that is the question, but the answer is both – fear and don’t fear. Now if that seems to you to be impossible (you can’t be fearing and not fearing at the same time, they are mutually exclusive) then you would be correct, except for this paradox: when I fear God I don’t need to fear anything or anyone else!
God’s word tells me that, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) Conversely I am told, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27) So fearing God leads me to life, fearing man leads to my downfall or death. Seems an easy choice to me.
Luke 12:4-5 is advice I take to heart, Jesus says, “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 the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Proverbs 19:23) “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Everything good seems to start with fearing God; wisdom, knowledge, resting content, being kept safe, being lead from the snare of death to the fountain of life. When I fear God I have no need to fear men. “in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11)
I also don’t need to fear my circumstances. “But now, this is what the Lord says – . . . ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; . . . When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
Those last words bring to my mind Daniel’s three friends walking around in the fiery furnace that king Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into all because they did not fear him but feared God instead. (so they obeyed God and not the king, which made the king angry) Those are pretty scary circumstances but God tells me to fear not even when my circumstances would seem to warrant my fearing. Daniel’s three friends had their fear in the right place and it worked out pretty well for them. They didn’t even smell like smoke, nor was a hair of their heads singed, when they came out of the furnace! My misplaced fear often has me filled with needless worry and anxiety as I face life’s difficult circumstances. But I am told not to fear my circumstances.
The angels told the shepherds to fear not, the night they came to them to announce Jesus’ birth. Isaiah 41:10 tells me, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Jesus told His disciples, ” . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Seems as often as I am told to fear God, I am told not to fear my circumstances or other people.
1 Peter 2:17 sums it up this way, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” I am never instructed to fear anything or anyone BUT God Himself. And that fear, I am told, leads to eternal life. I don’t have to live a fear filled life if my only fear is that reverential, over-riding, inexpressible awe that only God can command, that is due only to God because He alone is worthy to be feared and to be worshiped.
In Revelation 1:17-18 Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells me that my whole duty is to fear God and to keep His commandments. John 14:21 says that “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.” And as I live loving God and experiencing His love, these words are proved true, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
But God’s perfect love frees me to live life without fear, as more than a conqueror, all because when I fear God and only God, His perfect love drives out all other, lesser fears. Indeed, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
One well placed fear of God allows me to live life free of all the other fears that would plague and paralyze me, preventing me from living the abundant life that Jesus calls me and all who love Him to live. So I will fear . . . and because I do, I will fear not!
sincerely, Grace Day