This is my story about how God walked me out of fear. All fear. Into a peace I never thought existed. I never thought could exist. I guess I had always heard about it, read about it – this ‘peace that passes all understanding' – but I thought I was already experiencing it. Boy was I wrong.
Here is that story.
I grew up in a family unknowingly seeped in fear. I felt fear (butterfly's in the stomach) at a very early age. Instead of ignoring them and pushing through, I was actually coached to give into them. And so I did. More and more. For a good 26 years.
As a very small child nothing phased me, I loved to have fun, act crazy and didn't know a stranger. But through hurts and my willing submission, slowly fear crept in and took over. I can remember times when just the teacher announcing to the class that we were gonna do an oral book report made my heart pound so hard in my chest it felt like it could explode.
Instead of facing my fears, I learned to run and run.. oh, and run. So by age 26 (when I got born again) I was more than bound. I was caught in this constant tug-of-war between my calling (which required me to be up on a stage) and my fear (which made me want to run far, far from that).
But the desire to perform and create music was so strong, that even intense fear couldn't keep me off stage. However it did hinder me severely. I could barely sleep the night before. I would get a knotted stomach and not be able to eat for hours if not days before a show. My hands would get shaky, cold, sweaty and stiff, not very contusive to playing any instrument much less guitar. Of course along came the butterflys. But worst of all, my mind would race. I couldn't control it, it would focus one second and then be off on a tangent the next. Instead of just playing the song, thinking about the next riff and having fun, my mind would suddenly jump and worry about messing up or what people were thinking. Every performance - even if only a simple three minute song - turned into an intense, raging internal battle.
That's why, when I got born again, this became my number one fight. I took Joshua 1:9 as my life verse and made up my mind, that with Jesus' help, if I only ever got free of one thing – it would be fear.
Thank God, He's done so, so much more than that. He totally freed me from fear in under five years. But at the time, it was such a huge hurdle and I was so unfamiliar with the Kingdom that it felt like it could be a life-long battle. And I was ready to take it.
After making that decision I felt lead to memorize Joshua 1:9 and then to repeat it out loud over and over. I usually did this in the car and especially any time I felt fear rise up or was specifically on my way to a gig.
I admit, the first time I did this it felt totally crazy. This was way outside my box and my comfort level. Even with no one else there and in the confines of my car doing 70 down the Texas highway I almost felt embarrassed. But I was so sick and tired of fear and being bound by it, that I was willing to do anything.
That first car ride was about twenty minutes long. I quoted Joshua 1:9 out loud the entire time. Funny how you begin to see brand new things in a two sentence verse just by quoting it out loud, over and over. Then it hit, at about 10 minutes in, I felt this weird burning sensation rise out of my gut and into my heart. It totally freaked me out.
I know now, that it was just the Holy Spirit. But that was the first time I ever felt the Holy Spirit while I was intentionally doing something spiritual. Looking back, this was probably the half-a-dozenth-or-so time I had felt the HS in my entire 26 years of life, but it was definitely the first time I actually cognatively, intentionally recognized it. I had absolutely no bearing for this what-so-ever.
But I kept going (quoting that is). The burning or ‘fiery' sensation lasted maybe a minute or two and then faded. I kept quoting the rest of the drive.
It's funny how satan will play with your head. After I felt that fire, and I really felt it, I still had to battle all these thoughts, ‘maybe I really didn't feel anything' , ‘maybe I made it up'. But I knew I had felt something. It had lasted just long enough and it was such a unique and foreign feeling that I knew I didn't just make it up.
In reality, in the spirit world, what was happing was the Holy Spirit was taking some of that territory back in my heart which fear had been holding on to. Of course, I didn't have a clue. I just knew I felt some weird burning.
I didn't know much, but I did realize that I was onto something. Never in my 18 years of prior church experience had I felt anything like that. So about a week later, when the next gig rolled around, I did it again. This time I felt the burning only for a few seconds. Maybe 10 tops. And was less intense. But now I was certain I wasn't making things up.
I continued to do this before and after each gig for the next four gigs. And while I never really felt the burning sensations again - over the following six week time period - a shift took place. I could now eat right up to gig time. I could sleep peacefully and totally the night before. My hands were much less shaky and/or cold. My thoughts were much more focused.
I continued to quote Joshua 1:9 before each gig (and any time I felt fear rise up in my heart), and I just watched as the fruits of fear continued to simply melt away. Becoming less and less each successive gig.
