Fear is the Christian’s most dangerous enemy. Hebrews 2:15 says that Jesus delivered us from a lifetime of bondage to fear, but as a Christian you probably know that fear still creeps in at times. Fear attacks us today as it attacked Jesus’s disciples when they walked with Him on this earth. Jesus continually said, “Fear not, fear not, fear not.” He acknowledged that fear was indeed a very real threat to faith; and that is why He wants to set us free from it.

Following chronologically through Peter’s life, I found a pattern of fear that is too often very real for Christians. His life is an example of how fear does not always disappear overnight; but it shows the restorative process that Christ wants to create in all of us. By maturing in His divine restoration, you discover how to not only get free from fear, but to stay free from it.

Not long after making the greatest statement that a man could make, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15–16), Peter made the worst statement: he denied knowing Jesus at all. How could a man be so extreme? He did the best — and he did the worst.

How did Peter get himself into this position of denial?

I know what is behind it: fear. Jesus had been his intimate friend, guide, and counselor for three years. Now He had been taken away for trial and judgment, and Peter was afraid that he also would be taken and tried. When the Lord’s enemies recognized Peter they said, “You’ve been with that Galilean; you’re one of His disciples” (Matthew 29:69, author’s paraphrase).

Peter abhorred the thought of crucifixion. He was filled with fear, and he began cursing and swearing. Out of terror for his own life, Peter denied knowing his Lord. Peter didn’t just suddenly come into this fear, however. I have seen that fear is very subtle, and it is a very gradual process. Just as when you begin reading God’s Word and grow in revelation knowledge, you can also regress in a process of fear. Faith will take you from strength to strength and glory to glory; fear will take you into growing weakness until it manifests itself in sin.

I want you to look at Peter’s life to see how he started with one statement of fear, and eventually found himself in its control. His first real mistake with fear — strangely enough — happened immediately after he made the tremendous statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

After Peter confessed Christ’s lordship, Jesus began explaining to His disciples that he would have to die on the cross and be resurrected. Peter could not imagine losing his Lord, and he reacted violently:

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22–23)

Peter’s first step towards really blowing it was by denying the cross of Jesus Christ. Why did he do it? Was it out of compassion for Jesus? No, it stemmed from fear. He’d been thinking, We’ve found the Son of God, the Messiah. He’s ours. He’s going to deliver us from Roman rule, and we’re going to rule and reign with Him.

But he could not see this simple truth: before the crown must come the cross. As far as Peter was concerned, anything having to do with the cross would put the crown away. How could the Messiah establish His rule if He died? No way. Peter’s first fear was a fear of the cross.

That fear still exists today, because inherent in the human personality is also a struggle with the fear of the cross. We are fearful about having to die to our own desires. We so often fall short of willingness to say, “Jesus, I am willing to surrender all to your cross.” That unwillingness to surrender our old nature is fear. Paul had a revelation that we must “die” at the cross by faith:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Whether you like it or not, you must be willing to crucify the hidden corners of your life. You have to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His searchlight through your soul and show you how to crucify those dark areas. The fear of allowing our old nature to die is a deceiver, for before the crown must come the cross.

The cross is a place of victory, not a place of fear.

But Peter was blind to the truth about Jesus’s crucifixion. He could not see that Jesus had to die before He could bring life. Fear had entered in, and it began popping up all over the place. He made one negative statement, and soon he found himself making more of them. Matthew 26:33-35 shows that Peter was still not seeing God’s Word because he began boasting in himself.: “Oh Jesus, the rest of the disciples may be offended because of you. But I would never do that. I would die with you first” (author’s paraphrase).

Have you ever heard other believers exalt their own strength in this way? They’ll tell you, “Have you heard about so-and-so? They really blew it, but I would never dream of doing what they did.”

That is nothing more than confidence in the flesh. Instead, you can say, “Jesus in me is greater than he that is in the world.” You can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Confidence in God’s Word will always keep you and bring you through during a trial. But Peter’s misplaced assurance in his own ability is what failed him. You see, fear brings you to a point where you rely on your own courage and bravery: “I’ll be brave! I’ll be brave!” But the characteristics of true bravery and courage aren’t found in the flesh; they are only found in the Spirit.

In John 18, we see Peter getting into a really zealous spirit; but it is not Word-inspired. Again, I see it tying into his inner fear of the cross; he just cannot bear thinking about Jesus going to the cross because that spoils all of his plans. So, when the Jews came to take Jesus away, Peter was overtaken with a spirit of fear, and it drove him into a wrong zeal in his own motives: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10).

