He then identifies and describes the effects of sinful fear. The first effect is distraction of mind in religious duty (a term which encompasses all effects of grace: prayer, love, good works, communion with believers, etc...)
I do not doubt that it is one of the devil's great designs to keep us in continual fear and alarm, and to puzzle our heads and hearts with a thousand difficulties which will probably never come upon us (even if they do, they will never prove as fatal as we imagine). He does this to unfit us for present duties and to destroy our comfort in them. If he can distract our thoughts through fears and terrors, he gains three advantages to our unspeakable loss.
1) He severs us from the freedom and sweetness of communion with God in duties.
2) He severs the soul from the support and relief it should draw from God's promises.
3) He severs us from the comfort that is found in our past experiences and the relief that God's faithfulness and goodness imparted in former straits and dangers.
How often have I fallen into the distraction of mind that is the result of sinful fear! I fear what others will think of me; I fear what I will think of me; I fear my propensity for making wrong decisions; I fear my propensity to not make decisions. And slowly these fears become so burdensome to my mind and my heart that I can no longer pray, I no longer have peace, I forget the things that God has done for me in the past, I forget the things that He has for me in the future, I lose my ability to sense His peace and joy, I lose my ability to love.
How sad it is when a Christian allows the devil to conquer him through the distraction of fear. As we sit and analyze every possible way that a situation could go wrong God is waiting for us to step forward and see how He will make it right.
May we, you and I, step forward on the wings of faith. May we stop analyzing every decision for every possible pitfall but rather to step forward, trusting in the promises of God. May we take away our distractions by no longer focusing upon the problems, but rather praying for the solutions, with our minds set steadfastly upon God and His promises, our hearts sustained unwaveringly by the Holy Spirit, and our souls nourished continually, not by bread alone, but by the very words that proceed from the mouth of God.