“I will mock when calamity overtakes you–when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster overtakes you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:28-33
Fear is not something very desirable for a constant in your life, is it? There are many living in fear throughout the world today, existing in desperately fearful situations because they do not enjoy the present security from danger which you may still enjoy for now; but will yours remain very much longer? There is an ominous cloud moving across the face of the earth as persecution is the continuing daily fare for hundreds of thousands, for millions. The growing black cloud is manifest in the flight of millions of men, women, and children from their homes, resulting in tragic circumstances, pain, and death while desperately trying to find a little peace, food, security, and freedom from constant fear. This circumstance has not reached America’s shores to the same extent yet, but it is already here in many pockets of fearful situations throughout our land: daily home invasions; devastating crimes of robbery, rape, torture, death; home grown terror; riots destroying personal businesses and the livelihood of thousands; dubious government regulations seizing private land from its proper owners; taxes driving businesses and jobs out of existence or out of the country; disappearing jobs forcing more and more onto welfare; persecution of faith and the loss of once constitutionally protected freedom of religion; and the list goes on and on. If these aren’t your personal fears now, they may be soon.
Fear is a complex, common, and very human emotion. It has been an actual benefit in your life at times, giving you adrenaline to excel, to rise to an occasion you may not have reached without, keeping you from some risky venture that could have resulted in painful failure, those safety fears deterring you from attempting to violate the laws of nature like gravity. The kind of fear, however, of the first paragraph, or, the fear of disease, the fear of being shunned by others, the nagging fears of danger to you and yours, takes its toll; it exacerbates sickness and produces the bane of stress which leads to every kind of malady. So by your simple observation and thoughtfulness you can see and appreciate fear’s complexity.
But a common phrase among believers has lost its use in our day, which once frequented the Christian community; the phrase which at one time described one’s character as “God fearing.” Do we need a whole new word to describe this type of fear? It seems we do because Christians today have seemingly dropped the use of “God-fearer” all-together in describing a faithful believer. To equate it with those fears which debilitate you seems ludicrous. Yet in the Scripture, the same word “fear” is used to describe “fearing God” which is commanded and accompanied with multiple blessings, even the foundation of all wisdom and knowledge, and also the same word for the fear which God promises by faith to completely remove from your life because it kills. Apparently, it is not the immediate emotion of fear itself which is sin; it is the object of your fears. One will save you, the other will destroy you; you must examine what “God-fearing” means, and also what fear is like a lethal cancer within.
Fear of God is not antithetical to the whole concept of fear. When the Bible says “Perfect love casts out fear,” it is not saying that perfectly loving God means you stop fearing God. When Abraham obeyed God and went so far as to lay his very loved son Isaac on an altar and lift a knife to drive it into his chest, it was his fear of God which inspired his love for God producing his victory in this supreme test of obedience. Fear of and love for God go hand in hand. They are present at the same time. If you fear God, you love Him; if you love Him, you fear Him. Those who practice fear of God understand it; those who are unbelievers, even some who profess to believe, think this is crazy. The fear of God and not of the world, with all its ultimately poisonous results, makes God preeminent in your life, where you cast all of you into His hands with every fiber in your being. Fear of the world is forgetfulness of God. The next time fear of something in the world grips your heart, try remembering God with all of His attributes and promises to you, His adopted child. If you believe Him and know who He is, the fear of the world will be overwhelmed by His greatness and, like Satan, will flee from you. If it remains as a constant thorn in your side, it means you are double-minded. Get single-mindedly focused on God!
I don’t think you need to be an intellectual scholar with advanced degrees of schooling to understand the concept of fearing God versus fearing the world. The simple and determined exercise of your faith and disciplined use of His Word will give you an appreciation and understanding of the difference between fear of God and fear of the world. The emotion of fear itself is not sin, it is an instinctual human reaction to an immediate protagonist that threatens you, be it human, animal, inanimate, circumstance, whatever. To allow this fear to linger, to paralyze, to worry, to stress, to panic, to produce cowardice rather than the courage of faith, to not turn your eyes to God and rest on His promised care, is sin.
This ominous cloud of calamity is blowing across our country right now. Your salvation lies in your fear of God, not your fear of the cloud or what it contains. Do not give in to the fears that are encroaching on your trust in God; they seek to get you to forget Him. Fear Him, and the fears that obscure your eyes from Him will lose their power to blind and enslave you.
“And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed, his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”
“That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.”
(3rd and 4th verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, 1529)
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