The dictionary defines “fear” as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. We all know the experience of being afraid. From the child’s fear of the dark to the adult’s dread of death, from unease due to the unstable economy to apprehension due to an impending layoff at your workplace, we have all experienced the paralyzing effects of fear. Yet this kind of fear is not from God and can keep us from being all God calls us to be.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Word of God makes it clear that any fear that paralyzes us and prohibits our advancing the cause of the kingdom of Christ comes to us from Satan, not our Savior. This is an ungodly fear that makes us unstable, unreliable, and uncertain about everything regarding both life and death. The devil likes to distract Christians with every imaginable fear. He seeks to water down our witness and slow our service to God.
But this is not for you! The only fear the Christian should have is the fear of God.
Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. (Deuteronomy 4:10)
O, that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever. (Deuteronomy 5:29)
To fear God is to bow down before Him in reverential awe. It is not a slavish fear that immobilizes us and keeps us locked up for fear of punishment and retribution. That is the kind of ungodly fear that we see in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:8-10)
Ungodly fear followed on the heels of the first sin and it has plauged every person ever since. But godly fear is a fear that acknowledges God as much for His holiness as for His love . . . as much for His majesty as for His mercy . . . as much for His faithfulness as for His forgiveness. To fear God in the way Scripture commands is to experience Him as “Abba Father” and to know just how we got in that kind of relationship with Him. A God who was willing to send His Son to die in our place that we might live is a God we bow low before in loving awe and reverent thanksgiving.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
The fear of the Lord is the unshakable foundation upon which we build our lives. We delight in the Law of God and desire to keep it, even though we know we fail daily. The fear of the Lord empowers us to live out practically what we are positionally. We are adopted sons and daughters who are deeply loved and desired; therefore we desire nothing more than to live a life that is pleasing to the One who paid so great a price to have us as His own. And when we fail, and fail we do, we run—not away from Him but to Him, knowing that He awaits us with open arms and nail-scarred hands. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,” the epistle to the Hebrews says, “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
Godly fear is a great grace given to the believer by faith. It frees us to praise in our problems, sing in our suffering, and cry out to Jesus in our challenges, because we know that we are the objects of His unwavering and unconditional affection.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!