The Power of Fear
Fear is a very strong motivating factor. It can spur us to greater heights or totally cripple our every activity. Our response to the fear factor is determined by which of the two fears we yield to.
…… and I was afraid, because I was naked. – Genesis 3:10
The power of fear is a phenomenon that has baffled us since the beginning of time. The list of fears is so extensive that we have an entire class of phobias dedicated to the more intense and emotionally paralyzing types. Fear has the power to strip us of our reasoning.
Numerous books have been written to shun fear and extol courage. Many cultures around the globe have attached fear to evil and appended courage to the god-like. Various groups, armies and indeed nations have exploited the emotions provoked by fear. A man under the influence of fear is a man with incredibly high motivation.
We Acquire Fear from Childhood
Amazingly, we are not born with fear; it is an acquired state studied in psychology as fear conditioning. It is something we learn over time as a means to survive the perils and pain of this world.
There are countless reports of mothers who have been petrified at the sight of their baby blissfully playing in a potentially deadly situation. Most of us cringe when our parents recount to us stories of our childhood experiences. Fear was not a factor in our decision making back in those days. Sadly by the time we become adults we devote our lives mostly to the frantic brouhaha of our fear generated goals.
Results of Our Fears
We are afraid to die yet too scared to truly live. We are afraid of living by the standards we believe in and terrified we cannot live to the standards set by others. Our fear of failure and rejection drives us to cheat and lie. A fear of poverty and shame leads us to steal and to be deceitful. We are no longer content with what we have; our joy is dependent on our ability to be better than the neighbors. We have heard that money answers all things so we measure success and security in monetary worth. Gone are the days when we used to be content with earning our keep and living within a lifestyle sustainable by our earnings.
Romans 13:8 admonishes us not to owe anything to anyone except to love, that is the only debt we should have. Today however, we live in a debt society; in some cases, we owe several times our net worth. Since the recession of 2008, many people owed so much on their homes that it was easier and cheaper to walk away from such homes.
We accumulate materials we cannot afford and in many cases do not really need. Our resources are spent on purchasing goods not because we need them, but because they are on sale. We have never unpacked many of the things we bought. Not only do we have our favorite toys and gadgets, we have them in different colors and sizes. We keep collecting things we cannot pay for because it makes us look ‘cool’ and affluent, because it tastes good or makes us desirable/lovable (Genesis 3:6).
Nothing has Changed
We like to think that we are the most developed and advanced civilization in all history. One thing however has not changed, we are still prone to the same desires and weakness; our basic nature as humans has not changed. We spend our entire youth preparing for adulthood, and our adulthood slaving to eke out enough to sustain our wasteful lifestyle.
Society highly esteems those that have already accumulated wealth or have a high earning potential. Everyone else is reduced to being afflicted by the get rich or die-trying syndrome. There is unfortunately one big problem with this approach. Global statistics indicate that the rich will get richer and the poor poorer. A United Nations study some years ago revealed that the top 1% own close to 50% of the planets resources. 50% of the world’s poorest adults own only 1% of its wealth. So statistically, more than half the world will never be rich no matter how hardworking or smart people are. So is this enough reason for us to be terrified? Most certainly, if our heart is set on earthly riches, we should.
Why we are Afraid
We generally accumulate treasures to be rich, influential and be highly esteemed. Earthly riches will make us influential among men while heavenly ones will get us noticed by God. Being poor in this world makes us insignificant hence our perennial fear of poverty.
As Christians, we are not immune to the influence of this fear. Being raised to believe that we must outperform the next guy, we become as vulnerable as everyone else. It does not matter that we do not really need the materials we are stashing away. Our sense of accomplishment in life becomes directly tied to these material accumulations in the absence of which we feel empty.
We are worried about losing our place, our rank and position among men in society. We are afraid of anyone who has the power to negatively alter our status in the community and will gladly do anything to obtain their favor. In our quest to be in good standing with influential men in the community we commit ourselves to things that become a snare to us. We strike our hands with a stranger and become ensnared by the words and promises we make (Proverbs 6:1-2).
Christians also Fear
Colossians 3:1-2 admonishes us that since we are raised with Christ, we should set our affections on things above. On earth, moth, rust, corruption and thieves can rob us of our treasures unlike heavenly ones that are safe and eternal (Mathew 6:19-21). Where your treasure is, there your heart will be. If your heart is set on perishable treasures, then you are vulnerable to fear and terror every time there is a storm. This is an important key to fear; what you love the most, you cannot bear to lose the most. If our affection is set on our status among men, we acquire the fear of men. In contrast, if we make the Lord our first and last love we acquire the fear of God and consequently wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We have one of two choices to make, God or man, heaven or earth.
The Fear of Man
The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. – Proverbs 29:25
Worldly Approval is not Everything
As with everything else, God gives us a choice between two options. The fear of man or of God, each with an accompanying consequence clearly described to aid our choice. Every fear experienced by man has its roots in either one of these two options.
To avoid misunderstandings, I will start by stating here that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be esteemed among men. It is natural as social beings to want to be recognized, accepted or appreciated. After all, God’s word says that if a man’s ways pleases God, He (God) will cause his (man) enemy to be at peace with him. It becomes a problem however when God’s place in our heart is replaced by this need for worldly acceptance to the point that we break God’s law to attain it.
When the need for earthly glory and honor surpasses the need for divine approval, then we run into trouble. Hence the need to walk by faith since the obvious path of pleasing men will only lead to destruction. Only God knows the hidden paths to eternal Glory and honor, so we need to trust Him to direct our steps.
Fear Arises from a Need
The fear of men can be from a desire to fulfill certain physical and psychological needs that we have, or because they have the power to take from us that which we already have. Either case, we are conditioned to please men as a means to attain our goals.
Most sins we commit are done in our bid to please men, gain their acceptance or acquire power in this world. Biblical examples of such sins are vast ranging from the famous incidence of Saul at Amalek (1Samuel 15:9) to the wealthy Laodiceans who had grown lukewarm in their quest for riches (Revelations 3:14-17).
God knows our Fears
Fear of men is such an important topic that when Joshua became the leader after Moses died, it was a major topic of discussion with God. Three times in the first ten verses of Joshua did the phrase be strong and courageous appear. God reassures Joshua of His presence with Israel and the deliverance of Canaan into their hands. God promises to give them every place their feet shall tread, they will divide the inheritance in Canaan, no man shall stand before Joshua and they would prosper and have good success. Only one condition is required though; only be strong and of good courage (Joshua 1:7).Be not afraid for God is with you wherever you go and He will bring these promises to pass in your life (Joshua 1:9). These verses give us the clue to ruling over the power of fear in our lives.
God is the Key to Overcoming Fear
The key lies in the knowledge that God is with us wherever we go. Remember the story of the twelve spies? Caleb and Joshua tried to calm the people by reassuring them of God’s presence and the need to have no fear. They said the enemy is bread for us because their defense is departed from them and GOD IS WITH US (Numbers 14:9). God is the one who preserves us and our confidence should be in Him, not in any man.
I have often heard people grumble about the unfair deal they have in life. If only they had rich parents or powerful guardians, the playing field would be so much more even if they started life with a decent bank account balance. I have often wished I had really powerful academic mentors; no doubt they could have speeded up my career advancement.
Yes, I admit those things would most certainly make our lives a lot easier. But at the end of it all, it is not how quickly we rise to the top that counts; rather how long we stay atop and what we do while there that determines our legacy.
Remember David the shepherd boy? He was the least in his father’s house, but he became the greatest king in the history of Israel. Compare him with Saul who was head and shoulders above every other man in Israel but went from being king to the subject of satirical jokes and proverbs.
Fear of Men Clouds our Judgement
The fear of men drives peace away from our heart and kills our vision of the future. It causes us to see things differently and imparts a false interpretation of events on our consciousness.
And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! And at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! For the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. – Deuteronomy 28:65-67
Fear leads to Suicide
A heavy heart and depression are products of fear and it is the primary cause of suicide in the world. Think about every case of suicide that you have ever heard about. It was because the person could not bear to face the world again after a shameful experience. Perhaps it was loosing so much money they could not let the neighbors see them living in poverty. Or because of rejection in love and the unbearable shame that follows. It all comes down to one thing, the fear of what men think of us.
We all know somebody who has had a difficult time. Let us reassure him or her of God’s enduring love and encourage such to see beyond their present circumstance. We need to let them know that they are loved and that it is all right to fall so long as they get up again. Falling is not a disaster, not utilizing the opportunity to rise again is.
The Fear of God
The Bible encourages us to have a second type of fear. This is the fear of God.
What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. – Psalms 25:12-14
God made Everything
God is the creator of all things; He laid the foundations of the earth and knows the laws that govern its existence. He created man and knows what is in the heart of man. Psalm 25 shows that God is ready to teach and instruct any man that fears Him.
A man that is God fearing is a humble man with a teachable spirit. He is one that trusts God and walks in the light of His truth. Consequently, he is safe from the traps and snares of the devil and his soul shall dwell at peace. Such a man isn’t troubled because he knows that God will always fight for Him. He is a wise man who flees from every evil and God will open his understanding to the secrets and power of the blood covenant in Christ.
Joseph Feared God
Remember Joseph in Genesis chapter 39? His master’s wife constantly harassed him sexually until he fled leaving his garment with her. She then accused him of attempted rape and had him thrown in prison. In Genesis 39:9 of that chapter we see that Joseph did not refrain from touching her for fear of her husband, but rather for fear of God. He said, how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
This is Godly fear, it is wisdom and acceptable in God’s sight. God blessed him; made him a prison head and he ultimately lived his dream. God will never reveal himself to a man who does not fear him; such will lack understanding (Job 28:28).
This is why the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world. They just cannot understand it, but to the redeemed, it is the secret of our success (1 Corinthians 1:18). The fear of God is a prerequisite for fulfilling the plan of God in our lives.
The Bible is full of promises available to those who fear God, hence we are repeatedly admonished to do so and flee from evil.
May we learn to fear God and flee evil.
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