Only One Fear
Is it me? Or, do you also recognize how fear is so prevalent in our world?
Whether you live in America or Armenia, Belarus or Brazil, Russia or Rwanda, fear is a shared experience.
We have friends in Belarus who fear persecution for their faith. Friends of mine in Armenia fear the increased pressure from Turkey and Azerbaijan, who seek to eliminate Armenia’s existence.
There is a fear of returning to the marketplace too quickly. People are increasingly concerned about the complications of isolation. Some fear the economy, illness, political policies, war, racism, or [fill in the blank].
There’s simply no lack of angst.
I recently saw a cartoon. The caption said: “A Cure for Fear.” The image reflected a person with a remote control in her hand — pointed at the television — which displayed a dark screen.
The satire was a reminder: There are times we need to stop the messages that promote anxiety. A break from apprehension, unrest, and doubt is necessary for our well-being.
However, not all fear is detrimental to us.
At a basic level, fear guides our “fight” or “flight” responses. We have an intuitive sense of danger that helps to protect us. Our “senses” become heightened, and our instincts alert us to pending danger.
I enjoy golf. But believe me: Tiger Woods or Phil Michelson, have no fear of my golf skills. As I jokingly say: “When you see me play golf, you know I’ve not neglected my ministry!”
Several years ago, I sliced my drive, and the ball rolled into the rough. Looking in some shrubbery for my lost ball, I unexpectedly heard the buzzing of a rattlesnake.
I froze! My heart was pounding. Everything within me wanted me to run! I knew better. Forcing myself, I stayed completely still, afraid to breathe. Cautiously moving my eyes, I located the snake. Frozen in place, I watched with relief as it slowly slithered away. Since that experience, I rarely look to find an errant ball.
“It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve, and by his name, you shall swear.”
I hear plenty of messages about things we ought to fear that distract us from the ONE fear that matters most: “It is the LORD your God you shall fear.”
A holistic understanding of fear is essential. As a child, I was afraid of God in an unhealthy way. I only saw God as One who punishes, ready to abandon me if I messed up.
However, to fear God is also to honor, admire, respect, and revere Him. To fear God is to recognize there is a consequence to pay when I disobey His commands. To fear God also acknowledges his mercy, grace, and faithfulness to those who revere Him.
When we have more questions than answers, the fear of the LORD is a stabilizing force. The prophet Isaiah reminds Israel:
“The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure” - Isaiah 33:5 [Emphasis mine].
When we are short of answers and lack knowledge, the fear of the LORD is prudent. Proverbs 1:7 reminds us:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
What’s the one thing you fear the most? Are you ready to substitute that fear with a healthy fear of God?
Solomon, in all of his wisdom, concluded:
“…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” - Ecclesiastes 12:13b-14.
While I may not know the outcome of what today or tomorrow will bring, I’m able to be at peace because I fear the LORD. An early church father, Ephrem, the Syrian, says it well:
“Whoever fears God stands above all manner of fear. He has become a stranger to all the fear of this world and placed it far from himself, and no manner of trembling comes near him.”
Yes, there are a lot of things to fear. But there is only ONE FEAR that’s essential.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 6:13.