Fear God … and nothing else!
Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year is a good time for new beginnings. What have you decided to start fresh on this year? A change in attitude? A new diet? A new budget? A new exercise regimen? Whatever resolutions we make are meant to make life better. We want to get better and do better than last year.
So let’s look at what the Bible says is the beginning point for anyone who wants to improve in wisdom.. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon said, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This was the same thing his father, David, said in Psalm 111:10 … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom. That seems like a good starting point for us on the first Sunday in 2014. What we’re going to find out is this --- If you fear the Lord, you don’t need to be afraid of ANYTHING else!
Let me ask this question: What are you afraid of? What is your greatest fear?
A 2005 Gallup Poll listed the top 10 things feared most by teenagers:
1. Terrorist attacks
7. Crime and violence
8. Being alone
9. The future
10. Nuclear war
The top ten phobias in a 2011 medical survey included snakes, heights, closed-in-spaces (like elevators), the dark, storms … and the dentist!
Fear is a natural part of the human condition. Fear isn’t always a BAD thing … in fact, it’s necessary for survival.
I remember one time when we were about to pull cookies out of our oven, my grandson, David was standing nearby and reached out his hand to help open the oven door. I could see he was about to burn his hand so I shouted out, “David No!!!” It scared him so much he began to cry m… but my loud warning also stopped him from touching the oven and saved him from a burn.
We tend to think that fear is a bad thing, but in certain circumstances it can be very good if that fear keeps us safe.
One time, when I was in Kenya riding around with the missionary in his land rover, we came upon a pride of lions. We stopped the vehicle, rolled down the windows, and started taking pictures. There were probably about 10 lions there, several females, cubs, and a big male with a huge shaggy mane. He got up and started roaring at us and walking toward us.
I was afraid that at any second he would break into a run and charge at us. I wanted us to roll up the windows and start moving away. When we finally did I realized that my heart was beating rapidly and I was sweating. I was spooked, to say the least! That was a healthy fear --- and justified!
1. What does it mean to fear God?
But what does it mean to fear the Lord? An example of what that might feel like comes from a description of Aslan the lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe … (book 1 in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.) As Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the children about the great lion Aslan, they learn he is no cuddly, fairy tale animal. They learn that few can stand before him without their knees knocking.
Young Lucy asks Mr. Beaver, Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"...
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”
C.S. Lewis tells us that “people often think that a thing cannot be good and terrifying at the same time. If the children in Narnia had ever thought so, they were cured of it now.”
So what would it be like to actually come into the presence of God? It’s a good question to ask, because this will happen to every one of us one day!
Let’s take an inventory of people in the Bible who encountered God, and how they reacted to that meeting with God:
• Abraham “fell on his face” (Gen. 17:3)
• Moses “hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God” (Ex. 3:6)
• Balaam “bowed his head and fell flat on his face” (Num.22:31)
• Joshua “fell on his face to the earth and worshiped” (Joshua 5:14)
• Isaiah felt that he was undone (Isaiah 6:5)
• Ezekiel fell on his face (Ezekiel 1:28)
• Daniel felt like a man who had been drained of all his strength (Dan. 10:8)
• The 3 disciples who saw Jesus transfiguration “fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.” (Matt. 17:6)
• Saul of Tarsus fell to the ground and was left blind (Acts 9:4-9; 22:11)
It kind of sounds like it is a terrifying thing to see God. We might not like the idea of being afraid of God in that way. In fact, I hear teachers who say that we are not to fear God like you might be afraid of a wild lion running at you, but we are to be respectful and in awe of God’s majesty.
I’m ok with that description, but I think that fearing God in the way that the Bible teaches is something like a mixture of awesome dread and astonished devotion. Proper fear of God would involve BOTH kinds of feelings.
Isaiah 8:13 teaches us, “The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” Hallowing God is something like awe and respect, but fear and dread sound something like shaking in your boots.
2. What good things come to those who fear God?
You might be surprised that the Bible is full of promises specifically for those who fear the Lord.
• The Promise to provide what we need: “Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints! There is no want to those who fear Him…Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” (Psalm 34:9-10)
I saw an article recently called “14 Habits of Miserable People.” The first habit suggested was this:
“Be afraid; be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears.
Fearing economic loss has several advantages. It balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!”
If we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we have no need to fear financial loss. Our God … who is BOTH all-powerful AND all-good … has promised to provide for those who fear Him.
• The Promise of protection: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him; on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18-19)
Though we can’t avoid the possibility of danger calamity, we can rest assured that God is with us and will hold us in his hands. He is reliable no matter how unreliable the world around us may be
• The promise of purity: “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:12-13)
Guilt over sin causes us to fear the punishment that we know we deserve. Praise God, that fear is completely GONE for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ! As far as the east is from the west!
• The promise of prosperity: “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you…Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:1-4)
God loves to bless His people! I heard a saying that “Faith means allowing God to give you an easier life.”
I’m not sure if your life will be easier exactly, but Jesus promised an abundant life, and that’s what we can count on if we have healthy fear of the Lord.
• The promise of a long life: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.” (Proverbs 10:27)
One of the reasons people’s lives are shortened is because their wayward behavior brings them in contact with things that will shorten life. In contrast to that, God promises longer life to those who properly fear him.
• The Promise of blessings to future generations: “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and his righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:17)
One of the common fears we have is for our children’s safety.
New parents are often afraid to have their baby out of their sight. It’s not enough to have an audio monitor … now they set up video monitors and see every time the baby turns over!
Parents of teenagers can’t get to sleep until their kids are safely home … especially if they are old enough to drive. And grandparents worry about the kind of world their grandchildren will have to live in.
Fear of the Lord eases all those anxieties because we have the promise of God that He will be faithful … not just to us … but also to our children and their children!
There are so many wonderful promises from God to those who fear Him. But there is one final benefit to fearing God and that may be the biggest benefit of all.
Anyone who fears God never needs to fear anyone or anything else, period!
The people who lived in Jesus’ time had more to fear that most of us will have to deal with. They faced the very real threat of death under arbitrary and ruthless Roman rule. The people of that day had no experience with the kind of legal protections and rights that we take for granted.
Listen to the advice Jesus gave these people in Luke 12: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12: 4-7
As you start this New Year, begin with the Fear of God --- and you won’t have to fear anything else!
Romans 8:31 says, If God is for us then who can be against us? We have the ALL-Powerful and ALL-good God on our side.
Make this your plan for 2014: Fear God, and nothing else.