Then I had a dream. Fear showed up in my dream and placed one hand on my chest and one on my back and started squeezing the air out of me. To kill me. Only by God's grace did I react correctly. I looked up and just laughed. And with my last ounce of breath told him to ‘go in the name of Jesus'. He held on for a split second after that and then let up and left.
I had won! Or so I thought.
If I had known then what I know now. I would have not stopped with Joshua 1:9, I would have continued filling my heart up with other scriptures as well. I would have kicked out the entire root of fear and not been satisfied with destroying only it's outward fruits. But I was clueless.
Matt 12:45-45 says that when an unclean spirit is kicked out of a man, it will eventually return. And when it returns, if it finds the house (the man's heart) clean and in order but still empty. ie - not filled with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. He will go get seven other spirits more wicked then himself and come back to take over.
In a sense, this is what started happening to me. Because I only knew Joshua 1:9 and had not continued to fill my heart with any other scriptures. And because I didn't yet know how to let Jesus fight my battles for me. After about a year, fear started coming back and coming back stronger.
It started in Costa Rica. We took a vacation down to my Father-In-Law, Tom's, jungle beach house. It was really fun, relaxing and fairly ‘uneventful', until one midnight about half way through the week.
I woke up and fear was all over me. It felt like fear was standing in the corner of the bedroom. I rebuked it instantly and loudly.. probably spouting some tongues as well. Kristy was instantly awake and flew into some tongues of her own, a gift she didn't have (or didn't think she had) one second earlier. (We still laugh about that to this day.)
It probably didn't help that prior to the trip I had heard a couple stories about increased spiritual activity in other countries. But the subconscious seed had been planted and satan jumped all over it. Fear came. I rebuked, but it never left. I rebuked again and again. Still nothing. I'm pretty sure I freaked out her folks, as I was really loud and the walls were paper thin. But they never brought it up, so I let it slide too.
I finally just had to shift my mind to positive things and go back to sleep. It never left. For the remaining three nights we were there, I just never rolled over or opened my eyes. But the door to my heart was cracked again. This time to both an external and internal fear.
But that wasn't really what got me.
A month or so later, back in the ‘safety' of home, I woke up in the middle of the night. It felt like a literal hand on my shoulder that nudged me awake. I rolled over (facing away from my wife, who I assumed was sleeping beside me) and looked up toward the bathroom door. Instantly someone walked out toward me. It was Kristy, but I currently thought she was still in bed with me. Costa Rica still fresh in my mind, I jumped back and spouted out some tongues. (Totally freaking us both out!)
We had a good laugh about it. But the door to my heart was now wide open. As soon as I walked into that bathroom about five minutes later for a quick late night pee, fear exploded onto and into me. The only way I can explain it was like literally jumping into ice cold water. You can't catch your breath, everything feels cold and your heart goes crazy. I had never felt fear like that before. Fear was back and had stepped it's game up significantly.
That sparked a full-on, year long battle. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about spiritual warfare. I only knew what all the sermons I listened to said. That I was more than a conqueror, an over comer, etc. So I did the dumbest thing I could ever do, I began to take on fear myself. In an identity that I was only told about by others. Not an identity that was realized in me personally.
It became this continual back and forth. I would step it up, fear would step it up. I would step it up, fear would step it up. For example, I began to soak daily. (Soaking is where you put on some praise music and just hang out with and listen to God. Let his presence fill you). Then gossip and open rejection towards me started increasing and flying at work. So I began to soak twice a day (before and after work). Then satan started waking me up at night – thoughts racing through my brain. So God showed me to start sleeping with my Bible under my pillow. (fyi – that alone did solve about 75% of the restless nights). Then satan started attacking me before gigs again. So I created a worship CD to play on the way. Then it was also on the way to work. So I created a ‘Gospill' CD (an idea I got from Andrew Wommack) of me quoting scriptures over music to listen to on the way.
All these things helped, but it was still a weekly, sometimes a daily battle. I would add something to the mix and would get several weeks of freedom. Then satan would step up his game. It was back and forth for at least a good year.
Finally, as I pressed in and God lead, I began to stumble into the real solution. I was still waking up with random unstoppable thoughts (worry) about 2 or 3 nights a week (down from 7). So God gave me the idea to memorize Psalm 91. Up until this time I had simply been quoting my Joshua 1:9 verse, but it was too short and wasn't working any more. Psalm 91 was perfect and long. I memorized it on the way to work, by rewinding and replaying my Gospill CD over and over. It was golden. It was so long, the nights I would wake up I only had to quote through it once or twice before I was soundly back asleep.
