A Case for Fear
The other day, the Lord impressed upon my heart that He was going to teach me about fear. About how to fear. Color me confused. Isn’t fear bad? Shouldn’t we strive to live without it? He assured me it would all make sense and told me, as He does, to get to bed.
He has since confirmed this within me. But first, I have to clarify. Because English makes a mess of these things.
There are two senses of the word “fear” here. First, as in the “fear of the Lord.” When used correctly, this is a good, healthy, awe-inspired and action-directing fear. The second fear is that of terror. This fear lives only in the shadows of the unknown, and seeks to take our eyes off of the Lord’s providence. Conversely, the first fear, when cultivated and used properly, dispels the second just as darkness flees from light.
The Terror By Night
Fear2 can only exist in the presence of uncertainty. Think about it. If you knew that something horrible was going to happen to you tomorrow, would you be afraid? Probably. But if you knew every detail, every possibility, and the ultimate outcome — in its entirety — you wouldn’t fear. You may dread the event, but you wouldn’t fear it. (I can only do so much in writing, but I encourage you to ponder this yourself. I’m convinced it is the case.)
How much more, then, are Christians blessed? For we know the outcome is good! Christ has already won the victory, and death has lost its sting. There is no fear in death. God is good and heaven is wonderful. We look forward to the day we finish our assignment and the Lord says “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Still, there is uncertainty around the events that happen on this side of heaven.
How Now Shall We Fear?
Fear1 is one of the greatest blessings the Lord has given us. But it’s hard to grasp, since “terror” has become the main meaning of the word. Unfortunately, the best way I can describe it is in the negative sense: “fear of man.”
When you walk into a room and suddenly everyone is staring at you, fear1 kicks in. You may turn around and leave. You may ask, “What?” You may quietly, and quickly, get to your place in the room. But this fear, improperly applied, is concerned with what man thinks — and it controls your actions.
On the otherhand, the “fear of the Lord” inspires us to live holy and righteous in God’s sight, being more concerned with what the Lord thinks about us than what man thinks. To properly cultivate this fear in our lives, we should ruthlessly reject “fear of man.” Instead, foster a countenance of abiding with the Lord.
The Fear of The Lord
As I said at the top of the article, the first fear, when used correctly, dispels the second. Perfect love casts out all fear2 (see 1 John 4:18).
A beautiful illustration of this is Psalm 91: “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” Why not? “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place — the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” (verses 5-6 and 9-10, ESV)
When we abide in the Lord and live our lives by His lordship, He builds faith in us. Sort of like the Lord telling me to go to sleep. I still had questions, but He said it was time to rest. To fear Him and walk in obedience, you have to trust.
Thankfully, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). So, while there is uncertainty in this life, we can trust God. He is perfect, and our understanding is limited. Where my knowledge ends, He’s proven Himself capable to work out the details.
For the times when faith is elusive, you can always pray the sentiment of the father in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Read Alan Dowd’s “Touching Him: The Power of Faith” here on The Stream for more on the subject of faith.