The very first time I saw Voldemort, I was terrified. Maybe it was the fact that the guy literally didn’t have a nose or how unnaturally creepy it was seeing a face on the back of another person’s head, but regardless: my primary school self was not a fan. Years passed, and I realized that I didn’t have to fear noseless book antagonists. It turns out there were much scarier things in life – teetering relationships, broken friendships, growing up, missing out, and of course, bad grades. 

The world is and has always been a scary place from the moment that sin first crept in. Ever since fear has become an unmistakable presence in our lives. Even those Bible heroes that God used weren’t immune to fear either. Abraham, the “father of faith” (Galatians 3:6), lied twice that Sarah, his wife, was his sister out of fear for his own safety – leaving Sarah vulnerable to both kings (Genesis 12, 19). 

Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, had originally run away from Egypt out of fear of the Pharaoh (Exodus 2). 

Even spiritual giants such as Peter were frightened enough to deny that he even knew Jesus after previously swearing, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” (Matthew 26:34) – not only once, but three times. But it’s in the Bible, and in fact, in the lives of these fearful people, that we can clearly see the life-transforming power of another fear – the fear of the Lord. 

A Life in the Fear of the Lord  

It’s likely that you’ve run into this term before in a sermon or devotion, but what exactly does it mean? 

It’s important to clarify that the fear of the Lord isn’t terror of what destruction God can do to you if you displease Him. If we were to cultivate this attitude towards God, we’d be stuck in a strictly legalistic mindset for all that we do. Whatever kind act, hard task, or heavy sacrifice we make would be done in fear of what would happen to us if we didn’t. What a draining way to live!

When we look in the Bible, however, that’s not what God wants. Time and time again, we can read how He loves His people in His “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). When the angels, appearing before the shepherds to announce the great news of God incarnate, the first thing they announced was, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 2:10). It’s clear that God’s not some tyrant who delights in the terror of His own people, but rather, a loving Father who cares for His children.

Now we have clarified what ‘fear of God’ is not, it’s time to define the term. 

Once again, let’s look at God’s own Word to find our answer. 

  • “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear…” (Isaiah 8:13)

To fear God is to experience the inconceivable splendour of God’s character and tremble. He reigns as King of all Kings and almighty Creator – we cannot even begin to fathom such colossal power. 

  • “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27) 

To fear God is to look to God in respectful admiration and thankful wonder; to be immersed in the terrifying might of His power, yet stand grateful and assured knowing that “God is for us.” (Romans 8:31). For the same waters of the roaring tsunami that swallows cities whole flows as a river of life to quench our thirst and bring us joy.

  • You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” (Romans 11:19-21) 

To fear God is to realize our utter depravity against this mighty and holy Lord. It is to understand just how unworthy in our sin we are and in this understanding, wonder at the graciousness of God’s mercy to us – something we cannot even begin to understand.

Thus, the fear of the Lord can only thrive in a humble attitude of heart that does not take our blood-bought salvation for granted.

What, then, is the fear of the Lord?

To fear God is to look to Him in all His world-shaking power in trembling reverence and realize just truly our worthlessness and depravity in the face of such majesty. 

When such a fear is embedded into our hearts, it becomes the drive for our life. Our fears in this world become non-existent in comparison, for what power in this world can compare to that of its Creator? 

Rather, we’re motivated to obey God, and all other fears that may hinder this become inconsequential. We don’t fear in the way that if we do not obey, we will be punished, but we fear that our disobedience may grieve the Lord’s heart. Just like how we hate doing what would hurt our parents, siblings, or friends, the fear of the Lord drives us to hate what is contrary to God’s holiness – sin. And it’s in this ‘fear’ that our scared lives are transformed.

A Life Without Fear 

Abraham, despite all his fears and mistakes, grew in trusting God to keep His promises, so much so he was willing to even sacrifice his only beloved son to obey Him. 

Moses found courage and comfort in God’s glorious power, that even as he faced Pharoah’s might and battled uncertainties for the nation’s daily needs, he pressed onwards to the Promised Land. 

Peter continued to struggle with fear, but God continued to work in his heart his whole life, forgiving, rebuking, and strengthening until he died courageously firm in his faith.  

God, in his awe-inspiring mercy, doesn’t leave us to fight our fears in our own strength either. He works in our fearful hearts today in the same way He transformed the hearts of Peter, Moses, and Abraham – through His promises. In the words of a very familiar Sunday School song: “God will always keep His promises.” And the assurance that He is, in fact, faithful and capable of keeping His promise is powerful enough to shake anything that may scare us on this earth. 

“Lord, I’m scared that everyone will leave me.”

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“Lord, I’m scared to stand alone.”

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

“Lord, I’m scared I’m not strong enough to obey you.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8)

“Lord, I’m scared that I’ve messed things up beyond fixing.”

“All things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28)

“Lord, I’m scared that the ministry I’ve invested my whole life in will never bring someone to Christ.”

“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” (John 15:4-5)

“Lord, I’m scared of not knowing what lies ahead.”

“I declare the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.” (Isaiah 46:8-11)

“Lord, I’m still scared. But it is in my fear of You, in all your power and sovereignty and kindness, that I have courage to fight on.”

I hope that you may embrace the courage in a fearful life for yourself.

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