The Bible speaks about two different kinds of fear.
There is a fear that God commands and a fear that God forbids, a fear that builds you up and a fear that tears you down, a fear to gain and a fear to lose. There is a fear that Christ brings and a fear that Christ relieves. The fear that you want to gain is what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord.” The fear that you want to lose is the fear of anything and anyone else.
I wonder what kind of fear you would want to lose? Fear of failure? Fear of other people? Fear of loss? Fear of pain? Grow in the fear of God, and you will find strength to face all your other fears.
Let’s begin with the Scriptures that tell us about the fear that Christ brings: “the fear of the Lord.”
The Fear of the Lord is a Blessing to be Sought
It is the beginning of wisdom.
This is the first building block for putting your life together. That’s where wisdom begins: in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). You don’t want to get to the end of your life and feel like a fool. Wisdom begins when God carries more weight in your life than anything or anyone else.
It is a fountain of life.
Life wells up in those who live in the fear of the Lord! This is a beautiful picture—a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). Who would not want this?
It keeps us from evil.
In the Bible, the distinguishing mark of “the wicked…[is that] there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1-2). That’s why they do wicked things. They don’t think there are any consequences. God carries no weight with them. The apostle Paul quotes from this Psalm as the bottom line in his analysis of evil in Romans 3:
There is no one righteous. No one seeks God…Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness…The way of peace they do not know…There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:14, 17, 18)
When Jesus was on the cross, one of the criminals beside him was cursing and swearing and hurling insults at Him. The other one said to him, “Don’t you fear God?” He is asking: Don’t you have any sense of what it would be like to go out into eternity?
The opposite is also true: “Through the fear of the Lord, a man avoids evil” (Proverbs 16:6). That’s why you want this fear. It’s going to be a restraint, a defense, a protection for you.
It is a New Testament command.
Sometimes when we hear about “the fear of the Lord,” we think “Oh, that’s Old Testament stuff. We’re New Testament Christians. We’re about the love of God.”
The command to fear God is found in the Old Testament, but it’s quite clear in the New Testament, too. “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
If you give proper weight to other believers, you will love them. If you give proper weight to those who govern you, you will honor them — that’s very important in our current debate.
If you give proper weight to God, you will fear Him. “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:7). Don’t think of “the fear of the Lord” as an Old Testament relic that we can dispense with because we’re all Christians.
It’s a distinguishing mark of people who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a seven-fold description of the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).
The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.” When the Holy Spirit is present, the fear of the Lord will be a distinguishing mark — it will be evidence of His presence.
Isaiah goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will rest on the Messiah, and he says of Christ, “He will delight in the fear of the LORD” (11:3). When you get to the Acts of the Apostles, it’s no surprise then that the Holy Spirit, who was in Christ without measure, is poured out on His people. The church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, and it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31).
What about your growth in the fear of the Lord? “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord” (Psalm 112:1). If you are going to walk in the fear of the Lord and teach it to your children, you have to know what it is. So what is this fear of the Lord?
The Fear of the Lord Will Help You Overcome Other Fears
I choose these words carefully — I did not say, “It will end all other fears.” I said, “It will help you overcome other fears.”
John Flavel, who lived in a time when Free Church ministers were facing persecution, imprisonment and in some cases death, knew what it was to battle with fears. He wrote very insightfully about it in Triumphing over Sinful Fears:
We must not expect a perfect cure for our fear in this life. While there are dangers and enemies, some fears will work in the best hearts. If our faith could be perfected, our fear would be perfectly cured. But while there is much weakness in our faith, there will be much strength in our fear (p. 62).
Don’t expect all fear to be gone this side of heaven. The real issue is, “How do you face your fears?” There will always be fears to face, but the fear of the Lord will help you face yours.
What are you afraid of? Physical pain? “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). That’s what Jesus said when His disciples were afraid of physical pain. Flavel says, “Christ’s greatest argument for extinguishing our fear of those who kill the body is the soul’s security” (p. 62).
They can’t kill the soul; only God can destroy the soul. He won’t do that for you — you’re His child. He will preserve your soul, and one day He will raise your body from the dead. Take that in and let it strengthen you.
Do you worry about money or about losing your job? The prophet Isaiah went through this experience. He has a son, and God tells him that before the little boy can say “Daddy!” the wealth of Samaria will be plundered (Isaiah 8:4). Isaiah is facing the imminent danger of complete economic collapse. Does that sound familiar?
Here’s what God said: “Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:12-14). That’s the word of God to a man facing imminent economic disaster: “You have a God who cares for you.”
Today, ask Christ to lead you into the fear of God, and let the fear of God deliver you from every other fear.