You may recall that I recently shared about the demise of our grandsons’ little swimming pool. It developed a leak, and I fixed it with some tape, but the adhesive came off the tape and embedded itself in their hands and feet. It took me the greater part of a morning to scrape the gunk off.

Rite of passage: Fear not - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma 1

Titus giving his ‘I’m-afraid-of-sharks’ look

To celebrate the grand reopening of their little pool, I bought some cupcakes with plastic shark fins sunk into blue-and-white icing. Since Tulsa is about as far as you can get from the ocean, I thought the cupcakes would complete our festivities. I asked Titus to give me his best “I’m afraid of the shark” look, and he did it spot-on.

A few years ago, I was serving in the Ivory Coast, working with one of our interpreters and guides, Bamba Bakary.  When I first met Bamba, he was a practicing Muslim. His father was an imam, a devout teacher and leader of the Muslim faith.

During our time together, Bamba came to embrace Christ as his Lord and Savior. He has since become one of that country’s outstanding Christian leaders and has written a book on church growth. He is one of those young men who, when the Holy Spirit came upon him, had an immediate thirst for the Scriptures and the truths contained in the Bible.

Rite of passage: Fear not - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma

Walker and Bamba

On my second trip to the Ivory Coast, we had just landed at the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport in Abidjan. Our team loaded the bus and began the long drive up into the Sub-Sahara Desert. It had been a few months since Bamba’s conversion. I had gone back to the U.S. and returned with a new team.

That day, Bamba said two things that are still burned into my heart. We had a dangerous drive ahead of us, but as we settled in, I asked him about his wife and children. Bama looked at me and made a simple statement: “I think our time would be better spent praying.”

I couldn’t argue with that, so we began to pray for the things that lay ahead. After our time of prayer, we settled back and enjoyed the scenery we passed. Bamba again spoke up, this time with a question. “Walker, why does the Bible say, ‘Fear not’? It seems redundant for it to tell us that. When you have Jesus in your heart, why would you fear?”

What a contrast presented by the two photos that accompany this article. Titus is pretending to be afraid when he has nothing to be afraid of. It has been a long time since someone has been attacked by a shark in the lakes of Oklahoma. Bamba has forsaken his family’s religion and, at great cost, turned to follow Christ. He has real reasons to be afraid, but he is not.

Today, there are many people who can’t tell the difference between irrational fear and legitimate fear. Before you can deal with your fear, you need to identify what kind of fear it is. Fear comes from where you focus your thoughts and feelings. You can shift the feeling of fear in your heart when you shift the focus.

Fear wants us to focus on nothing but itself. It taunts us and reminds us of our hopelessness, inabilities and weaknesses, whether real or perceived. Shifting your focus to Jesus is a game-changer, for He has promised us hope in all circumstance. He is not shorthanded, nor is He weak.

Here are five Scriptures that will help you deal with your fears. Memorize them and speak them out loud to your fears:

—”For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7, NLT).

—“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid” (John 14:27, GNT).

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4, NKJV).

“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” (Phil. 4:6-7, NIV).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

When it comes to our fears, as Bamba said to me, “I think our time would be better spent praying.”