In this world marred by sin, fear is a natural response for survival and the preservation of life. Imagine fearlessness leading one to walk into oncoming traffic, step off rooftops, or jump out of an airplane without a parachute. You would deem this person insane and restrain them for their own good.
Yet the majority of the human race continually perform acts that shorten their lifespan. There is a common phrase, “to hammer a nail into your coffin” or “death by inches.” Our bad habits and lifestyle can be just as dangerous.
Apart from preserving the body, fear is necessary in preserving the soul. The Bible says, “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:24).
So what is fear? It is an anxious feeling caused by an anticipation of some imagined event or experience.
President Franklin Roosevelt famously stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to say, “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” In saying this, he was trying to prevent the population from running to the banks in mass to remove their money, which would cause more damage to the economy.
Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., states that there are five basic fears:
- Extinction: Fear of ceasing to exist.
- Mutilation: Fear of losing part of the body structure.
- Loss of Autonomy: Fear of being overwhelmed, physically paralyzed (claustrophobia or emotionally controlled by circumstances).
- Separation: Fear of abandonment, social rejection.
- Ego-death: Fear of humiliation, shame, loss of integrity.
I would venture to say that when we fear the Lord, we never need fear Karl Albrecht’s list of fears.
The logical thought process would lead to the conclusion that there are, in essence, only two types of fear. We either fear God and give glory to Him, or fear man and live for this world.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
Both Luke and Matthew inform us whom to fear: “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:5).
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Who has the power to cast into hell? Only God, my friend. Man may kill the body, but only God can permanently destroy.
Another convincing verse: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
In other words, the consequences of rejecting God’s offer of salvation is to be permanently separated from Him and joined with Satan and his evil angels and accept the final punishment of permanent death.
Job 28:28 states, “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”
There was a time in this world when man was first created that fear did not exist, simply because there was nothing to cause fear. Our first parents experienced perfect love, harmony, and face to face communion with the Creator of the universe. But as soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced nakedness and fear. The protective covering created by Jesus was lifted and fear was born.
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:7–10).
Think of this: Adam was the happy, open faced, contented man, in the prime of his life, given the privilege of naming the animals and appointed caretaker of the earth. He lived in the most magnificent garden home with his beautiful wife, and best of all, he had available to him face to face communion with the Majesty of Heaven. Adam did not have to work long tiring hours or sweat and strain to make a living. He was provided everything he needed for his enjoyment. After he sinned, he experienced emotions that were foreign to him: shame, fear, regret, and loss of his perfect home. He and his wife were removed from their sanctuary home and for the first time saw the results of their sin.
“As they witnessed the drooping flower and the falling leaf, the first signs of decay, Adam and his companion mourned more deeply than men now mourn over their dead.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 62.
We as sinful humans grieve for a loved one and we know how painful an experience that is; however, our first parents, with their first experience in sin, felt the pain of death so much more deeply.
The first lie ever told, “Ye shall not surely die,” was now a reality. Creation began to experience aging, which is in reality a slow death. The animals were no longer in harmony and worst of all, Cain, the firstborn son, murdered his brother Abel.
Sin is a trap of fear—fear of man with negative feelings and experiences, which is a snare of Satan. If we fear man, we are drawn into Satan’s trap, but there is safety in trusting the Lord with godly fear.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Ellen White warns us about our worldly fear in Gospel Workers, 261, 262: “Faith takes God at His word, not asking to understand the meaning of the trying experiences that come. But there are many who have little faith. They are always fearing and borrowing trouble. Every day they are surrounded by the tokens of God’s love, every day they enjoy the bounties of His providence; but they overlook these blessings. And the difficulties they encounter, instead of driving them to God, separate them from Him, by arousing unrest and repining. …
“Jesus is their Friend. All heaven is interested in their welfare, and their fear and repining grieve the Holy Spirit. Not because we see or feel that God hears us are we to believe. We are to trust His promises. When we come to Him in faith, we should believe that every petition enters into the heart of Christ. When we have asked for His blessing, we should believe that we receive it, and thank Him that we have it. Then we are to go about our duties, assured that the blessing will be sent when we need it most. When we have learned to do this, we shall know that our prayers are answered. God will do for us ‘exceeding abundantly,’ ‘according to the riches of His glory’ and ‘the working of His mighty power’ (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 1:19).”
Then what is our duty?
“My son, if thou wilt receive My words, and hide My commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1–5).
“And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
Notice the intensity of desire, the desperate need to seek after the Lord and the fear of offending Him expressed in these verses. Fearing God produces a hatred towards evil, confidence in being a blessing to others and is a fountain of life-giving wisdom and knowledge.
For many years now I have heard in the churches a discussion of the word FEAR. Teachers of the Word try to analyze the meaning and dilute the intensity of the Word by describing the meaning as a mere “respect” or “reverence.” For what purpose? Is it because we like to be pampered and coaxed to soften the blow of God’s word? I am no theologian, but as I read the Bible, I believe what it says. Revelation 14:6, 7 says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, … Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
The wise man, Solomon, said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fear God and trust Him completely to the extent that we would fear nothing else? I pray that this will be our experience.
Revella Knight is a registered nurse and writes from her home in Northwest Arkansas.