Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of
power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 12 Timothy 1:7

As I think back over my life and consider those times when I was afraid, certain incidents come to mind. One of the things that stands out is the sheer dread I experienced whenever I knew that a spanking, administered by my dad, was about to take place. I have to admit, fear of spankings, and fear of my mother’s disapproval, served as major deterrents to many childhood follies. The consequences for misbehaving far outweighed any temporary pleasure that could be gained.

I also feared disapproval from school teachers, and feared rejection by my peers. I feared heights and snakes and still do. Then there were thunderstorms. I will never forget a certain major thunderstorm that occurred one summer night when my parents, grandmother, and I were camping in a tent near Glacier National Park. I was somewhere around ten to twelve years old. It was pitch black out, and we were all fast asleep when the storm hit. Lightening flashed, thunder boomed, the wind howled through the trees, and the ground shook. Women ran screaming through the camp as huge trees violently crashed to the ground. The next thing we knew, the innocent little stream we had pitched our tent close to turned into a fast flowing creek that threatened to flood us out as it began to run through a corner of our tent.

How I handled the terror that engulfed me was to cry out to God in repentance for sassing my mother. I was sure that God was going to kill me for this habitual sin, so I made a “deal” with Him that if He didn’t kill me right then and there on the spot (as I lay paralyzed with fear in my sleeping bag) I’d never sass my mother ever again. Well, obviously He spared my life, but I certainly failed many times to keep my end of the bargain.

One of the greatest fears campers and hikers have while enjoying the indescribable beauty of Glacier National Park is grizzly bears. Nothing can clear out a campground faster than a visiting grizzly. On our memorable camping trip through Glacier, my mother happened to be standing on the shoreline of Lake McDonald when suddenly a mama grizzly with two cubs in tow, burst with a warning roar from the forest, and ran straight toward the lake. I think my mother was the only person left standing, frozen to the spot, when that bear walked right past her, close enough to touch. I can’t tell you what her fear level was because as far as I know, she wasn’t afraid. At least that is the impression I got at the time, and that impression is with me to this day. Perhaps that mama grizzly sensed a “mama grizzly” kinship with my mother. Who knows?

After traveling to another location in the Park, we camped by a remote lake. Another thunderstorm rolled in with winds so strong that our tent blew inside out. I don’t remember feeling the guilt and fear that I had that first night, but I do remember concluding, as we all crammed into the car to finish out the night, how disgusting, dangerous, dirty, and frightening camping could be.

If you have ever traveled up the “Going to the Sun” pass in Glacier Park, you may have experienced some apprehension, or even outright fear. Many people have, and with good reason. But, for a real thrill, try driving up this pass and down the other side with no brakes! That is exactly what happened to my family and me. My grandmother kept me occupied in the back seat looking at post cards while my dad, who was a mechanic, fought to keep us on the narrow road by applying the emergency brake at intervals. Even though there was a lot of tension and fear in the car that day, my childlike confidence in my dad and my basic ignorance of the deadly possibilities, kept me from giving in to mind-numbing dread.

Fear, as with any emotion, is a big topic to tackle, but it is something we all have to face as we journey through this world, and especially since the 2008 elections. Even Bill O’Reilly of FOX News commented shortly after uninformed, liberal Americans gleefully elected the wannabe dictator presently in power that “you can literally feel fear spreading over the entire country.” How right he was! Interestingly, he talked about the fear Americans have on his show the other night. Fear can definitely be almost a tangible thing.

After all, there are only two things that stand between We the People and despotism on a scale the world has never before seen and that is God and the Constitution of the United State of America, which is God inspired. Belief in God and His Word are under continual attack, while the Constitution is being dismantled, ignored, ridiculed, and destroyed even as I write this. Maybe fear is more than appropriate—maybe fear is what could possibly drive stiff-necked Americans to their knees in genuine repentance and prayer as if their lives depended on it, because they do.

Who can deny (except the uninformed or unbelieving) that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are being loosed? (Revelation, Chapter 6.) In Jesus’ discourse concerning these end times in Luke 21, He reveals the effect on people as, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” vs. 26.

Jesus likewise told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto  you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27.

      How are we to “let not” our hearts be troubled or afraid? The answer is to possess the right kind of fear, and that fear begins with the fear of the Lord. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction” Proverbs 1:7. Some leaders in the religious realm are “milk and feather” salespersons. Tragically, such self-serving, false workers are the norm rather than the exception in this age of apostasy. These hireling shepherds are experts at serving watered-down milk and tickling itching ears while God’s sheep are scattered throughout the land. If you were to ask a milk and feather leader what it means to “fear the LORD,” he or she may tell you that it means to be in awe of God. Now, while we most certainly stand in awe of God and His creation, works and ways, I agree with the late preacher, David Wilkerson’s definition of “fear.” He once said that fear of God means just that—FEAR!

If this puts a kink in your antenna, then you are in trouble. Without the fear of God, you are unteachable, unwise, have the wrong perspective, and are definitely unprepared to be an overcomer. Just as I feared a spanking from my earthly father as a consequence for wrongdoing, so how much more do I fear displeasing my Heavenly Father and grieving the Holy Spirit through sin. Fearing God and being upright go together. You cannot have one without the other. “He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him” Proverbs 14:2.

