By David Berg

Fear is a very interesting subject. You don't realize so much of it is subconscious until you try to put it in words and try to analyze it. I suppose my being afraid to talk about my fears is one of the worst fears of all, because to confess your fears is really to expose your innermost self--the part you hide from everybody, even those dearest to you. In fact, the part you're even trying to hide from yourself, because you're afraid to think about it. You don't even want to confess it to yourself that you're afraid, because that would be admitting you're a coward, and you don't want to confess you're a coward for fear of being exposed.

Jesus, Lord Jesus, Thy will be done. Have Thy way. If we can help someone else by being honest, help us to be honest. Help us, Lord, to be willing to face our fears.

I guess it's kind of like a disease. You can't very well find the cure unless you confess you have the disease and you reveal the symptoms. And you're really very ashamed to confess you have it. It's one of those secret diseases that you're ashamed to confess you have, because you know it's the result of sin. Because if you're honest, you know your fears are results of doubts or feared failures--past failures or possible future failures.

I think the fear of failure is probably one of the greatest fears anybody could possibly have--the fear of failure in life, love, labor, and the Lord. If you're failing God, I think that's one of the worst for a Christian. And it's perhaps second only to the fear of failing others, because you know that God will forgive you, but others find it hard to forgive. The fear of hurting them because of your failure, fear of letting them down, disappointing them, hurting their faith, disillusioning them, discouraging them--the fear that because of your failure, others will fail, too. This is hardest to bear. It's the kind of thing you don't even want to admit to yourself.

The fear of failing yourself is least of all. Really, in a way, it's fear of the truth. You're actually afraid of the truth about yourself. But now here's where it pays to face your fears, because you have to draw a line of distinction by facing them, between that which is the truth and those fears which are the lies of the Devil.

It reminds me of when I was a little kid delivering papers and handbills, and there were all these big dogs that were always chasing me and nipping at my heels. Sometimes they actually bit me, and they really hurt. But most of the time their bark was worse than their bite. I soon discovered that, if I ran from them, they ran after me, and they were more apt to bite me if I turned my back on them than if I faced them.

A dog barks at you and growls at you because he's afraid of you. And it's a funny thing, the more afraid you are of him, the more afraid he is of you, because God put in him the instinctive knowledge that if you're afraid of him, you're apt to do something to him to protect yourself; you're apt to hurt him.

So, if he senses you have fear, right away he's afraid of you, and he's apt to bark and growl and possibly even attack you. But if you face him and stand your ground, no matter how much he barks and growls and snarls, he usually will not attack you. The very fact that you face him lets him know that, though you may be somewhat afraid of him, you're not too afraid. You're not afraid to stand there and face him. Therefore, he knows you're not afraid of him, and since you're no longer afraid of him by standing firm and facing him, then it lessens his fear of you, and he'll often back down, growl and snarl a little, turn his head away, and look for somewhere to go to get out of your presence, watching you out of the corner of his eye all the time. And then he'll usually back down and turn around and leave you alone.

I've had this happen so many times with dogs, both big and little. If you're so afraid that you turn your back on him and run, he'll chase you and even be encouraged to bite you--even the littlest dog--because now he knows you really are afraid of him. He knows you really are an enemy and his doubts about you were right, his fears of you were well founded. You've proved it by running. So he promptly takes advantage of your fear as you retreat, by leaping to the attack.

Nearly everybody who's ever been bitten by a dog was not bitten on the toes, but the heels; not on the shin, but the calf of the leg. Of course, some dogs are so mad or so diseased or so trained that they'll attack you to the face--sometimes demon-possessed--but even these can be rebuked in the power of the Spirit in Jesus' name.

I'll never forget when I was about 12, delivering handbills, and I had to go into a certain yard to get to a house in the rear. Out from the back yard came this huge Great Dane, barking and growling furiously, and coming at me full speed, leaping and bounding. I thought, "This is it!" But I knew I didn't dare turn my back on him or he would bite me for sure. Yet, on the other hand, he was a little too big for me to face, and I was invading his territory.

So I thank God I remembered to cry out to the Lord. I suddenly jutted my hand out toward him and I yelled, "I rebuke you in Jesus' name!" And did he put on the brakes! He skidded to a stop and looked absolutely startled, and turned tail and ran.

So it not only pays to face your fears and to acknowledge them, even confess them, but to take a positive stand against them, especially in the power and Spirit of the Lord with the promises from His Word. Because it wouldn't have done me a bit of good in the world to say, as a Christian Scientist, "Big old dog, you just don't exist, so I'm going to ignore you." He would have promptly finished me off to prove that he did exist.

