Fear is something that manifests in the form of endless pondering on negative scenarios whilst building up anxiety, worry and stress inside of us.  But what is fear? Fear is defined as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion, caused by anticipation or awareness of danger”, it is also defined as “a profound reverence and awe especially toward God“.[1] I have found that the Bible speaks of two types of fear. The fear of people and the fear of God. Now what is the difference?

The fear of people

Like many others I was bullied as a child.  Bullying together with being rejected by family members, school mates and my father made me actively seek everyone’s acceptance.  Gradually a person’s opinion of me could make or break me.  This insecurity cultivated a fear of being rejected by people inside of me. See, I have come to believe that the most common form of fear is the fear of rejection. This fear comes in many forms like peer pressure and conformity.  Today it takes so much courage to just be the person God made you to be, and to be ok with not being accepted or liked by everyone. Just think about it.  We are so foolish to seek people’s approval of us in everyway when most of us don’t even like everything that we are.

Anyway, I think that conforming is like the parable of the valuable talents (coins) in Matthew 25:14-30. Our day of reckoning will come and I certainly don’t want to be the guy who buried his coin out fear. Everyone receives their coins – your talents, gifts or personality traits – which are unique because you are unique.  Only you can contribute a special something to this world that has never been and will never be. I would be mad too if I gave someone customised (for the lack of a better example) jewellery and all they did was hide it in a box somewhere. We tend to forget how amazing it is that there are so many people in the world and no one is exactly the same. God paid special attention in creating us to ensure that we’re one of a kind. How is it that we’re more amazed by the age of diamonds or the exclusiveness of brands. But we’re not amazed with each other. We are the very definition of “rare” and “unique”.

When Rahab spoke to the spies sent by Joshua she said that terror over Israel overwhelmed the people of Jericho and that the entire population had melted down in fear (Joshua 2:9-11).  She also said that after they heard of what Israel had done to the other cities their hearts turned to water and they could no longer build up their courage.  As we can see here, water and melting represents the nature of fear, which is a state of liquidity and instability.

Fear destabilises our faith and hope, the foundation of ourselves. It is a crippling disability of the mind and robs us of what God has planned for us.

If Joshua, Moses, Abraham and David acted on their fears we would not know of them today.  Joshua entered a land completely unknown to him with hostile intentions. He did not know whether he had enough soldiers or the layout of the land, but he “took courage and hoped in the Lord” who certainly knew what He was doing.

The fear of God

In addition to destabilising you and robbing you of God’s good plans for you, the fear of people “betrays our ability to help ourselves by thinking clearly” (Wisdom of Solomon 17:12) and it “comes before pain and grief follows it” (4 Maccabees 1:23).  In other words, fear makes you stupid and makes all of your negative thoughts a reality.

The Bible tells us that to fear God is to hate evil, pride and arrogance, the path of evil and corrupt speech (Proverbs 8:13).  The fear of God is a tool that we can use to keep us from sin.  The reverential fear of God is so important in keeping away from sin and in bearing fruits of the spirit as we see in Proverbs that:

  • the fear of the Lord increases one’s life” (Proverbs 10:27)
  • the fear of the Lord leads to life, then one rests content, untouched by harm” (Proverbs 19:23)
  • the reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is wealth, honour and life” (Proverbs 22:4)
  • the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people away from death traps” (Proverbs 14:27)

So, let’s be very afraid … of God! Revere Him!

Overcoming fear

Throughout the Bible, the Lord reminds us to “fear not” or “be not afraid”. This presupposes that we will feel fear and brings on the whole “but I just can’t help it” argument.  However, God gives us a choice.  We can decide not to allow our fears to dictate our actions and paths in life.  We don’t have to be controlled by fear …

We can overcome fear:

  • by drawing on the strength of Jesus Christ – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)
  • by being secure in God’s perfect love for us – “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment.  The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18)
  • by trusting God completely and sincerely – “don’t fear because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand” (Isaiah 41:10)

Remember, “people are trapped by their fear of others; those who trust the Lord are secure” (Proverbs 29:25).  Don’t box yourself in.

[1] Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.