Fear is an interesting motivator. People tend to live their lives based upon their fears. Some fear negative reactions and act in compliant ways in order to avoid them. Some respond to the possibility of a negative reaction by running away, either internally or physically. Whether it is to please (or calm) a spouse, boss, parent, or even a pressing situation individuals are daily motivated to respond in accordance with their fears. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that this kind of fear is a trap, and I don’t think it takes much explanation or exploration to discover just how true this statement is.
At the same time, the Bible tells us of another kind of fear, one that in reality is incredibly freeing, and that is the fear of the Lord. Putting Matthew 10:28 and Proverbs 29:25 together we get an interesting contrast in comparison to our fearing man himself. In Matthew we are told to fear God instead of man, because all man can do is take your physical life (which on a human scale is no small thing). But it is God alone who is able to destroy our very souls and control eternal existence. It is God who created this small planet in the vastness of the universe, and it is God who can hold the entirety of the universe in His hand. It is the same God, who we read in Psalm 139, who has His hand on our shoulder, who is holding our hand, who is intimately acquainted with all of our ways, and who has ordained every day of our life before there was even one of them. Yes, our God is huge, but our God also cares for the smallest and most finite of details.
In Proverbs we read that “He who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” The New American has a good literal translation of this word. It means to be made high. But several of the other translations may have a clearer grasp on the intent of its usage. In them we read words such as “protected” or “kept safe.” In thinking about this I am reminded of taking my little kids to the beach and standing in the waves. Every now and then one comes in that is a bit more aggressive than anticipated and the child starts to panic a bit. It is then that I simply lift then up above the water.
The question we daily have to answer is who are we going to fear and give our obedience to? Are we going to be people who are moved by fear of the negative, or loss, or of someone who only has the ability to take our physical lives? Or, are we going to be ones who fear and reverence through our worship, obedience , and service the one who gave us life, gave us eternal life, and who holds absolutely everything together? How big is our God? What changes do you need to make in your life to better reflect these truths?Joe Burgess (Originally written in 2009 for small group discussion)