It doesn't pay to say there's no Devil and no demons and no such thing as evil, sin, or sickness, and just try to ignore the facts. It would be like trying to ignore that you have a disease when you've really got it, because as long as you have it and try to hide it, you can't very well find the remedy.

Like the story told by Mark Twain about the fellow who fell off a cliff and broke so many bones, and the Christian Scientist came along and tried to persuade him that he didn't have any broken bones, it was all in his imagination. There was no such thing as reality. It was all in his mind, so he should just try to get up and walk. But the poor man couldn't make it.

And that's where you have to draw the line. You have to find out the difference between reality and the imaginary, the truth and the lie, because if it is reality, it doesn't do any good to try to tell yourself it isn't there--to just shut your eyes and hope it goes away, and when you open them again you'll find out it didn't exist, that it was just your imagination.

That big dog existed, and he was coming right for me, and it wouldn't have done a bit of good to shut my eyes and hope he went away, that he was just something I was imagining, some figment of my imagination. He was there, brother, and he was as real as you or me, and he was headed for me. And in that case, the best thing in the world to do was to face it and take some kind of action and do something about it to eliminate the danger, because it was either him or me. I did this by taking the initiative and launching an attack myself on him by the power of the Spirit, in that rebuke in Jesus' name. At first he was on the offensive and I was on the defensive, but the Lord helped me turn the tables by inspiring me to take the offensive and attack him with a rebuke--and suddenly he was put on the defensive and turned and ran.

As any military strategist knows, it's impossible to win a defensive warfare. Defensive war is doomed to defeat. To win a war, you have to launch an attack. You have to go on the offensive. You have to attack the enemy. You have to set him back on his heels. You have to take the initiative. You have to be positive. You have to attack and invade and overpower. You can't just sit there and try to ward him off while he attacks and invades, or he'll finally overpower you.

A passive defense never won a war. That's why it's usually the aggressors who win wars. They take the initiative. They launch the attack; they leap to the offensive, and they can pick the time and place, and do it by surprise and suddenness, so that you're caught off your guard, your defense is down, and you're overrun.

This is why guerrilla warfare is so successful, even with such small numbers and very little manpower. By sudden surprise attacks in unexpected places and at weak spots in the enemy's armor, you can do a lot of damage. You can hit and run before the enemy even knows what happened, before he has a chance to retaliate.

This is why conventional armies can be withstood or even licked by small-scale guerrilla warfare. A conventional army is a large, ponderous, slow-moving, though powerful giant, usually somewhat thick-witted and its reactions slow, because its body is so big that it takes a long time for it to move and for communications to get from the brain, headquarters, to the hand or the foot, and for them to react.

Whereas guerrilla forces and commando units are small, somewhat independent, and can choose the time and place of attack, with lightning strikes, and disappear as quickly as they appeared, like little David with Goliath: one little guerrilla defied a whole army; like Gideon and his little band: a bunch of guerrillas who defied a whole army; like Jonathan and his armor bearer; two more guerrillas who defied a whole army. And, boy, if you've got God with you, you're unbeatable, no matter how small you are! Jonathan said, in that particular attack of his, "God is not limited by few or by many" (1 Samuel 14:6).

Any military strategist knows that, no matter how small your forces, if you take the initiative and attack first--go on the offensive--you have a definite and distinct advantage over the enemy.

So it pays to face your fears, recognize they're there, decide between the real and the unreal, the truth and the lie, and go to the attack to dispel the vaporous fiction of the fairy tale and to drive away the genuine reality of real threat.

We're in a spiritual warfare, and our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual--mighty to the tearing down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). This is a picture of your attacking the strongholds of the Enemy and ripping them apart, destroying the opposition. Jesus said of the church, in Matthew 16:18, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

When I was a little boy and I heard preachers use this verse, the way they interpreted it, it sounded as though the church was standing on a big rock, and, though all hell was pounding on its gates, hell couldn't triumph over the church. The whole way they had it pictured was the church building standing there on the rock, Christ Jesus, and the fires of hell were lapping against its fortifications. But the church was standing firm on the defensive, all bottled up in its little fortress, and hell and the Devil and all the demons couldn't get in.

But this is not God's picture at all. That isn't what the Scripture says. Jesus said it to Peter when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. Jesus told Peter, "Upon this Rock (the fact that I am Christ, the Anointed, the Savior, the only foundation) will I build My church." He was literally saying, "Upon Me will I build My church."

But now notice the rest of the verse. As Jesus continues His declaration, He says, "And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"--the church. In other words, the gates of hell will not be able to defend themselves against the church. The gates of hell itself--the Devil's territory, his fortresses, Satan's strongholds, his gates--will not be able to withstand the onslaughts of the church, the attacks of God's people against the Enemy's territory. The gates of hell shall not prevail. The gates of hell will not be able to withstand our attacks.

