Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Appropriate Fear - Part One

Starting today and continuing on for the next few weeks, we will be looking at the subject of fear, specifically the fear of the Lord, which, as we will see, is the only appropriate fear for the Christian. Discovering God's majestic, fearsome, yet gracious and loving character is the key to godly fear. This series will also make evident that godly fear is the prerequisite for respecting earthly authorities, such as parents, husband, employer and church leaders. 

My prayer is that we will all take away a better understanding of and a commitment to fearing God that will motivate personal love for and joyful obedience to Him, which in turn will assist in banishing inappropriate fears (of things created) and respecting earthly authorities.

First, let's start with some definitions of various forms of fear:

Comprehending the Meaning of Three Types of Fear

“The fear of the Lord” (an appropriate or godly fear) – the joyful and fearful esteeming of who God is in all of His perfections and for all of His purposes. This is the only appropriate fear. 

“A godly fear of my earthly authority” – to properly esteem my earthly authority as God’s head over me.
“An inappropriate fear” (or ungodly fear) – to fear anything created either by God (heights, darkness, natural disasters, people, etc.) or by you (financial problems, results of sin, etc.).  

Right now, can you think of an "inappropriate fear that you have had in the past or are currently struggling with? Keep that in mind as we tackle this difficult subject.

The Choicest Treasure – An Appropriate, Godly Fear

We read in Isaiah 33:6, “And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is your treasure.” The fear of the Lord is a treasure He gives to His child. It is one of the choice jewels that He bestows on His beloved ones. It is a rarity of heaven. All men and angels, who live before the throne of God in heaven, bow in reverence and godly fear of Him. And we, here below, rightly honor Him when we fear Him as do the angels and the saints who have gone before us, who are now in His presence.

Godly fear is a treasure from the Lord for it is found only in a few hearts among mortal men. For most men and women, “…there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18). Most men are utterly destitute of this wondrous jewel – the fear of the Lord.

Of six billion people now on the planet, perhaps one in a thousand has this precious token of His love. They may have God’s sun to warm them, His rain to quench their thirst and the harvest to satiate their hunger. But these are mere scraps and fragments, like cast-off rags and worn-out shoes compared to that choice treasure that He reserves for His child and heir – the treasure of godly fear. It is only bestowed on His elect, the children of promise. All others are destitute of it, and so continue on their way to death and judgment.

Job had this fear and the Lord said of Him, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8) If you have been granted this eternal gift, you also are unlike most others on the face of the earth. And if that is the case, it is expedient that you understand just what the fear of the Lord is and why it is so priceless a treasure. That is what we want to try to accomplish in the next few weeks.

The Characteristics of Fear – the What and the How of it

What is Fear Really All About?
Why do we fear and what is fear based on? If you met a lion in the street, your might die of fright before he could touch you. Why is that? Isn’t that because you lack control and can do nothing to prevent the lion from attacking you? Yet, if you see a caged lion, your fear is tempered, because the lion is controlled. You’re still afraid of the beast. Obviously, you would never try to pet it. But though you have a healthy respect for the caged lion, you can also enjoy it because the iron bars moderate your fear and allow you to come near. So fear is really all about a lack of control.

Inappropriate Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

Fear of created things is all about a lack of control and it is crippling. Fear can be so subtle and obscure that we live with it and make daily decisions based on it, or fear can be blaring and obvious. But it is always inappropriate for it is based on the falsehood that no one is in control, not I or anyone else, not even God – and, that in fact, everything is out of control. A great acronym and easy way to remember the basis for inappropriate fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Inappropriate fear nearly always focuses on what is not real, but it takes over our minds as if it were real. It projects terror into the future with its lies and leaves me paralyzed in doing what is right. It leaves me alone to my futile imagination to vainly speculate the solution to and outcome of my struggle. This fuels greater fear and leads to further vain speculations. The solution that I devise will be a fleshly plan that produces the outcome that I think will benefit me, putting me on the throne. But that solution will not glorify God and most certainly will not produce any lasting good in my life (though God graciously uses even our presumptuous sins for our good and His glory).

For the Christian, inappropriate fear is always motivated by Satan in order to get me to act independently of God, which is sin. This is how the evil one moved on Eve to take what belonged to God, the only thing that was forbidden to her.

Fear of created things always cripples and damages. It damages God’s name and His good purpose for me. That is not to say that God can not bring good out of such a situation. He can and will for His child who has returned to loving Him and fulfilling His purposes.

How is Appropriate Fear Different than Inappropriate Fear?

Appropriate Fear = Facing Every Anxiety Realistically

Godly fear is about a lack of control also. But it is different, because, though it acknowledges the reality that I am in control of absolutely nothing, I am confident that nothing is out of control, but that all is under God’s sovereign and gracious rule.

Godly fear never leaves me to myself. Rather it always leads me back to the God who loves me, to "the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2-4), and to His precious promises which quiet my trembling heart and give me hope. Promises like Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This appropriate fear enables me to face every anxiety realistically for it focuses on God’s gracious character and His precious word – like the reality found in Philippians 4:6-8. “The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true…meditate on these things.”

"Whatever things are true...meditate on these things." This counsel from God's word alone stands out against all my unfounded, unrealistic fears. Think on what is true! Is it not true that the great I Am God is with me? Is it not true that He is in control – nothing is out of control? Is it not true that He loves me and is working for my good, to conform me to Christ? And is it not true that my gracious God will keep His promise when I turn to Him, to strengthen my anxious heart with His glorious peace - right in the midst of the very storm that has tossed my thoughts about like snow in a blizzard?

Reiterating, godly, appropriate fear is a treasure from the Lord to His children. Godly fear is healthy, empowering and appropriate. It brings great comfort and joy. When I fear God appropriately, I can rest, fearless of any situation, any enemy, or any failure for I know that this great God, who is in control, is for me and is never against me. He loves me and because I fear Him alone, He will work my situation for His glory and my good.

In Part Two of "An Appropriate Fear", We Will Consider the "Who" of it
In Part Two of An Appropriate Fear, we will look at "who" falls prey to inappropriate fear and the contagion of it, especially in our world today.

Note: Although this topic of fear applies to all women, I will be dealing with it in relation to marriage and the wife’s respect for her husband. But please apply it to your own situation. Whether you submit to a husband, parents, the church elders, or an employer, the principle is still the same. One of the situations in my own life in which I experienced a great deal of fear was when I was a single mother. The truths we will look at in this series are what freed me from those fears. I’ll share more about that later in this series. Newer Post Older Post

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  1. Wow, I'd love to print this and read this over and over again. Thanks once again for the encouragement, Sharon! We all need to rest in His precious promises and remember that He reigns over all fears. And at the same time to have a godly fear that is a treasure from God.

  2. I have an award waiting for you over at my blog for your kindness to me.