I. What People Fear.
Mention the word fear and people generally consider all those phobias or anxieties of this world. To just list a few, people fear; spiders, mice, bats, heights, being alone, being in a serious relationship, being broke, bad weather, never obtaining success, social environments, facing the day, their future, getting older, health problems, death, and on, and on. I do not know what you fear – these are just some of the things I have feared in life.
Fear is not a simple topic. Fear is multi-dimensional. Fear is a God given emotion and can be of some good. Fear can warn us of pending danger – like driving over a cliff if we do no stop our car, for example. Fear is also one of the largest psychological troubles facing people in our world.
All anxieties are in some form rooted in fear and many people never get past their fears and live restricted lives because of their fears. Fear can be overcome though, and we go to the source of ALL truth to find out what exactly fear is. What is beneficial from fear and how-to overcome unhealthy fears?
Our society would translate fear as simply dread or horror, but the true meaning is this and much more. Fear in Old Testament = reverence, awe, dismay, dread, distress, trouble, terror, horror, and respect. God’s people were told to fear God. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This shows yet another, yet healthy, dimension of fear.
It is foolish for man to claim possessing any great knowledge without any reverence for God. When people fear God, they understand his power over their lives and willingly humble themselves, submit to His authority, and allow Him to guide their lives. Yet in all this, they know how much God loves them, just like a child knows that their parents love them.
Children have a healthy fear of their parents. They know if they do something wrong they will more than likely be disiplined. I like to stay away from the word punishment but use the term healthy discipline with love. This is because that is how God is to us.
However, God will punish the wicked people in the end. Those people will truly be wicked and will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. These people will hate God and all He stands for. God knows who loves him and who doesn’t.
One of my favorite president’s Franklin Roosevelt once said that infamous line ” The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ” I would challenge you today though, that the only thing to fear is never experiencing a fear of God – until it is too late.
II. Overcoming our Earthly Fears.
Matthew 10:28 tells us “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”While 2 Timothy 1:7 declares “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Fear of Lord delivers us from needing to fear things of this world. While God never promised we would not face challenges – He gives us confidence, and a source of refuge. We do not need to fear anything of this earth because Christ is with us, we are to trust and obey Him. It is this trust that we must learn to do, in faith. As our faith grows it is easier then to overcome our anxieties.
Just like a child runs to his mother’s or father’s arms, we can run to God.
In Matthew 8:24-26 while in a boat Christ’s disciples became upset over bad conditions and woke Him saying “Lord, save us! We are perishing! But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and they obeyed Him.
Against any evil, we need not fear. Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear NO evil for thou art with me!
As we mature in Christ, we are delivered from our earthly fears. Knowing God is with us is the antidote for the emotion of fear. Note that Jesus never feared. (my own plight of driving in snow) Praise God it is hard to have anxieties while doing this….not solemn worship either!
Now let’s look further at what we are to think of the fear of God
III. Healthy Fear in God.
As we already stated from Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Fear of dread and horror upon realizing God’s holiness and our pending doom as a sinner, is a natural response, but we know Christ overcame sin and paid the penalty for us and all we need to do is accept His offering – His free gift – to receive eternal life over eternal damnation. In light of receiving this gift, that started as true knowledge does in fear God, we should be able to move past certain aspects of fear.
In New Testament while fear initially should involve all those attributes of fear we mentioned from the Old Testament (reverence, awe, dismay, dread, distress, trouble, terror, horror, and respect). Those truly receiving a heart change should move past fear of doom, to reverent trust in God for their future, trusting God to help during times of trouble, love, and then obedience. In other words; A Christian should not need dreadful fear of God to be obedient, but out of something more powerful than fear… LOVE. A change of heart, loving God should stir a desire to be obedient. (Read 1 John 4:17-19)
The more love the less fear. It is because of love that we can boldly go before the throne of grace. We no longer dread God’s judgment, but look to the day when we will be completed in Christ” according to God’s love. Knowing when the eastern sky splits and the bridegroom returns with a shout for His bride we will be saved and not condemned!
God should not need to bring dread upon people for them to do right. Of course, a healthy fear of reverence and awe and knowing that we reap what we sow should also prompt us to keep living to please Him, to keep going forward – love should ultimately become what moves us to obedience. We do not submit to God no longer simply because we fear Him but want to please Him, we only dread displeasing Him after what He has done for us, we no longer dread Him though. Fear of offense is different. We desire to not offend God when we love Him.
Fear though does not totally simply equal reverence and awe of God – we should still hold on to all those qualities the Hebrews knew fear to be…. a place where we do not desire to go back to. An understanding that propels us to move toward God, growing in the grace He offers us. As James 4: declares we put ourselves in opposition to God by seeking to please our flesh and be friends of the world opposed to a friend of God.
Any one should be terrified at thought of living apart from God or on terms other than His. We should fear God, but not to run from Him/hide from Him – as Adam and Eve after sinning – healthy fear should keep us seeking more of Him in our lives growing us in His love.
True fear of the Lord requires obedience. If you profess to have an awe and reverence of God and healthy fear of Him, it should show in your obedience to Him – as we have been discussing in James. This obedience likewise is not tasking (religious) but pleasurable. Psalm 112:1 “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments.”
Fear then is also active obedience and not just an emotion. Fear of the Lord is expressed by walking in His ways. It is freeing to fear God.
Fear is purified in us when it is not fright motivating us but love. We move from obedience out of fear – to obedience out of love. Let us never forget though that we serve a God whose voice shakes the earth and in His love is the preferable place to live rather than in His wrath. If we are not being obedient to God, fear should drive us to a place of obedience. A healthy fear of God should move us to desire more of God lest we put ourselves in direct opposition to Him, drawing near to God ’til fear no longer motivates us but the love of God that we experience and long to not leave His protection, his blessing, His tender mercies.
We need to trust replace our earthly fears and love drive us to obedience rather than fear of wrath. Having been delivered from wrath, yet never forgetting who God is and who we are. It’s called keeping humility (being humble towards God).