Wherever we live in the world, we realise only too well that we are living in a world of fear: fear of violence, fear of man’s inhumanity to man, fear of want, fear of war.
The media also encourages fear in people through it’s increased interest in the black arts. Bookshops and bookstalls have whole sections devoted to material on this subject. Specialist shops exist in most towns and cities, and these deal with all the paraphernalia of witchcraft. They thrive on the fear of the unknown. The power that evil minds wish to use over impressionable men, women and children can be frightening.
What does the Bible say about fear? There is some fear which is appropriate and there is other fear which is not – it can be avoided.
The fear to be avoided
God promises on many occasions throughout the Bible to protect us.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”Genesis Ch.15:1
Abram should not be afraid because he had the creator of the whole earth to protect him!! We likewise should not have fear of what is in the future as we have God to stay with us in difficult times.
So the key to avoiding fear is to remember the greatness of God.
Consider the example of Moses. Moses repeatedly said to fugitive Israel, “Fear not”, as they struggled through that “waste howling
wilderness”. Then, when after many years the ten spies brought their pessimistic and faithless report back to the camp, Moses said, “Dread not, neither be afraid of them”, even though the report was of giants and cities walled up to heaven. He repeated the assurance as they neared the promised land, saying,
Thou shalt not be afraid of them.Deuteronomy Ch.7:18
Moses gave instructions as to how Israel was to go into battle. First, the priests were to exhort the people and say,
Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them. Deuteronomy Ch.20:3
and then, just before he died, Moses said:
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee. Deuteronomy Ch.31:6
He repeated this three times just to make sure they got the message. The great God was with them – that is why they should not be in fear.
I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?Isaiah Ch.51:12-13
When we are controlled by our fears we are in fact making fear a more powerful force in our life than God. We must always remember that God far greater than all your fears combined.
So how do we change our way of thinking? Firstly, work out why you are afraid. What is it that you specifically fear? Secondly, approach God in prayer and ask him to protect you from the perceived threat.
Fear of other people
Fear can actually hold us back from achieving the goals we have set ourselves in life. If your fear is of other people then this will hinder us from doing those things we are trying to achieve. Some people can actually be frightened to leave their house because they have such a great fear of what other people will do them.
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.Proverbs Ch.29:25
People can do no eternal harm to the baptised believer – no matter what they do to that believer, he/she still has the promise of eternal life in the future kingdom.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul . Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell .Matthew Ch.10:28
So whenever we feel enveloped in a thick cloud of fear we should remember these words:
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?Psalm 56:3-4 NIV
And also the voice of Jesus saying these words:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.Luke Ch.12:32
Have fear but don’t fear - Contradiction?
The Bible states that there is one type of fear that we must have – fear of God.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
So, at the same time that we are commanded again and again to fear God and to fear the word of God, while dozens of times the men and women whose lives are in the Bible were told by the divine angels and by Jesus, “Fear not”.
Is there a contradiction here? How can we fear and yet not fear at the same time? This simple short word in English, ‘fear’, has two distinct meanings:
1. to be terrified, or seriously disturbed;
2. to show respect, or reverence to someone.
The equivalent Hebrew word used in scripture, yare, also has these two meanings, and so does the Greek word phobos in the New Testament. So we cannot blame the English language for this anomaly!
Fear that is appropriate
The wholesome reverential fear of God is often expressed in another Hebrew word yirah, as for example in Psalm 2:11: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling”; or as Paul expresses this thought, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This kind of fear is not a miserable sleepless terror, but a positive constant awareness that our loving Father is everywhere present and working for us, if we wish to be His sons and daughters, and keep within His family circle.
This kind of respectful fear is expressed in love for our Father, by always seeking to please Him in everything we think, say and do. Yet faithful men and women who did fear God in this manner have been subjected to abject fear, and have been frightened. For example, while Abram slept, the unexpected appearance of a vision caused him to be afraid. “Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield and exceeding great reward” were the first words of reassurance, before he was told the wonderful news that he would indeed have a son, in spite of the great age of himself and of Sarah. First Abram’s fears were allayed, so that he could receive and understand the news.
To fear the Lord is to recognize God for who he is: all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing, holy, almighty, righteous and pure. When we view God in this way we get a clearer picture of ourselves as being frail, sinful, weak and needy. When we consider the contrast between us and God we will worship Him in humble respect.
Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.Psalm 25:12
If we fear God we will get to know him in a more complete manner.
Those who hold him in the highest honour will also get to call God a friend. Imagine being able to have the God of all creation as a friend.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?Deuteronomy Ch.10:12-13
When we consider God’s magnificent power and justice this should motivate our fear of him. Rather than having a fear of God driven by what he might do to us – take a more positive approach and base that fear around a reverence and awe of his great mercy. Although our sins ought to have severe judgment against them, God has chosen instead to show love and mercy to those who seek forgiveness.
Paul, at Corinth, distressed by the Jews who refused his message and opposed him, was reassured:
Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you,Acts Ch.18:9-10
Even a tough character like Paul needed to be reassured, so the Lord said to him: “For I am with thee.”
The apostle Peter strengthened the disciples with the words:
“Be not afraid of their terror, nor be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”1 Peter Ch.3:3–4.
So we have a divinely inspired refrain ringing down the ages from the Lord to his people of faith: “Be not afraid.” It comes to us who live in a world where men’s hearts are failing them for fear. Why are we to fear God, and yet have no fear?
The reason is the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the evidence here not merely of a God who has compassion on us in our natural fears, but who shows love and mercy in providing for us poor foolish creatures a way of escape from the fear of death itself. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins, but did not remain in the grave. His resurrection is the assurance that we, too, can rise from the dead: we need have no fear, even of death.
The message coming from the death and resurrection of Jesus is:
“Do not be afraid”.Acts 18:9
For the happy fact that God has called us out of darkness into the glorious light of the gospel is the assurance that He is with us—if we be with Him!
Like Israel, like Moses, like Joshua, and David, we all have a war on our hands, a war within our own selves, the war of the flesh against the spirit. Nevertheless, be not afraid: we can be more than conquerors through him that loved us and gave his life for us.
That he did love us and does love us is shown plainly by the sacrifice made by his dearly beloved son.
What a wonderful love indeed! Therefore let us not be afraid. Let us think about this wonderful paradox: “Fear God and have no fear”;
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”Psalm 111:10
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever”.Psalm 19:9 RSV
So, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.Psalm 34:4 RSV
As we remember the life and death of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us remember his words:
Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.Revelation Ch.1:17, RSV
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Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015