By Terry Hoskins, Director of Oasis Counsel –
Fear can protect us when facing disaster, as well as paralyze us when it persuades us to avoid normal life experiences. There are different facets of fear that can be broken down into three categories; natural fear, sinful fear, and godly fear. Fear can turn our attention to wisdom, as well as reveal our selfishness. The question is what type of fear are we talking about? When is fear considered sinful and when is it godly?
When we are faced with dangerous situations that bring about what we would call natural fear. We call this natural because this fear is instinctual to all humans regardless of time, place or culture. This is when the flight or fight response takes ahold of us. This fear is given to us by God for our own protection. The heart beats faster and adrenaline courses threw the body. We have all heard stories of people doing extraordinary feats when the natural fear response takes over. A mother standing up against a bear when her child in is in harms way; a man pulling off the door of a car to save unconscious passengers; a soldier carrying two injured comrades as he runs through the battle field. When we are faced with the right set of circumstances natural fear will help us because God made us with abilities to react faster and stronger in times of distress.
Sinful fear is also quite natural as we are born with a sin nature called the flesh that continues to turn us away from God. Sinful fear turns our attention to ourselves instead of God. We become the focus or the center of all things as this fear takes full control of our lives. For example, Brian was at a work party when he was embarrassed by a co-worker. His friend pulled a prank on him in front of the boss and the woman he liked, and Brian was so humiliated he left the party. Five years later Brian continues to replay the event, and hates going to parties because of the fear that he will be humiliated once again. He tries to avoid parties at all costs, so instead of enjoying a night with his friends, he now dreads these group events. Sinful fear turns us inward, as we see with Brian who now can’t enjoy himself let alone encourage and build up his friends in the Lord during these group situations because he is so paralyzed by fear. What is Brian so fearful of anyway? He is afraid of the possibly of being embarrassed. Who is the focus on, Brian or God? Brian of course, he can’t begin to depend on God because he has allowed this fear to grow into an uncontrollable monster.
Sinful fear robs us of today’s joy because we like Brian are worried about unlikely possibilities or worst case scenarios to dominate our thinking. For example, Jason will not drive a car because he may get into an accident. This is highly unlikely, yet daily, fears hinder us in this way as we bank on the worst case scenarios to occur. God calls us to trust Him and walk through fears.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7a)
As a child of God this fear of Him can be defined as an awe, reverence, and highly esteemed above all else. He is God and no one or thing can compare with the eternal God of the universe. He is worthy of all glory and honor as He is our Creator! All followers of Christ should have a healthy fear of God, as He is perfect, holy, all-knowing, all-powerful etc, as we are imperfect, sinful, flakey, and insecure. God knows every wrong thought and every evil action we have committed. But we can rest assure that we are safe in the arms of a loving, graceful, and patient God who adopts us and makes us heirs of His Kingdom. This promise is for all of God’s children who make Him Lord and Savior.
When I fear God than all other fears will be dealt with properly. When I fear God it motivates me to obey and honor Him to the point that I will walk through all other fears. The fear of God turns me to God instead of away from Him. I am motivated to fear and love God more than be controlled by other fears. The fear of God trumps all other fears, and I become a slave to God instead of a slave to fear!