Bro. Wes Booker
Biblically speaking, is it a good thing to fear or a bad thing? Pro. 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare but whoso puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe. Pro. 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. From these two verses, a couple of conclusions that could be reached are—there is a just and Godly sort of fear that we should demonstrate, but there is a fear also to be avoided and that will naturally not occur if we have faith in God, in Jesus, and in the promises of God and Jesus that are revealed in scripture. What I would like to do this morning is to look at both types in Scripture and draw some conclusions.
Good type of fear
Fear of God is found in the followings verses (and of course, many, many more).
Ecc. 12:13 Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear god and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Mal. 3:16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name. Dt. 6:13 Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name. Pro. 8:13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Some conclusions to be drawn from these and like verses—wrapped up in fearing God is knowing what His commandments are and doing them. There is, I believe, a strong analogy to my personal role as teacher to my students and my personal role as a parent to my kids..that is, there is an analogy to these things and God's being our father to us. For example, just as I expect my students to show me respect and do what I ask them to (and the same with my children), so also does God expect us to show Him respect and try, as diligently as we can, to keep His commands.
It is a very easy analogy to understand- a much harder one to put into practice on a daily basis.
Just as with my students, quite often human nature raises its ugly head, and the respect and obedience is lacking, so also with us and our Heavenly Father. But also just as I as a teacher appreciate respect and obedience to me, and small rewards are given as a result, so with God-He appreciates it when we continue to show Him honor and obedience and His reward for a lifelong commitment to this; will be beyond anything we can think of or imagine. A good example in scripture of a man who throughout his life showed this reverence and respect for God and who desired above all to obey Him was Daniel. On many occasions and in many ways Daniel showed this;
In chapter 1, he and his friends were unwilling to partake of the king's food and wine due to their desire to not defile themselves according to God's law. In chapter 2, he saved himself and many others from the wrath of the king due to his prayer to God and God's revealing of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and interpretation to him and his telling of this to the king.
In chapter 6, when faced with the prospect of death, he, as was his custom, prayed to God, with his windows opened to Jerusalem, three times a day, even though he knew that this was going against King Darius' edict and would certainly bring about his arrest. And, as we know, God responded to his respect shown to Him and closed the mouths of the lions and upon his release from the den, enabled him to prosper.
Daniel was just one example among many faithful men and women of scripture who, as the Ecc. writer put it—feared God and kept His commandments—Jesus, of course, being the preeminent example of all.
Good type of fear toward certain men
Paul in Rom. 13 speaks of the importance of Christians being in subjection unto
"the powers that
He says in v. 7 (AV), "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom
tribute is due; custom to
whom custom; FEAR to whom FEAR; honor to whom honor." And earlier in the chapter
that rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
Peter endorses this view in IPet. 2:17 when he says to "show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, FEAR God, honor the king." Then in the next verse he goes one step further by speaking of servants' attitudes toward their masters. "Servants, be subject to your masters with all FEAR; not only to the good and gentle, but also to those who are harsh."
So, brothers and sisters, there is a need for an attitude of FEAR toward those in authority, and even though it is a somewhat different type of fear than what we have toward our Maker, it is still important that we develop that quality. With so many young people today there is a disparaging attitude toward law enforcement officers and even employers who are not perfect in their dealings with their employees. But, brothers and sisters, and young people, a healthy FEAR and respect and honor should be given them, for it is the right thing to do.
Bad type of fear Toward men, governments, man-made institutions.
This type of fear is spoken of by Jesus in Mat. 10 when sending out his apostles to preach the gospel. In verse 23 he prophesies that they will be persecuted and when this happens they must flee to another city. He then says in verse 28, "don't be Afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be Afraid of the one who can destroy both the soul and the body in hell."
So the bad type of fear (i.e. what we should overcome) is the one that retreats from our Christianity in the face of opposition, the one that denies our Lord and His truth when confronted by the unbeliever. Jesus went ahead to say in v. 32, 33 "whoever acknowledges..whoever denies." Brothers and sisters, as we all know, the consequences today if we don't stand up for our beliefs are in no way as severe as they were in the first century. The apostles all eventually died as martyrs. But the consequences we must endure today (while in no way as severe) are still real enough.
