Chapter 1

                      No More Fear

      "Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams."

      Does that statement speak to you?  It sure spoke to me the first time I read it several years ago.  I have always been by nature a very quiet and reserved person.  But until a few years ago I was also tied up by fear and intimidation, and I hated it.  There was so much in me that wanted to come out, but I felt tied down inside.  I was like a runner who longed to run but couldn't because heavy chains and weights hung on her ankles, holding her back.  Sometimes I wanted to just reach out to someone who was hurting and give her a hug or an encouraging word - just simple things - but I couldn't.  I wasn't able to step out beyond myself.  For years I cried out, "Lord, I want to be totally sold out to You.  I want to be so consumed with You that my fear is completely annihilated."  God answered my prayer, granting me the grace to walk in places where I had never walked before.
      It all started several years ago when my husband Jim and I were leading a retreat in Nashville, Tennessee.  While there I found myself particularly preoccupied with this whole issue of fear and intimidation.  In my heart I wanted so badly to be free.  It weighed heavily on my mind, eating away at me on the inside.
      On the Sunday morning of the retreat I was feeling a strong intercessory burden from the Lord for the people there and was crying out to Him on their behalf.  Many of them were in situations where they had little room to function; they had no real opportunity for service or ministry.  They felt bottled up, as if they were all crowding together trying to get a whiff of the tiny amount of oxygen that was coming through the narrow neck of the bottle.
      In the middle of this intercession, two ladies, dear friends of mine, came up to me and asked if they could pray for me.  We went into a little side room and immediately they began spiritual warfare over me, coming against the spirit of intimidation.  As soon as they started praying I let out a loud scream.  Not long after that, someone came to the door and said that we were too noisy.  The group in the other room had gotten very quiet because they were observing communion.  I wanted to be sensitive to what was going on in there, but I was also afraid that if I held back at that point, I would never get free.  It was as though the Lord was challenging me, "How badly do you want to be delivered from this thing?"
      My friends kept praying and I kept yelling until all of a sudden it was as though something literally lifted right out of the top of my head, leaving an empty space.  The best way I can describe it is that this thing felt like a railroad spike: six inches long and about two inches in diameter at the top, tapering to a point at the bottom.  It was the strangest sensation.  I've never felt anything else like it either before or since.  I knew something had happened in me, but at first I didn't really know what it was.
      The retreat ended and the people went home, but Jim and I stayed.  We had decided to remain at the retreat center overnight so that we could have some time alone.  Later that day we went for a walk.  With the meetings over, Jim was in a relaxed, silly mood while I was still in a contemplative frame of mind, trying to figure out what God had done with me and what I was supposed to do now.  As we walked along Jim was playfully clapping his hands and hitting me on the shoulder.  I didn't really want that at that moment.  He was invading my "personal space."  So I said as nicely as I could, "Jim, please don't do that."
      "Don't do what?"
      "Please don't hit me."
      "Hey, I'm not hitting you,"  Jim teased as he kept whapping my shoulder.
      After I appealed to him again he turned to me, rolled up his sleeve, and said, "Okay, you hit me."
      I looked at his arm and , seeing what a good target it was, doubled up my fist and popped him good.  I didn't really hit him very hard, but the fact that I did it at all shocked both of us.  I had never hit anyone in my life!  The expression on Jim's face said, "I can't believe you did that!"  My jaw dropped too: "I can't believe I did that!"  Then we both started laughing.  We realized at that moment that what my friends had prayed for had happened:  God had truly delivered me from my intimidation.
      To intimidate means to make someone timid or fearful; it is to frighten them with threats.  At one time the enemy's threats had made me timid; I lacked courage, self-confidence, boldness, and determination.  He had filled my mind with fearful thoughts:  "If you try this, you are going to fail.  You're going to fall flat on your face.  You will be misunderstood and all alone."  Sometimes panic welled up inside as I found myself saying, "I can't do this!  I'm not smart enough, not spiritual enough.  I know I'm going to fail!"  For a long time I lacked the courage and boldness I needed to press on through.
      Once God delivered me, however, it was as though He had attached jumper cables to my spiritual battery!  The life and energy of the blood of Jesus flooded my being and set me free!  The fear of man was gone - that anxious dread and concern about what other people would think or say about me.  Now I could enter into a fuller dimension of fear of the Lord.  The fear of man had filled me with shame and panic; the fear of the Lord filled me with profound reverence and awe toward God.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.  It brings my sins into the light, not to shame or embarrass me, but to cleanse me, forgive me, and justify me, just as if I had never sinned!
      I still struggle with intimidation on occasion.  Although it is no longer in me, it tries to come against me from time to time, and I have to be alert and ready to deal with it.  Intimidation is a spirit, and many Christians, both men and women, are bound by it.  God wants us all to be free, not just for the sake of freedom, but so we can truly commune with Him face to face.  He wants to take us to a place where we can walk with Him, full of the fear of the Lord, where the fear of man is completely gone.  He wants to deliver us from intimidation and its companion spirits of comparison, shame guilt, and the fear of man.  He wants us to be able to fulfill our destiny, to complete our calling in Him, to do those things that each of us is uniquely qualified and designed to accomplish!