It's a case of mistaken identity, and some of the misunderstanding has probably come from the misuse of the word "prevail." The Lord didn't misuse it: the original Greek word He used here did not mean to "conquer" or "overcome" as is the accepted meaning of "prevail" in most of today's dictionaries. The word Jesus used meant to "stand strong" or "withstand strongly." What He was saying was that the gates of hell would not be able to stand strong or withstand or be very strong against the attacks of the forces of God.

It could be that our modern usage of the word "prevail" has changed its meaning through the years since the King James translation, when it is possible the word "prevail" did convey the correct meaning of "stand strong against." Otherwise, it was a very poor choice of a word by the translators to define the Greek word, which meant to "stand strong," because our usual present meaning of the word "prevail" in English means to "conquer" or "overcome," just the opposite of what Jesus was talking about. Furthermore, the word "prevail" is only used one time in this sense of "overcoming" or "conquering" in the 67 times it is used in the whole Bible.

The picture is not of the church standing fast behind its closed doors while all hell attacks. The picture Christ painted was of hell trembling behind its closed doors, while the church was in an all-out attack against hell's gates, which were collapsing and crumbling under the weight of the power of God through His church.

Did you get the picture? The Children of God are launching the attack. They are on the offensive. They are invading hell's gates. The Children of God are raiding the Devil's territory, just as you do when you go out witnessing, right on the Devil's ground, right into his strongholds. You're launching the attack, you're picking its time and place. You're taking the initiative, you're overwhelming the Enemy.

This is why the commando raids of World War II were so successful--tiny raids against tremendous strongholds of the enemy on the coasts of Norway and Germany. One tiny little boatload of men and explosives in the fog of dark and night, would cross the North Sea, then suddenly, without warning, sneaking right past the enemy's line of defense, would blow up some of his major installations--power plants, fortifications, bunkers, big guns, even battleships--which they'd sink right in the port's mouth, bottling up his fleet.

All this damage was inflicted by a mere handful of men against almost overwhelming numerical odds of the enemy, in manpower and firepower.--All because they were quick, unexpected, surprising, sudden attacks, taking the initiative and the offensive, choosing the time and the place, and the enemy knew not where or when, so he could never be prepared. And they were extremely successful. It caused him to have to spread out his forces and be prepared to defend himself in so many places at one time that he weakened his whole operation.

The enemy never knows what you're going to do next. He doesn't know what kind of a shenanigan you're going to pull next, and you've put him on the defensive. He rocks and reels from sudden blow after sudden blow, so that he has no time to organize an attack on you; he's too busy defending himself. In this way, tiny guerrilla forces and commando units can keep an entire numerically superior conventional army at bay, and an army continually on the defensive will never get anywhere.

Take Martin Luther, for example. That one man against the world, with God, was more than a match for the Devil and all his forces, because he launched the attack, he took the initiative, he chose the time and place, and he drove home thrust after thrust of the sword of God's Spirit into the wide open chinks in the armor of the Roman Catholic Church, which was set back on its heels and made to defend itself against the attacks of one man and a few others who preceded and followed him.

You can be destroyed by defending instead of attacking. Never let yourself get put on the defensive! Never let them do all the talking, ask all the questions, and give all the answers. Sock it to them with the Word of God! Survey their condition, find the chinks in their armor, the weakness in their defense, then launch the attack with the sword of His Spirit. Don't let them put you on the defensive or you're doomed to defeat.

This is why the tiny handful of Christians of the early church could absolutely upset the whole Roman world. This is why the tiny handful of so-called reformers--really revolutionists--of the Reformation, could all but destroy the exclusive hold the Roman church had on Christian faith and doctrine. This is why the tiny handful of American pioneers could establish such a great and powerful country, now one of the richest and most powerful in the world.

Let's go! Attack! You can't lose. Sure, we'll have casualties. Sure, we'll have losses. Sure we'll have wounds. But we'll win, because we cannot lose. It's impossible, for God is with us. We're on the offensive. We're moving. We're attacking. We're active. We're doing something--getting things done--acting, not just talking--samples, not just sermons--activists, not just theorists--converting, changing, conquering.

Face the enemy! Attack him! "Resist the enemy and he'll flee from you" (James 4:7). Face the fear of man in the power of His Spirit on the promises of His Word, and you cannot fail. Praise God.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho' this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim--we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still,
And we will win the battle.[1]


"Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matthew 25:21).

  1. From "A Mighty Fortress" by Martin Luther, 1529. This song has been called "the greatest hymn of the greatest man of the greatest period of German history" and the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation."