Advertisers who want to sell you athletic gear and shoes and GoPros and soda would like you to believe that you can live a life without fear, but in my experience there is no outrunning fear. When we are young we fear the dark and monsters under our bed and bad guys and snakes. When we get older we fear for our children’s safety and our finances and our job security and we still fear snakes. There are literally thousands of different phobias that we can have. Comedian Mike Birbiglia sums up how different we are in what we worry about.
I was living with a girl for a while. We worried about different things. One day, I was like, ‘What do you fear the most?’ And she was like, ‘I fear you’ll meet someone else, and you’ll leave me, and I’ll be all alone.’ And she was like, ‘What do you fear the most?’ And I was like, ‘Bears.’
I do not believe we can live without fear, however, I do believe we can choose what we fear. More importantly, we can choose who we fear. I read all 336 verses on fear in the Bible, and as I did it became very clear that there are two choices that men and women throughout history have faced when it comes to fear.
Fear God or fear man.
That is your choice. You can’t live a life without fear, but you can choose who you are going to fear. This choice will determine the course of our life. There are several times when God says “Do not fear” but most often He tells us to fear and the object of that fear is him.
May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him. Psalm 67:7
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. Psalm 96:4
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God. 1 Peter 2:17
This isn’t a concept that is used a few times in the Bible and taken out of context. The challenge to fear God is used 92 times. God wants us to hear this message loud and clear.
Many people think this concept seems odd. Why would God want us to fear him? That doesn’t sound like a loving Heavenly Father to me. Sounds more like the relationship I had with my alcoholic father. To really understand what God is calling us to we have to do a deep dive into the meaning of the word fear. Fear at its root does carry a connotation of being afraid, but it also means to respect, revere or reverence. Fear means to be awed by. Here is what I would consider a well rounded definition for the word fear.
Fear is: to place enough importance on a person or idea so that it influences your behavior.
It is respect. Reverence. It means that you value this opinion so much that it influences how you live your life. You respect this thought or philosophy to the point where it helps choose your steps. It determines your course. This is why who we choose to fear is so important, because what or who we fear will determine the course of our lives. Everyone is faced with this decision.
Who are you going to fear? Man or God?
Many people think, “I don’t fear man. I don’t fear women.” To fear men or women sounds ridiculous, but let’s be honest. We have allowed other people to influence our lives for as long as we can remember.
How many regrets do you have in your life because you just wanted to fit in? If I don’t do it what will people say?
What will the guys in my fraternity say and what will the girls on my soccer team think what will my boyfriend say and what will my boss decide about me?
How many items have you purchased in your life because you feared what people would think about you? We have to buy these clothes and these jeans and those shoes because we are concerned with what other people will think about us. If you don’t think we are influenced by people just look around. We all, pretty much, dress the same. If you really want proof, pull out your high school yearbook. Everyone, pretty much, has the same clothes, the same shoes, the same hair.
I was not alone in choosing my mullet and my wife was not alone in choosing big hair.
There is typically a group in every high school who would be considered the non-conformists. They have decided they don’t want to be like everyone else. All those kids look just like each other. Whether it’s black hair and black clothes and black fingernails, or pants and shirts that are three times too big, or shaved heads or blue hair, even the nonconformists look like each other.
How much do people influence what we drive and what we wear and what is in our closet? We buy clothes, buy homes, buy cars, get Rogaine, cut our hair, all in consideration of what people will say. If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that the people around us influence our behavior.
We fear people.
We live in fear that someone will disrespect us. It stresses us out when people will say we aren’t good enough. Fear sneaks into our thoughts that we are good looking enough. It concerns us that we will not be seen as valuable. We fear that we will be considered a loser, a nerd, a virgin, a religious freak, an outsider, unsuccessful, or unattractive.
We fear people. Their voices influence our lives. Their opinions change the way we live. God warns us about this.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:10-11
God says don’t fear man. Don’t listen to those voices. They will steer you toward insecurity and hurt and pain and anger. But really, you knew that didn’t you? You and I have both lived it. We have concerned ourselves with the opinions of other people.
Some people are nice and forgiving and compassionate, but there are lots of people who are petty, unforgiving, ungracious, back biting, and small. Living in fear of their opinions will exhaust you, get you in debt, rob you of your sleep, push you into hurtful decisions and make you insecure. The reality is we choose to fear people.
Our biggest regrets and fears and anxieties come from our fear of people.
There is another option. Fear God. Care more about what God says about your life than what other people say about your life.
There are more verses about fear that have to do with the fear of God then any other verses about fear in the Bible. People don’t like to hear that because it makes God sound wrathful and vengeful. It feels like if we make any mistake he will give us the back of his hand. We understand fear like that because we’ve experienced it living with people. When we hurt people they get angry and talk bad about us and don’t want to forgive. Fearing God is different. Take a moment to read the following verses about fearing God. See if you notice the difference.
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! Deuteronomy 5:29
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13
From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:17
The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. Proverbs 19:23
Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor. Psalm 112:1-9
These are the benefits of those who fear God.
The Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
The Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.
Those who fear God will have children who are mighty in the land.
Wealth and riches are in the houses of those who fear God.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright.
Those who fear God will never be shaken, will have no fear of bad news, look in triumph on their foes. will be lifted high in honor and will rest content, untouched by trouble.
Who are you going to choose to fear? Are you going to fear man? Are you going to fear what your boss thinks and what people think and what your parents think and what culture thinks and what the people at your school think? Or are you going to fear the God of the universe who wants to love you and protect you and help you rest content. Look at one more verse on fear.
They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jeremiah 32:38-39
There is a phrase I have underlined in my bible in this passage.
Singleness of heart and action.
Instead of fearing what all these people in your life think, your neighbors and your boss and your kids and your spouse and your soccer team and your frat house, you think simply of one opinion. What does God think? How can I make sure I please God? What can I do to honor him?
How can I make sure that God is the key influencer in my life?
I don’t think you can live your life without fear. We all experience fear for our money or our children or bears. I don’t believe we can live without fear but we can choose who we will fear. I choose God.