They may involve discussion about us behind our backs, verbal opposition, being put on the defensive by friends or family members, ostracism, etc... So what is demanded of us, brothers and sisters, is the courage and the faith to always let people know where we stand. (We, of course, can and should do this in as loving and tactful and least offensive way as possible).
But what we have to remember is that our
beliefs are logical, they are backed by scripture, and they are nothing to be
embarrassed about. Our attitude should echo that of the writer to the Hebrews
who said, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
Toward natural circumstances
In Mat. 8 the disciples and Jesus were in a boat on a lake when a mighty storm suddenly came up. Jesus was in the stern asleep and as the waves continued to come into the boat and his disciples became more and more panicked, they, of course, turned to Jesus, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" and Jesus replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm." Now although it was very understandable for the disciples to be scared (and who of us in their shoes would not have likewise been afraid?), their behavior still elicited Jesus' rebuke. And there has to be a lesson here for us, brothers and sisters, living at the end of the 20th century. And it is simply put-God is in control. Whether it be a "natural" catastrophe or a debilitating illness, or a permanent affliction of whatever kind, what God requires of us is not a trembling in terror, but a faith in Him that even if we suffer or die due to this calamity, our lives are still in God's loving and merciful hands. There is a song..."I Know Who Holds Tomorrow"..(1950), with beautiful music and very simple, understated, yet powerful words;
There are many things about tomorrow What will occur naturally
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand
At the time of the end
What will occur naturally
Jesus, in his Olivet Prophesy, paints a vivid picture of a world teetering on the brink, a world the prophet Isaiah describes that is reeling to and fro as a drunken man. In Luke 21: 11, he says, "There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilence in various places, and FEARFUL events and great signs from heaven."
He goes on to say in v.25, "There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars (and there has been much discussion as to whether-literal or figurative? Probably the correct answer is both.).....On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring of the sea. Men will faint from TERROR, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken."
But, brothers and sisters, what will be true for the world in general (this anguish, perplexity, hopelessness, feeling of no way out) Jesus is saying should not be true for us. He goes ahead to say, "At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
So what is horrible and confusing and fear-creating to many, should be a sign of comfort and long-looked for hope being finally realized for those who are truly "in Christ".
If we are not found "in Christ"
The Hebrew writer says in chap. 10:26,27 "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." And in v.31 he says "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
And interestingly enough, the first of 8 types of those who are rejected at the judgment seat found in Rev. 21, whose destiny is the lake of fire (i.e. the second death)~along with the unbelieving and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars— the first in that horrific list is the FEARFUL.
And do you remember Jesus' parable of the servants who received differing amounts of talents in Mat. 25 and the one rejected? He is described as being evil and lazy, and he has a false perception of his master as being a hard man (actually a self-fulfilling prophesy as concerning him, but not others) But I think one of the most telling statements about him is when he says, "1 was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground." What caused him to fear so much that he was immobilized and ended up, in effect, leaving the Truth? Was he not aware that the same man he "FEARED" had said to him, "I will never leave you or forsake you."
Hadn't he realized the truth of the principle later expressed by Paul in Rom. 8 when he said, "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who is raised to life - and is at the right hand of God. and is also interceding for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword? I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
But, of course, these perceptions, which at one time the rejected should have known, had been swallowed up by the paralyzing FEAR that crippled him and caused him to simply give up.
The contrast to the negative "fear" - FAITH
John says in Uohn 5:4, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our
faith." And the
Hebrew writer says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." and if this
is true, then the
converse must be as well, "Only through our faith can we please God."
In Jesus' day when some of the crowd asked him the question, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" His amazing answer was, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent."
Brothers and sisters, this belief, this faith in God and His son Jesus, and their word of truth, will put to death the ungodly fear that stifles and causes some to drift away. This faith can and will move any mountain in our lives and will bring us into God's everlasting Kingdom. This faith that knows who holds tomorrow and that knows who holds our hand.
Wes Booker (south - Austin. Texas)