People are afraid.
They are afraid of losing their health, wealth, mind, job, spouse or children.
They are afraid of death, of failure, of growing old, of being mugged, of being raped, of war, of the future and many other things. Fear is so prevalent that more than 700 different kinds of fear, or phobias, have been catalogued.
In 1933, during his inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” These are memorial words, but I do not agree with them. There are a lot of things to fear other than fear. For example, Jesus told us to fear God (Matthew 10:28).
Someone was quoted in Kiwanis magazine as saying, “Sometimes when I get in a nervous dither over such current problems as inflation, war, taxes, crime, pollution, political intrigue, urban sprawl, population, and whatever, I find myself yearning for 1933, when all we had to fear was fear itself.”
Fear is a normal human emotion and all people are afraid of something:
Julius Caesar, the leader of the world during his lifetime, was so afraid of thunder he would hide in caves when a storm approached.
Peter the Great, the leader of the Russian people, was afraid to cross a bridge.
Alfred Krupp, who armed Germany during two world wars, was terrified of his own death. He even banished his wife because she brought up the fact he had fled from his house in terror because a visiting relative had died in the house.
Joseph Stalin, a leader of the Soviet Union, lived in constant fear of being poisoned or killed. He had eight bedrooms and slept in a different one every night, so no one knew which bedroom he was sleeping in on any given night.
Fear is common to all of us. The word fear in our language has a two-fold definition:
- “Fear is a feeling of anxiety and agitation caused by the presence or nearness of real or imagined danger, evil, pain, or other threat.”
- “A feeling of reverence or awe in relation to God. . . We do not fear God in the sense of expecting harm to come from Him, but we stand in awe before Him in view of His majesty and power.”
God actually invites men to fear him (Deuteronomy 4:10). The fear of the Lord is described as “the beginning of wisdom”(Proverbs 9:10), “the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), and “clean” (Psalm 19:9).
In the Bible, the fear of the Lord is the basis of salvation (Matthew 10:28).
When a man sees God for who he is: sovereign, righteous and the judge of all men—he will see himself as a sinner in need of forgiveness (Habakkuk 1:13).
Notice the blessings that come when a person fears God:
- The Lord confides in those who fear him (Psalm 25:14).
- God honors those who fear him (Psalm 15:4).
- God has a heritage for those who fear him (Psalm 61:5).
- The Lord pities those who fear him (Psalm 103:13).
- God blesses those who fear him (Psalm 115:13).
- The fear of the Lord brings edification and comfort (Acts 9:31).
God blesses men who fear him!
Now some types of fear are healthy or productive. For instance, nervous tension before giving a speech, going to a job interview or teaching a Bible study lesson can help us to be prepared.
The fear of being mugged can lead us to take precautions to avoid certain areas of town at the wrong time of the day.
The fear of a job layoff might encourage us to go back to school to develop other skills.
The fear of heights will protect us from going to close to an edge of a cliff or the Grand Canyon, too fast skiing down a mountain or leaning too far over on top of a roof or a tall building.
The fear of potentially life-threatening things actually will trigger our “fight or flight” instincts.
But the fear that needs to be overcome is destructive fear, which includes:
- The fear of man. The writer of the book of Proverbs warns, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe,” (Proverbs 29:25). God said that fear is bondage (Romans 8:15). In other words, a fearful person is not free.
- The fear that consumes our thoughts. Many people play the “What-if” game in their minds and can become a nervous wreck worrying about all the things that might or could happen. And yet, Sociologists tell us 90% of the things we worry about will never happen! Fear can get so out of hand it can destroy our lives and poison personal relationships.
So, how do we overcome the destructive power of fear and to the one who saves us from our own anxieties?
That, my friends, I will begin to answer next time for this three-part blog series.