“Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened,” (1 Peter 3:14)
It’s interesting to think that each one of us operates out of fear daily. We do this by subtly asking every “what if?” question imaginable. What if I run out of money? What if someone breaks into my house? What if I get caught? What if I’m hungry later? What if people don’t like the way I look? What if my life is in danger? What if my co-workers talk behind my back? What if they don’t accept what I believe?
All of these questions stem from a type of fear—and not the “good” type of fear, either. It’s valuable to define the word before we go any further: Google defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” Supporting definitions include “a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone” and “the likelihood of something unwelcome happening.” Understanding these basic definitions is crucial to the rest of this post.
(Note that this is different than the “good” type of fear I referred to earlier. Many in Christian circles will point out that references to “fear of the Lord” read differently in Hebrew and Greek, ultimately constituting a different meaning of the term “fear.” Fear of the Lord in Hebrew means to respect, or reverence, and in Greek means reverential. Not to get too off topic—just making sure we’re advancing with minimal confusion since the English word has multiple meanings.)
The world tries to write off these fears in a number of ways: financial wisdom (saving for retirement), healthy living (3 square meals and plenty of rest & exercise), fashion trends (wearing clothes that are “in”), relationship advice (staying away from enemies but keeping friends close), to name a few. These are all forms of fear just disguised as the cultural norm or the so-called best practices of today’s day and age. The concepts themselves can be biblical (i.e. treating your body as a temple), but the methods for going about them are human-constructed. Why were these methods developed by humans? Fear. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of unacceptance. Fear of failure. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of difficulty. Fear of rejection. Fear of struggle.
As inhabitants of this fallen world, we have all certainly had these fears of the flesh at some point. The Bible makes it clear though that the only fear we should have is fear of the Lord—every other type of fear is discouraged or commanded against. David demonstrates the silliness in fearing anyone other than the Lord, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6), “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). David was frequently attacked from his surrounding enemies and surely had internal attacks on his leadership ability. Even in the midst of it all, David saw the pointless nature of fearing another man.
Jesus also addressed this very issue of the fear of man: “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 10:28). So does Solomon: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe,” (Proverbs 29:25). And yet we tend to move along quickly when spotting a man in a dark alley…
When we are made new by the blood of Jesus, Paul asserts that we do not have to live in fear anymore, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship,” (Romans 8:15). Receiving the spirit, the Holy Spirit, initiates a freedom from the bondage that the fear of man held on us. We no longer succumb to the fear of anything of this world when we accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
I charge you to evaluate in which areas of your life you are still a slave to fear. Lay them down at the foot of the cross and ask for only a reverential fear of the Lord God Almighty. God knew that any other type of fear would lead us astray from Him and thus commanded us to abstain from those fears. They require us to focus our attention on the creation rather than the Creator. Re-direct your focus; surrender your fears to Him so that you don’t have to live separated from and distrusting our Almighty Creator!