Most of us woke up this morning in a place of safety. Whether your doors were locked or your windows left open, you felt safe enough to close your eyes and go to sleep without wondering if something or someone was going to harm you. We are truly blessed to have this safety.
Others live in constant fear. There are places of unrest around the world where people don’t know what they will wake to. Will there be food for them to eat? Will strangers be holding a gun or a knife to them? Will there be peace or war? Will they wake up at all?
We equate fear with a horrible existence. “How can people live like that?” we ask. When it appears in our “safe” part of the world we call it paranoia or chalk it up to a psychological disorder. The Disabled World website lists and defines 87 known phobias. Yet Scripture tells us the importance of a unique type of fear.
It sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to be in “perfect peace” in the loving arms of “the God of all comfort”? Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace, giving us access to approach God’s Throne “with confidence”? And yet fear is foundational to our lives in Jesus Christ.
The fear we’re afraid of
We are afraid of fear because we understand it as something terrible. Fear holds us back, keeping away from what is good. It debilitates us, freezing us like a deer distracted by oncoming headlights, leaving us even more vulnerable to danger. Fear sends goosebumps down our necks, chills us and turns our stomachs.
A famous quote about fear was delivered in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address. As he took the reigns of a nation paralyzed by depression, FDR spoke those words, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He was speaking about the declaration of truth, of the possibility and ability to move forward in the midst of dire times. After speaking this powerful phrase, he went on to define this fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
This is the fear we are afraid of. It is fear that cannot be defined, attacked or guarded against. When it comes upon us, all it promises is doubt, pain, and defeat.
The fear of the Lord
But this is not the fear Scripture encourages us towards. We are told to embrace “the fear of the Lord.” This fear comes with the promise of reward and blessing, not troubles or loss.
[tweetthis]Fearing #God comes with the #promise of reward and blessing, not troubles or loss. #Christianity[/tweetthis]
The fear of the Lord is rightly translated “fear”, though. It is not reverence or awe. The words used in the original convey fear as we know it, evidenced by their use in other places of Scripture.
Three original words – Hebrew pachad (Strong’s H6343) and yir’ah (H3374), and Greek phobos (G5401) where we get our “phobia” from – are translated in other Scriptures to mean “dread” or “dreadful”, “calamity”, and “terror”. The are used to describe the fear of God in His enemies, but also in His own people. (Click here for an online tool to help investigate the meaning of original Bible words.)
Still, Scripture tells us it is good to fear the Lord.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever … (Psalm 19:9, NIV)
The fear of the LORD prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
(Proverbs 10:27, NKJV)
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 14:27, NIV)
The fear of the LORD leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil.
(Proverbs 19:23, NKJV)
The Church and the fear of the Lord
Now, don’t look at these verses from the Old Testament and assume that New Testament believers are exempt from the fear of the Lord. A quick look at the book of Acts shows us how it had a pivotal role in the life and growth of the Church.
[tweetthis]Scripture proves the fear of the Lord is key to the life and health of the #church. #God #life[/tweetthis]
As Acts Chapter 4 crosses into Chapter 5, we read about how the believers in Jerusalem are helping each other out. Some sell off property and bring the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute as needed. Joseph, also known as Barnabas, is given as an example of those who give. Then we hear about a couple who seek personal profit under the guise of generosity.
Ananias and Sapphira conspire together to sell a piece of land and keep back some of the proceeds. That wasn’t really the problem. Where God took issue was in their lie that they gave all of the proceeds to the Church. When each one lied, “not just to human beings but to God” (5:4, NIV), they were struck down dead. And as the believers heard about this, “Great fear seized the church” (5:11, NIV).
Later on, a great enemy of the Church was converted to follow Jesus. Acts 9 tells how Saul went from jailing Christians to joining and encouraging them. Scripture describes the result of Saul’s conversion for the Church.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31, NIV)
Even in the New Testament, the fear of the Lord is a tool to encourage God’s people to maintain right relationship with Him. It results in a more powerful witness for our lives. Living in the fear of the Lord declares to the world our faith in God’s existence, in the truth of His Word and promise, and in the conviction that His wrath is to be feared.
When there is no fear of the Lord, the world sees a different version of Christianity. It not only blends into their way of life, it accepts and adopts it. Who will run from eternal judgment if Christians do not fear it What example is there to inspire repentance if God is not feared by those who claim to know Him best?
[tweetthis]What will inspire repentance if #God is not feared by those who claim to know Him best?[/tweetthis]
Will you allow yourself to fear the Lord? Can you look at Him as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, all-powerful and all-knowing, terrible in wrath and calamity upon His enemies? He’s still your Savior and Friend. But He is to be feared.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29, NKJV)