Fearless and Free
      God seeks and desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us, and He is jealous about that relationship.  He is fighting on our behalf to set us free from the cloaks of fear, intimidation, and comparison that the enemy uses to try to smother the life-breath out of us.
      I was raised in a devout Methodist family.  My grandmother was a sweet, wonderful woman who loved God.  Even when she was suffering from cancer she always challenged me and my cousins to put Jesus first in our lives.  I cherish that rich heritage from which I received a deep deposit of the Word of God.  However, I did not understand the ways of the Spirit.  For a long time after I married Jim I tried to hang on his coattails; I simply followed what he was doing.  Unknowingly, I was comparing my walk with God to Jim's walk, thinking that his was better than mine.  God did not see it that way, and He told me so.  One day the Lord said to me, "Ann, you can't hold on to Jim's coattails; hold on to Mine.  I am your God!  I created you, and I am jealous over you.  I won't settle for a relationship through your husband; I want a relationship with you."  He desires the same for each of us.  We cannot relate to Him through anyone else:  spouse, pastor, parents, friends, or anyone!  Our God is a personal God!
      We are His beloved and we are beautiful in His eyes.  He sees us through the precious blood of Jesus, His Son.  He doesn't see our faults; rather, He sees the beauty of a forgiven soul.  We are beautiful to Him when we're sweating, or when we're lying on the floor in deep travail, or when we're crying with runny noses because God is touching a hurting heart.  We are beautiful to Him whether we're shaking, trembling, or jumping.  We are beautiful to Him when we are at home with our hearts breaking and we think no one knows or cares.
      God looks for the beauty of the heart.  I believe that any time we bring life into the world or into some needy soul is a time of unparalleled beauty in God's eyes.  God loves life!  Consider for a moment the appearance and condition of a woman in childbirth:  vulnerable, painful, difficult.   Most of us who have been through it don't want to be reminded of our appearance!  God, however, tells us to look at the heart of the issue.
      Our approval from God doesn't depend on whether or not our fingernails are polished, our hair is combed, or our houses are neat and tidy with everything in order.  God looks at the heart.  He created each of us as unique individuals with a fragrance all our own, and He waits in longing to smell the fragrance rising to Him.  He loves us and fashioned us to be creative according to how He has gifted us.
      Let God release you to be who He made you to be:  a creative individual free from intimidation and the fear of man.  Have you ever found yourself at a buffet and, as you pick up your plate to go through the line, you check to see how much food everyone else is taking, then take the same amount?  You don't want to take "too much."  After all, you have to be careful how you present yourself, right?  That's intimidation speaking!  I've got good news for you:  God has a buffet all laid out, and He wants you to take the biggest plate you can find and load it up.  He wants you to pull your chair right up to the table and dig in because the table is spread for you.  There are all kinds of breads, pastries, salads and vegetables, luscious fruits, scrumptious desserts; wow, what a feast!

           WOMEN ON THE FRONT LINES  BY MICHAL ANN GOLL.
            DESTINY IMAGE PUBLISHERS, 1999.

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