But if we respond in the least little way to the enemy’s suggestion of something to fear, we open the door for him to feast on our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. He has an invitation to come on in and break us down.
Anxiety, worry, and stress all create fear. It is easy to feel that being overwhelmed is something we must endure. The enemy has an evil scheme using people, the world’s news, disease, and any lie to destroy us. Before we give him permission to paint his lying images inside our minds, we need to look at what is a lie and what is our imagination. When it comes to fear, the line between the lies of the enemy and our imagination can become hazy.
Everything that comes from the devil is a lie. He was a liar in the beginning and will remain a liar to the end. But the more we respond to his deception, the more he works to create bad images in our minds. If he can make us paint a bad picture of our future, we have given him permission to wreak havoc. When we entertain his first deceptive lie, then our imagination has our permission to run with it.
What if I don’t have enough money, I will…
What if the doctor says I have cancer, I will…
What if this turns out to be true, I will…
The “what ifs” of the enemy invite our imagination to run away with all kinds of negative scenarios. When you allow these “what ifs,” your imagination finishes the rest. The devil needs your imagination to keep you in a fear-induced state to steal, kill, and destroy you. A negative image in your mind personalizes a deceptive thought you have entertained. You have made that deceptive thought yours and placed it into your future reality. When you share your fear with others, the devil sees you have taken his bait. He continues to paint even more pictures of a fearful future. There is no peace in bad images painted on the inside of your heart. There is only torment. The Lord invites us into an intimate relationship with Him to know His peace.
God’s love was perfected for us in Jesus. There is no fear in the perfect love of God for you. Jesus told His disciples that in Him they might have peace. This peace is for us, too. God’s love is filled with His purpose, and His purpose for us is good. Our position in Jesus Christ is the birthing place of a positive imagination where we can paint an image of God’s plans, peace, and love into our future. A healthy relationship with God promotes a healthy imagination to see His promises as the reality in your heart.
I want to continually mature in understanding God’s love for me. I don’t want to be swayed by negative thoughts that paint the worst image of my future. I praise God for His daily invitations to be with Him and learn of Him. As I spend more and more time with Him, I am in awe of how much He loves me. I pray that He will help me discern any lying thought that tries to steal my peace and joy. I want more than anything in my life to have a healthy relationship with Him that paints His promises on the inside of my heart.