Question: "Faith vs. fear - what does the Bible say?"
Answer: Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being "certain of what we do not see." It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and faithfulness is described as a fruit (or characteristic) that is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). The Christian's faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts, and who cares about our deepest needs. That faith continues to grow as we study the Bible and learn the attributes of His amazing character. The more we learn about God, the more we can see Him working in our lives and the stronger our faith grows.
A growing faith is what we desire to have and what God desires to produce in us. But how, in day-to-day life, can we develop a faith that conquers our fears? The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The careful study of God's Word is of primary importance in developing a strong faith. God wants us to know Him and completely rely on His direction in our lives. It's through the hearing, reading, and meditation in the Scriptures that we begin to experience a strong, confident faith that excludes worry and fear. Spending time in prayer and quiet worship develops a relationship with our heavenly Father that sees us through even the darkest of nights. In the Psalms we see a picture of David, who, like us, experienced times of fear. Psalm 56:3 reveals his faith with these words: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." Psalm 119 is filled with verses expressing the way in which David treasured God's Word: "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands" (verse 10); "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways" (verse 15); "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (verse 11). These are revealing words which speak wisdom to us today.
God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God's most effective tool to develop a strong faith. That pattern is evident in Scripture. God takes each one of us through fearful situations, and, as we learn to obey God's Word and allow it to saturate our thoughts, we find each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith. It gives us that ability to say, "He sustained me in the past, He'll carry me through today and He'll uphold me in the future!" God worked this way in David's life. When David volunteered to fight against Goliath, he said, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). David knew the God who had sustained him through dangerous situations in the past. He had seen and experienced God's power and protection in his life, and this developed within him a fearless faith.
The Word of God is rich with promises for us to take hold of and claim for ourselves. When we face financial trouble, Philippians 4:19 tells us, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." If we are anxious about a future decision, Psalm 32:8 reminds us that God will "instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." In sickness we can remember that Romans 5:3–5 says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." If someone turns against us, we can be comforted by the words in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us who can be against us!" Throughout life we will continue to face various trials that would cause us fear, but God assures us that we can know a calm peace through every situation: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).