But what God had me actually doing, inadvertently, was beginning to spiritually fill up my heart on the word. Now I not only had Joshua 1:9, but I had the 16 verses and all the promises of Psalm 91 as well. There was less and less room for fear in my heart and mind. I didn't have a clue, but I was crowding it out.
As I continued to memorize more scriptures, God also began giving me mental pictures to focus on. Snip it's from movies that showed no fear, no self-regard, only selfless love and or faith in the mist of battle. Or pictures of Him. To shift my thinking and my heart. It was kinda like God porn.
During this time of memorizing Psalm 91 God gave me two dreams, two experiences, that taught me the secrets to spiritual warfare.
In the first dream I was talking with two friends about Jesus. Having a good discussion. Then I became aware of myself, that I was dreaming. As soon as I had that awareness the two friends turned into demons. One was fear, and I believe the other was self-pity.
Instantly I confronted them and commanded them gone in Jesus' name. And they froze, but they never left. Instead fear began flipping faces, trying to find one that scared me. It didn't work and I woke up.
I asked God what that was all about. Over the next week or so, through some messages I was listening to and His own instruction, He showed me that it was not my fight to fight. It was Jesus'. That is why they never left. Because I continued to engage them. I continued to look at them. I leaned in and confronted them. That wasn't my job, that fight was Jesus' fight. That battle was the Lord's [1 Samuel 17:47].
I repented, and several weeks later I had a second dream. Just like the first I became fully aware of myself and that I was dreaming, as soon as I became aware the ceiling disappeared from my bedroom. A very tall (9 foot-ish), extremely thin (almost cartoon-like), very slow, sour and long-faced spirit of religion appeared at the end of my bed. I could see his flowing robes and bishop-like hat.
This time I was like, ‘ah-ha, I got this!'. Lesson learned. It's not my job to confront, it's Jesus'. So I just turned away and ignored it. But it kept coming. Very slowly it walked around the end of my bed and up along side of me. Still ignoring it, out of my peripheral, I saw it slowly raise something (like a dagger) to stab me. At the last second I realized, ‘oh crap! It's not leaving, I better do something'. So I called out, ‘Jesus!' Instantly it disappeared and I woke up.
Again I was like, God what's up?!! What was that. I did what you said, I didn't confront, I turned away to let you do the fighting and I almost got stabbed. What up. What up, with that?!!
He showed me. It takes two things to fight the enemy: 1. Call on Jesus 2. then turn my attention away from the enemy (let Jesus fight).
Or Biblically put, it takes: 1. The word of our testimony 2. the power of the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 12:11].
God revealed, if I keep silent and simply ignore the enemy the enemy will keep on doing his thing of quietly destroying me. The enemy can do whatever he wants as long as he is going ‘unchecked' or stays ‘hidden in the dark'. For example: The enemy was even able to destroy Jesus because Jesus kept quiet before Pilot and was taken (yes willingly) as a lamb to the slaughter. But all it would have taken was one word, at any point, for Jesus to stop it all [Matthew 26:52-54]. That's sacrifice!
Conversely, if I do correctly call out to Jesus but then continue to engage the enemy (like much of the Church currently does). Then I am taking on Jesus' fight myself. It's his blood that wins, not mine. Satan is way more powerful then I am. If I try to out power him, I am gonna get my butt handed to me on a platter.
For example, if a group of NFL referee's were asked to not only call the game, but to play it as well. It wouldn't matter if the opposing team was just the practice squad, the refs would quickly get their lights bashed out. Why? Because they only have the authority (through the backing of the NFL). Not the raw physical power (size, muscle, training and proper equipment) like the opposing team.
Just like us. We only have the authority over satan (Luke 10:19), but God has the power (the blood of the Lamb). It's a partnership. We have to use our authority to ‘blow the whistle' so to speak - to open our mouths, but then to quickly turn and move aside - allowing Jesus to come and do all the butt kick'n himself.
When a referee calls a good game the correct team (the truly more talented team) is able to win every time. Conversely, in a game where the referee quits calling anything, all talent and teamwork quickly becomes obsolete. Instead, the rules dissolve into 'which ever team cheats more will win.' (And God never cheats).
Us not calling the devil out gives the devil the advantage, the ability to cheat and win. (For example: Murder only works when there is no FBI to hunt you down, lieing only works when no one speaks up with the truth, stealing only works when there is no judge to make you repay, death only works when you can't come back to life.) Why do you think satan hates it so much when people do start calling him out? He does everything he can to shut them up, because a fair game is always a losing game for the guy bluffing.
