"And now abideth faith, hope, love: these three" (1 Cor. 13:13). The opposite of faith is fear; of hope, despair; and of love, indifference. Fear is the "default mode" of the soul that dwells in darkness. This is because the "fallen" soul regards the empirical world and its flux as ultimately real -- and therefore "sees in order to believe." The life of faith, on the other hand, looks beyond the realm of appearances to behold an abiding glory -- and therefore "believes in order to see." How we choose to see is ultimately a spiritual decision for which we are each responsible....
In the geo-political world there are more seemingly good reasons to be afraid today than in any time since the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Every day the media indoctrinates people about the threats of various plagues (e.g., the swine flu), of economic disasters, of terrorist plots, and so on. In short, living within a "culture of fear" (with its ongoing propaganda campaigns from both the right and left wing perspectives) is to traffic in images and sound bites, inducing a sense of dread and anxiety (as someone once said, "FEAR" is "False Education Appearing Real"). Just as a lie-detector can physiologically sense when people are telling lies, so our souls can sense when we are believing them... There is no neutral ground here, no "transcendent" place of the soul where we can rise above the realm of truth claims: We will either be set free by the truth or else we will live in fear. As Yeshua said, the "Truth shall set you free."
Of course this isn't easy, and the temptation to yield to fear seems omnipresent. The test of our faith is of more value to the L-rd than our material or emotional comfort, however, and therefore we will all experience tribulation of various kinds. This is the way we obtain heart (i.e., courage). A few months ago I wrote a Hebrew meditation ("Fear Thou Not") that reminded us that the most frequently occurring commandment in Scripture is simply al tirah (אַל־תִּירָא), "don't be afraid." If living without fear were easy, it would be of little spiritual worth, but since it requires all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it is therefore considered precious. It requires, in short, an infinite (and divinely given) passion. And it part of God's plan for us to be "in but not of" the world system, to be alienated, to be misunderstood, to be persecuted... We are called to "take up the cross" and die daily. Following Yeshua means sacrificing ourselves along the way.
Ultimately fear distills to the fear of death, or rather, of "the one who has the power of death, namely the devil" (Heb. 2:14-15). If we come to peace with our own finitude, our own mortality, and our eventual end in the Messiah, death has no more power over us. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Christian faith is so hated in communist countries or in other places of absolutist secular ideologies. If you are delivered from the greatest threat that man can menace over you, you are free to be a voice crying in the wilderness. The life of truth is something the humanist and atheist can never comprehend.
Fear is the antithesis of faith, though living without fear is certainly not easy. After all, how do we naturally choose to be unafraid of what we in fact fear? Is this power within our conscious control? Only by a miracle are we set free from fear... Indeed, true faith working within the heart is one of the greatest miracles of God. May it please God to impart to each us real courage that comes from Heaven itself...
Chazak, chaverim. Be strong and be strengthened in Yeshua our King.