The Fear of God or the Fear of Man

I want us to consider just one word. It is a four letter word and it is spelled F-E-A-R. Fear began in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:9, 10) and from that time till the present day, we have lived with it. Fear is one of the strongest emotions we experience, but there is a time coming very soon when there will be no more fear. We read about it in the book of Isaiah. “Thus says your Lord, the LORD and your God, who pleads the cause of His people: ‘See I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it.’” Isaiah 51:22 NKJV

Fear, like other emotions, can have a good effect or it can have an evil one, causing a person to lose his soul.

Let us briefly consider the good effect of fear. The good effect of fear is the fear of God. The first part of the first angel’s message says, “Fear God and give glory to Him.” We are living in a generation where there is little fear of God, but we should be afraid to disobey Him or to do anything that is in any way displeasing to Him. There is nothing wrong with this kind of fear. Fearing God has to do with reverence, respect and with the realization of His holy character.

There is another kind of fear, however, that is not holy or healthy in its effect. In fact, it is very detrimental and has caused millions of people to lose their soul. This is the type of fear that was experienced by the parents of the man Jesus cured of blindness. We find this story recorded in John 9.

“They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of Him, that He hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.” John 9:13-18

The Pharisees were in a real dilemma. They were determined not to accept the evidence before them, so they called the parents of the man, “And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” John 9:19-22

This is a most amazing development. Try to put yourself in the situation of these parents. One of the things that parents watch for in their babies is to see the look of recognition in their child’s face. Imagine how you would feel if you watched day after day and it never took place. As you watched your baby, you realized that he could not see. You took him to the most skillful physician and he told you that there was nothing he could do for him. Can you imagine the heart breaking realization, that your son was blind and would never see?

Now, suppose that this son suddenly received his sight, and someone asks you, “What happened?” Can you imagine yourself saying, “I don’t know,” when you knew very well how he received his sight? These parents knew how their boy received his sight; it was going all over town like a prairie fire, but they were in such bondage to fear that they lied.

The Bible tells us that people who lie are going to hell. The last two chapters of the Bible states this three times. In one place it says no liars will be on the inside of the city, and another time it says that they will all be on the outside and burn up. Another time it says no one will enter into the city who is a liar. God wanted to be sure that no one was mistaken on that point.

These people were in such fear of being put out of the synagogue, that is, disfellowshipped, that they were willing to jeopardize their eternal life. There are many today who listen to and believe the truth in secret because they do not want the people they work with or the people they go to church with to find out about it.

Well, what happens when a person has this fear? Did these people confess Christ? No. Can you be saved if you do not confess Christ? No. Have you ever met a Seventh-day Adventist who was afraid of being disfellowshipped? I want you to see how serious this is. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise of men more than the praise of God. Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.’” John 12:42-45 NKJV

We are not talking about some phenomenon that just affected a handful of people. There were thousands of people in this situation. Even some of the people who were eventually saved lost a great deal because of their fear. Joseph of Arimathea was one of those people. He was a disciple of Jesus, but nobody knew it because he was afraid of the Jews. See John 19:38. As a result, he never got to associate with Jesus during the time of Jesus’ ministry. During all of the rest of his life, he had to remember that when the Majesty of heaven was here and he could have been with Him just like the rest of the disciples, he missed out because of fear.

Someone says to me, “Oh, in the structure of Adventism, there are people like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemus.” Yes, there are thousands of Seventh-day Adventists in this situation. They are afraid to stand up and do what they know is right because of fear; and if they do not stand up for the truth, they are going to miss out. One of these days the latter rain, the loud cry, is going to come, but God is not going to allow anyone to participate in the latter rain and the loud cry who is afraid to stand up for the truth. God may snatch some of them out of the fire, as Jesus saved the thief on the cross at the eleventh hour, but they are missing out on the grandest opportunity that Adventists have ever had, because we are standing in a position right now, where, if we will stand up for the truth, God will use us to finish His work.

You cannot be saved without being involved in God’s work. If fear is keeping you from being vitally involved in the Lord’s work, you must get over that fear or you will be lost. In Revelation 21:8, there is a list of people who are going to experience the second death. The first to be mentioned are the cowardly. A coward is a person who is full of fear.