Us coming into alignment with God, is just the same as if a ref and a football team 'teamed' up and the ref begins calling the game again. The game becomes lopsided and where they are both potentially beatable separately (one beatable by power and one beatable by cheating), together they become unstoppable. It's a devine partnership. We both need the other!
Thankfully God taught me that lesson engaging the super-slow spirit of religion and not some other quick-moving demon :)
Then, in the third week of August, 2009, the biggest victory of my life (up to that point) came. I was soaking late at night and suddenly it felt like fear came in the room. I know exactly where it was standing, by the bar counter in our kitchen, in front of our sink.
Still to this day I have no idea why I got the urge to react as I did. Other then the grace of God and the Holy Spirit directing me. I had this sudden burst of courage and ran right into the middle of fear. To the exact spot where it was standing. Then I raised my hands and praised God. I said, ‘Thank you Jesus that this is your fight and not mine!'
Instantly I felt peace bubble up, like a liquid from my stomach and into my heart. It pushed all the fear out. In that instant I was free!
I later realized that in that one simple phrase, ‘Thank you Jesus that this is your fight and not mine.' – I had inadvertently done the two things God had showed me to do when fighting the enemy. I had called on Jesus and turned away from the enemy at the same time. With the same phrase I both engaged with Jesus and ignored the enemy. Perfect battle.
I'd love to say this was the end of the story, but there is one last part. Trust. The key to longetivity. The key to permanence. Trust. To keep the spirit of fear permanently out I had to learn to trust.
So for about 2 and a half weeks I experienced true peace. I mean I had gotten a ton of peace when I got born again and totally sold out to Jesus in 2004, but this was a new level. I finally knew what the Bible meant when it says ‘..peace that passes understanding.'
I mean, this was unshakable peace. For example. Someone would say something that usually sparked fear in my heart and nothing. Just peace. My usually intimidating boss would suddenly walk around the corner, and nothing. Peace. Or something (like a movie scene) would physically startle me, make my body jump and heart pump, but absolutely no fear inside. Just peace. It was peace that I couldn't understand, I couldn't explain, a peace that shouldn't be. It was awesome!!
On several occasions in that 2 ½ week period I felt fear start to come back. Internally. Each time it did, I did exactly what I had done at first. I raised my hands and said ‘Thank you Jesus that it's your fight and not mine!' And each time fear instantly left as Jesus kicked it's butt :)
Then at midnight about day 17, I woke up and felt it one last time. Fear came on me and came on me hard. I instantly prayed the prayer. ‘Thank you Jesus that it's your fight and not mine!' Nothing. What?!! So I prayed it again. ‘Thank you Jesus that it's your fight and not mine!' Still nothing. What?!!!
Then and there, I came to a crossroads. Up to this point what I usually did (albeit they were getting fewer and farther in-between) was gripe, complain and accuse God of not coming through or selling me out. (Throw a fit). But this time, again for some Holy Spirit lead reason, I didn't do that. Instead, I simply surrendered. I said ‘Jesus, I know you work. I just experienced the greatest 2 ½ fear-free weeks of my life. And if you want me to live in fear, if you are allowing fear to come back on me. I accept it. I trust you. It's your call..'
..Instantly, fear was gone. Peace came roaring back! Since that day, I have not had a drop of fear in my heart again! Praise Jesus!! He delayed just a minute or two that last time, just to see if I would trust Him or not. It was my decision to simply trust, no matter what, which allowed Him to permanently take over as peace-keeper of my heart, and shut the door to fear forever.
Life in perfect peace is amazing! Yes, I'm still walking completely out of all anxiety as well (they are different - who knew?!). Anxiety you feel in your stomach – not in your heart like fear. However, in my heart I have had only perfect peace since August 2009! God is so good.
And you can have it too! This isn't just for me, it's for anyone who will. Anyone who will trust Jesus! But like I said, it's a process. First fill yourself up on some word, to crowd that fear out and to give you something to do with your mind to shift your focus. Second, when fear comes - thank and praise Jesus that it is his fight and not yours. Finally, just trust Jesus. If it seems like fear is still hanging around – keep memorizing more scriptures and praising Jesus and trust that He will take care of you. If He wants you to feel fear (which He doesn't) then trust your heart completely to Him and praise Him full of fear anyways. You will become unstoppable! And free!! I so can't wait until you experience this level of peace for yourself.