      Fearing the Lord will cause a person to walk (live) uprightly, but a person who maintains his or her own form of “good guy righteousness” without the fear of God is of the wrong spirit, motivated by pride and the flesh. Thus, such a person may appear to be righteous outwardly, but all of his or her works are considered perverse or unholy to God because they have never been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Only the righteousness of Christ as we “live and move and have our being” in Him is acceptable to God. People who reject the righteousness of Christ and His Lordship in their lives, choosing instead to establish their own form of righteousness do indeed despise God. Thus, such persons who reject the fear of the Lord will suffer great fear, not only in this life, but eternally in the one to come. “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil; but the fool rageth, and is confident” Proverbs 14:16.

      Our faith, or point of confidence, begins with the fear of the Lord. If we are to spiritually survive—that is, maintain our faith to the end—then we must be firmly established in the Lord. We cannot be established in our faith if we do not know who God is! If we do not know for ourselves who God is, then we will fail to properly fear Him. “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” Proverbs 14:26.The next verse gives us this wonderful promise, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.”

Concerning the fear that will envelope the earth in these end days, Jesus tells us who to fear, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28. The Apostle Peter tells us how we are to live in this world, “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” 1 Peter 1:17. In 2:17 he wrote, “Fear God.”

There are three types of fear—natural fear, demonic fear, and godly fear.  Natural fear is what a person would feel suddenly encountering a burglar; or the fear a non-swimmer may feel when in a small boat in a storm; or the fear of a fast-approaching tornado. If we didn’t have natural fear, then most of us wouldn’t make it past grade school. Natural fear serves as a protection while demonic fear is an all-consuming, driving terror. If you have ever encountered an actual spirit of fear, you will never forget it. Demonic fear is traumatizing, mind-numbing torment.  However, the fear of the Lord and His Word is a choice that we make based on love for the truth and life, along with faith and love of God. This is a fear that brings wisdom, life, and reward. Consider this portion of Scripture:“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” Psalm 19: 9-11. “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” Psalm 25:14.

      What a powerful promise we find in Psalm 31:19 which states, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee: which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” How desperately we need to get it into our hearts and minds that not all fear is “bad,” or “negative” or something to be shunned! Consider Psalm 34:11, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.”

      Rayola and I have worked with people for over two decades, and yet so few exhibit real, lasting changes in their lives. No wonder the Bible tells us that only a remnant shall be saved! What lies at the root of mankind’s obstinacy, rebellion, and unwillingness to change his way of thinking, being, and doing? I believe the answer can be found in Psalm 55:19b, “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.” If a person truly fears God, he or she will repent, submit to God, become born again of His Spirit, walk in obedience to His will, ways, and Word and live as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” We know that the “just shall live by faith” and therefore we must realize that the faith that pleases God and is alive with His power is rooted and grounded in the bedrock of the fear of the Lord. Any other “faith,” such as faith in our faith, faith in our feelings, faith in religiosity, faith in our “goodness,” and so forth is a false faith! We also can discern true faith by the fruit that is produced in one’s life. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” James 2:26.

There is a fear that is unacceptable to God because it is the fear the enemies of God experience. Concerning this fear, we read in Revelation 21:8 a list of those who will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death. The first group listed are “the fearful.” This brings to mind the unfaithful steward who buried his talent because of fear, and who lost his soul as a result. This type of fear dishonors God, is faithless, rebellious, prideful, willfully ignorant, foolish, wicked, and idolatrous. When people choose to fear anything more than they fear the Lord God Almighty, they are in danger of committing idolatry. Giving way to this type of fear through unbelief is a type of worship because it means there is more faith in what a person fears than in God who is above all His creation, both seen and unseen. There is no higher power or authority than God. There never has been, and there never will be.

Those who fear God and belong to Jesus have a sure anchor for their faith. They have built their house upon the Rock, and when the storms of life come, as they surely will, and rage against their house, it will remain standing. Do we experience fear when we hear all the evil tidings of our day and age? Yes, naturally there can be a surge of fear, but then we remember who holds us in the palm of His hand. We remember that all of these things have been foretold in His Word. We remember His faithfulness and promises to His own. We remember that heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall not pass away. And, with Job, we can confidently declare, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” Job 19:25-27.

      May I encourage you to do a word study of fear through the Bible, and ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to understand about your own heart concerning fear—if you truly fear and trust Him with all your heart. We would love to hear what the Lord reveals to you about this subject. May you be edified and blessed as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ who promised, <i“verily, verily,=”” i=”” say=”” unto=”” you,=”” he=”” that=”” heareth=”” my=”” word,=”” and=”” believeth=”” on=”” him=”” sent=”” me,=”” hath=”” everlasting=”” life,=”” shall=”” not=”” come=”” into=”” condemnation;=”” but=”” is=”” passed=”” from=”” death=”” life”=”” john=”” 5:24.<=””>“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” John 5:24.