He’s trying to help Jesus avoid the cross! Oh, that fear was just chewing on Peter, and it was starting to show up in his conduct. Jesus was led away, and Peter followed Him. But in what way did he follow? The Bible says that Peter “followed Him at a distance” (Matthew 26:58). Fear puts a distance between you and your Lord because it deteriorates your trust. Oh, you’re following Him, but there becomes a distance because you are relying on personal works, not on faith.

How did Peter get so far away from Jesus? It started with his first statement, “I’ll never let you go to the cross.” It ended up with, “I’ll die before you go to the cross; I’ll cut off people’s ears before you go to the cross.” Then in Mark 14:66–67, Peter’s fear reached its peak:

Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Peter denied it. He denied it again. And finally, when they said, “We can tell you’re one of His by the way you speak,” what did Peter do? He began to curse and swear. He said, “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:72).

As he spoke those words, a cock crowed in the distance and the Words of his Lord came rushing back, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34). Peter was now flooded with guilt and sorrow.

Fear never justifies wrong deeds; it only creates them. It begins as a seedling, and soon it brings its close companions of condemnation and sorrow. All of this denial began with a seed of fear: the fear of the cross implanting itself into Peter’s soul. Now it had saturated all of his actions.

Fear of losing Jesus, fear of having to die for his faith, fear of losing his security blinded Peter to the victory of the cross. Fear never respects the things of God because it is a deceiver.

But in the midst of this dark picture, I also found the steps of restoration that Jesus planted. Jesus always wants to help you overcome fear and you overcome fear by applying the same process to your life that Jesus applied to Peter.

#1: Jesus Prays for You

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32)

Jesus is focusing Peter’s attention on God’s Word: “Although you will know Satan’s attempts to sift your faith, listen I’ve prayed for you. Remember: I’ve prayed for you.”

You may say, “His faith did fail.”

No, it did not fail. It was Peter’s courage that failed him, and that is why we must be cautious about where we place our reliance. Our own courage will never be enough. Peter’s courage may have failed him; but his faith did not fail. After he denied Jesus, he wept bitterly because he still believed.

Sometimes you may feel as though you really failed, and the devil will lie to you, “Why bother trying again? You can’t do it.” But although you may have blown it, you may have said wrong things, done wrong things, and faltered in courage, hold on to Him. Your faith will not fail you, and it will hold you up if your bravery lets you down.

Your first step out of fear is to know and believe that Jesus has prayed for you, and that He still prays for you. In John 17:20, before His death, Jesus prayed to His Father and in that prayer He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”

Then in Hebrews 7:25 it says that Jesus “always lives to make intercession for [us].” He prayed for you then. He’s praying for you now. When you come against fear you can say, “Satan’s trying to sift me; but my faith won’t fail because Jesus is making intercession for me to come through.”

#2: Jesus Sees You

In Luke 22:61, at the same time Peter says, “I don’t know Him,” Jesus turns and looks at him. What do you suppose that look said? “Peter, you are letting me down when I need you the most. You said you would die for me, but now you are cursing me.”

No, I don’t believe Jesus’s look said that at all. I believe that He was looking to Peter’s soul and saying, “Oh, Peter, don’t do this to yourself.”

So, the second part of knowing what to do when fear strikes is to remember that Jesus sees you. He isn’t condemning you; He wants to help. He sees you right where you are, and He still loves you.

#3: Jesus Sends You a Message

Jesus also has a third step of restoration from fear, and it is shown after Jesus’s resurrection. Remember, the last look Peter had from Jesus right before His death on the cross was the one after Peter denied Him. Then after Jesus’s resurrection from death, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome visited the tomb with the intent of anointing Jesus’s body for burial. The stone had been rolled away, and as they entered, they saw a man sitting on the right side. He spoke to them:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:6–7)

Why didn’t he just say, “Tell His disciples that He is going before you to Galilee?” Why “and Peter?”

I believe it was because Jesus wanted Peter to have a personal message of His love. Have you ever noticed that in a heavy attack of fear, Jesus will give you a personal message through His Word? Once, during a trial where the natural circumstances were almost impossible to bear, I called out to God for a personal message: “God, I must have something fresh from you. I know that I claim these daily Scriptures, but I need something straight from you.”

He gave me the most precious Scripture from the book of Haggai, and I still use it against fear today: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (Haggai 2:5). Jesus has a personal message for you in His Word. It’s not just “God’s Word for Christians.” It is for you today.

