The United Press International reported a very disturbing story of a Filipino man who spent the last three years of his life self-imprisoned at the top of a 60-foot-tall coconut tree. The man is 47-year-old Gilbert Sanchez, of La Paz, in the Agusan del Sur province of the Philippines.
What made him live night and day in a tree, for three years through heat, rain, and wind – and vicious blood-sucking insects? It was fear – fear that someone was trying to kill him. Back in 2014, Gilbert got into a fight with a neighbor. The neighbor pulled a gun on him. But instead of shooting Gilbert, he struck him on the head with the revolver and sent him scurrying back to his house. After a sleepless night the traumatized man climbed a nearby coconut tree and hid in its branches at the very top. And there he remained for the next three years.
A coconut tree is hardly suitable for a tree house. It offers almost no shelter from the wind, rain, and sun. And its individual branches cannot support the weight of a man. So Gilbert’s existence in the tree was precarious to say the least. Food, water, and clothing could only be brought to him by a rope he would drop to the ground. What a miserable and insecure existence this poor man lived – all because of fear.
Finally, after three years of refusing to come down, authorities sent a 50-man team to cut the tree at its base and lower it with a hoist. When he reached the ground, it was clear that Gilbert Sanchez was in terrible shape. His back had become deformed from curling his body around the palm branches. The skin of his entire body was covered in welts from thousands of insect bites. And when a psychiatrist examined him, she detected the symptoms of psychosis, including delusions and hallucinations – all the ravages of uncontrolled fears.
Fear Removes Identity
This adds new meaning to President Franklin Roosevelt’s statement in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I’m sure there were other things to be afraid of during the days of the Great Depression, but chief among them was certainly fear. Fear imprisoned and crippled this man – literally. It forced him to endure the blazing sun, typhoons, electrical storms, and relentless attacks from biting insects. It eventually drove him mad.
Fear is one of Satan’s most effective tools to distort and twist reality to the point that our day looks like the darkest night. Fear also blocks our view of God and His countless acts of faithfulness and love to us. Truly, fear itself is something to be feared and guarded against.
Freedom in Faith
There are some well-proven methods for countering fear. Foremost among them is faith in the word and promises of God. The best defense against Satan’s lies is God’s truth. The two key weapons among God’s armor are the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:16-17). Jesus used no other weapons when He faced the devil in the desert. He repeatedly quoted the word of God which sent the devil fleeing (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-11). When we keep our faith on the facts of God’s word, Satan’s distortion of reality, and the fear it evokes, dissolves into oblivion.
Another well-proven method for countering fear and inspiring faith is to routinely recount God’s acts of faithfulness and blessings to us – and to give Him thanks. Psalm after psalm is devoted entirely to reviewing God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people (Psalm 8; 9; 18; 21; 23; 29; 30; 32; 33; 34; 36; 37; 40; 46; 47; 48; 62; 63; 65; 66; 68; 71; 76; 77; 78; 86; 89; 92; 95; 96; 97; 98; 99; 100; 103; 104; 105; 106; 107; 111; 113; 114; 116; 118; 124; 126; 135; 136; 139; 145; 146; 147).
Thanksgiving & Prayer
This remembrance of God’s acts of faithfulness in the past inspires faith for whatever new challenges confront God’s people. In fact, God’s frequent command to “Sing to the LORD a new song” invites us to add new answers to prayer and new deliverances to our growing list of God’s loving deeds in our lives (Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9: 14:3).
Giving thanks to God for all his blessings and all His acts of faithfulness to us will be one of the most healing and peace-evoking experiences of our lives. Thanksgiving to God is the best and most accurate “reality check” we can ever give ourselves. Reminding ourselves of God’s perfect record in our lives will destroy all fear.
So beware of fear. Guard against it and destroy it. We do this by putting faith in the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and by routinely remembering God’s blessings and acts of faithfulness to us, with thanksgiving. Doing so will save your peace of mind – and your sanity.
Dear Father in heaven, teach me to hide Your word in my heart and to put my faith in Your promises when the flaming missiles of the devil are hurled at me. Teach me, also, O Lord, to recall all Your blessings and faithfulness to me. Use these habits in my life that I may keep my grip on reality and dispel all my fears. Amen.
If you are dealing with this issue, you do not need to face the challenge alone. Jesus has conquered every challenge so you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming hope. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.
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