October 18, 2016

By Nate Wagner

Should we fear God? This may sound like a question that has little relevance to life as a modern person, yet it is one that we all answer every day with how we live our lives. This is because fear is a powerful motivator and plays a major role in our decision making. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are fearful creatures.

One of the most common expressions of fear today is fear of rejection. Much of how we live is wrapped up in ensuring that we are not rejected by the people around us. We will either aggressively pursue acceptance and affirmation from those around us by manipulation and intimidation or we will seek to be invisible so that no one will actively reject us. This is likely one of the motivators for desiring to be around a homogenous people. If we look like, sound like, and act like the people around us, the chances that we will be rejected decrease because we intuitively know that people do not reject things that reflect their style/personality/race/worldview.

Another powerful expression of fear is fear of inadequacy. This often manifests through material pursuit. If I have enough money, I can demonstrate the value of my existence. Therefore, we be confined to a state of anxiety, perpetually trying to increase our value by our possessions, experiences, or savings accounts. This fear can be a driving force behind consumerism and greed as it creates a dependence on material goods for internal worth. This is a pretty bleak view of fear. What hope can there be of a fear that is so deeply wrapped up in our existence that we often do not even consciously realize that fear is what is driving us?

This is a pretty bleak view of fear. What hope can there be of a fear that is so deeply wrapped up in our existence that we often do not even consciously realize that fear is what is driving us?

Not all fear is bad. In fact, Scripture commands us to fear: “‘ We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’” (Deuteronomy 6:21-25).

Notice how Moses reminds the Israelites of their need to fear God with reasons to fear him. The strength and power of the Lord was demonstrated in the actions he took to rip his people away from the slavery of Pharaoh. In this example we see two ways that we are to fear the Lord: fearing the Lord with awe and respect, and fearing the Lord because he holds life and death in his hands.

In order to truly fear the Lord with respect and awe, we must first know the Lord and know that he is for us. This is something that God demonstrated to his people by actively moving in the world in order to free them from slavery. Because of the Lord’s love for his people, he acted on their behalf in order to work for their good. This gave the Israelites a sense of security, that God was for them and that he was with them.

We see two ways that we are to fear the Lord: fearing the Lord with awe and respect, and fearing the Lord because he holds life and death in his hands.

Moses also reminds the Israelites that the Lord did signs and wonders, great and grievous. The destruction that the Lord wrought demonstrated his power. At a visceral level, this invokes fear. If we are trusting in Christ, we can never separate this fear from the knowledge and understanding of our security because of the Lord’s power, but we still feel this type of fear. The result is an enhanced understanding of the Lord and a deep sense of trust and dependence as he works for our good!

Moses also reminds the Israelites that the Lord did signs and wonders, great and grievous.

How then should we live today? How can we turn our fear of rejection, loneliness, failure, inadequacy, poverty, discomfort, and/or death into the type of fear that Moses urges the Israelites to have?

Become aware of when you fear something above the Lord. Pay attention to the various ways that you experience fear and catch yourself in the moment. Have confidence that a consuming fear resulting in forgetting God is not his plan for you.

Remember the Lord who does grievous signs and works. Any horror or fear-evoking experience is a faint shadow compared to the power of the Lord. In fact, the Lord will often use “secondary causes” or ordinary life-events to remind us of his power. The key is to remember the Lord in situations that rightfully evoke fear and see them pale in comparison to the power of the Lord.

Find freedom in fearing the Lord. Fearing the Lord is a process that brings freedom from unhealthy fear. It is a process because it is ongoing. We will not fear the Lord perfectly in this life, but we can fear him truly. Those true moments of fearing the Lord will teach us how to fear him above all else. This is freedom, because when we rightly fear the Lord, we are delivered from all other fears because we have a deep understanding that God is for us and he is in control.