In 1 Corinthians, I saw that not only did Jesus send Peter a personal message, but He also had a personal meeting with him directly after His resurrection: “He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).

I always imagined Jesus’s appearance to the disciples in the locked room as His first. But Jesus went to Peter before He talked to the rest of His disciples. He wanted to say, “Peter, I still love you. I prayed for you, I saw you, I sent you a message—and you’re coming through.”

Have you ever awakened in the night with fear flooding in through every fiber of your soul and the warmth of Jesus’s presence comes to drive it away? Those personal moments with Jesus will dissipate any fear surrounding you; He wants to calm the storm within, and that is why He promised, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” These quiet times alone with Jesus are carved from God’s love, especially for your reassurance.

#4: Jesus Will Deliver You

Now that these steps toward pulling Peter out of fear had taken place, Jesus still had to deal directly with what happened, and the way He totally delivered Peter from fear is dynamite!

After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also. They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish . . . (John 21:1-6, 9–11)

One man, Simon Peter, managed to drag the entire net of fish to the shore all by himself. Why is it that seven of them couldn’t muster the strength to draw in the net — but one man did it alone? It is because after Peter had received a vision and a touch from Jesus, he received strength. Once you get a vision of Jesus, nothing is the same again; you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (see Philippians 4:13).

Now Jesus was going to deal with him. Notice that when the disciples came to the land, Jesus had a fire burning. Peter might’ve thought, I remember the last fire I warmed myself near; it was when I denied you. Jesus had that fire ready on purpose. He wanted to heal those memories of the enemy’s fire by allowing Peter to warm himself over the fire of a friend who is closer than a brother.

Jesus said, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?”

“Oh, yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs.” Meaning, “Give my young disciples (lambs) nourishment from the Word.”

Jesus asked him again, “Simon, do you love me?”

Simon said, “Lord, you know that I love you. You know what kind of love I have for you—because you know me.”

Jesus replied, “Tend my sheep.” Meaning to shepherd or pastor. Notice that Jesus is not speaking of lambs, but sheep. Given the best of nourishment, the disciples mature into the ability to receive training and direction.

But now Jesus looked at Simon and asked him, “Simon, son of Jonah. Do you love me? Do you even love me as a friend?”

And Peter’s heart wrenched; he was grieved. “Oh, Jesus, do you even doubt my reciprocal love for you?” Then, “Lord, you know all things, including my love for you.”

Now came the calling, “Feed my sheep.” The Lord called Simon Peter from being a fisher of men to a teacher of sheep. “Nourish and love them; nourish and love them.”

I found it interesting that Peter professed his love for Jesus three times—exactly as many times as he had denied Him. Within those confessions came the warmth of healing and restoration. From the restoration came the call: feed my sheep.

Jesus then probed into the exact place from where Peter’s fear originated:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:18–19)

Jesus was saying, “I know your fear; I know that you have been fearing the cross all along.”

Peter was martyred on a cross, and Jesus told him about it before it ever happened. Historians say that when Peter was crucified, he refused to die in the same manner as his Lord; he cried, “I am not worthy.” He was crucified upside-down.

Talk about somebody moving right in and taking the fear. If someone came and told me that I would be crucified, my first thought would be, I’ll never go to another foreign country.

But Jesus brought Peter to such complete deliverance that he was willing to go anyway. It didn’t matter to him, because suddenly he saw that the cross was a place of victory: first the cross, then the crown. I believe Jesus was saying, “Peter, you won’t be fearful, because I’ll be there to take you right out of it.”

Not only did Jesus completely restore Peter from his fear of the cross, not only did He forgive all of his faults, but He brought him back into the ministry he was called to fulfill.

In Acts 2:14, he was a changed man: “Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.’ ”

He preached a sermon that wouldn’t stop! They could have killed him, but he didn’t care; instead, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” was the message that he preached, and 3,000 men were converted that day! Is that the Peter of fear? No, that is the Peter who was restored by the hand of the Lord Himself.

Be a Simon and dismiss fear when it comes your way. Be a hearing one. Jesus did not come to give you fear; He came to deliver you from it. Psalm 112:7 speaks of the fearless man: “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

Be bold! Let your flesh and your fear die at the cross and start living in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. Jesus took Peter right to the cross and delivered him from fear; He wants you to receive your deliverance at the cross also. First the cross, then the crown.

This post has been excerpted and adapted from Freedom from Bondages (Marilyn Hickey Ministries, 2021).