The church leaders of Jesus’ time were afraid of the Roman power. “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’” John 11:47, 48 NKJV

Is there anybody in Adventism today who is afraid of the Roman power? Yes, there is. They do not even want us to hand out The Great Controversy. They are afraid to tell the truth. While we want to be loving and kind whatever we do, we want to tell the truth. It is not loving to do otherwise. The world is rapidly going to destruction. Can we sit by and watch them be destroyed and say nothing and yet profess that we love them?
What happened to the people in Christ’s time who were afraid of the Roman power? The same people who were afraid of the Roman power were destroyed by it. Do not think that if you decide you are not gong to say anything that you are going to be saved when the trouble comes, because just like the people of Christ’s time, you will be destroyed anyway.

What is the solution to overcoming this universal human emotion that is so powerful and that the devil has used so successfully? The solution is knowing that God is with you. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

Notice what Jesus said about fear as He was sending his disciples out to preach. “Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:26-33 NKJV

When God is with you, you do not need to be afraid of anything. Our problem is in developing enough faith to believe that. You will never conquer fear unless you have enough faith to believe these Scriptures. Learning to have a perfect faith and trust in God is absolutely essential to our preparation for the times of trouble that the world is entering into today.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. The Word of God is the medium through which faith comes. If you want to have faith, you need to have a Bible memorization program.

The second thing you must do, if you want to have faith, is to have an active prayer life. Jesus said that the kind of faith that moves mountains is not obtained except by prayer and fasting. See Matthew 17:19-21.

We are headed into a time when the whole world is going to be gripped in fear such as they cannot imagine. The Bible says, “Fear and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitants of the earth. And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare; for the windows from on high are open, and foundations of the earth are shaken.” Isaiah 24:17,18 NKJV

One of the other prophets said this fear is like running from a lion and then meeting a bear. Then when you get away from the bear and run into the house and lean on the wall, a serpent bites you. See Amos 5:19. When that time comes, there is going to be no release from that terror for the people of this world. The fear is going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes. Revelation 6 says that every free man, every bondman or slave and all of the captains, the kings, the mighty men, all of them, ran and hid in the rocks and the mountains and asked for the mountains to fall on them. The fear that is going to come on the people of this world is going to become so great that they are going to look up at the mountains and cry, “Please, just bury us alive.”

There is going to be some fear for God’s people, too. “For thus says the LORD: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.’” Jeremiah 30:5-7 NKJV

The little tests and trials that God allows to come to you and me now are to get us ready for that time. Our troubles do not just spring out of the ground. God has a purpose; He is preparing you for what is coming. One of the wonderful things about being a Christian is that God sees in the future what is going to happen to you, and by the things He allows to come to you now, He is preparing you for what is going to happen in the future. If you postpone giving your life to Christ, He will have less time to get you ready. He will have to put you through a crash course, giving you a lot of trouble in a shorter period of time. As soon as you realize that you are in a position that you can do nothing for yourself, God can start to work in your life.

As I have studied The Great Controversy, I have been impressed that the time of trouble is not going to be as bad for some people as for others. The reason for this is that there will be some people at the beginning of trouble who will have already developed mature faith and have perfect trust in the Lord. There will be others, however, who, even if they do endure the test, will have to learn the lesson of faith under the terrible weight of discouragement.

Have you seen God at work in your life lately? Have you given Him permission to allow you to have some trials so that you can learn to trust Him, or are you just trying to take care of yourself and build so much security that you do not need to depend upon God? As we see God helping us in the little trials and tribulations that we have along the way, our faith grows. This is something serious to think about.

There are many wonderful promises concerning the Christian. We are told that “We can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 173. Isn’t that exciting? Our Lord is equal to any emergency. If you are called to go through the fiery furnace for Jesus’ sake, He will be with you just as He was with the three Hebrew worthies. We are told that God would send every angel in heaven to the aid of one who trusts Him. Rather than allow him to be overcome. See Testimonies, vol. 7, 17. Christ never forsakes one of his followers in combat. Faith brings us the power of omnipotence.

There is something else that will deliver you from fear. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness [assurance] in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because he first loved us.” 1John 4:15-19 NKJV

If you have had enough of fear and torment in your life and want perfect faith so that you can have the victory over sin in your life, I invite you to fully commit yourself to the Lord just now and to ask Him to work in your life to help you develop true faith in Him. When you have this faith and it is perfected, you will lose all of your fear.

The End