“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”Proverbs 9:10
The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed fears for sure — some natural and reasonable and some irrational and detrimental.
God commands us over 350 times in Scripture, “do not fear… do not be afraid.”
As believers, we preach that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and of self-control [2 Timothy 1:7].
We sing songs like “Fear is Liar,” and we love faith-filled movies like Courageous.
But at the same time, the Bible says that fear is a good thing — specifically the fear of the LORD.
The fear of the LORD is the very beginning of knowledge and wisdom in God’s sight. So there is at least one type of fear that is good and godly.
So which is it? Is fear good or bad? Is fear a liar or the beginning of wisdom? How are we supposed to fear God and at the same time not be afraid?
Fear is the Opposite of Faith
From beginning to end the core message of the Scriptures is that the righteous shall live by faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things not seen. Without faith it is impossible to please God. We are save by grace through faith, and we walk daily by faith in a personal relationship with God.
Our faith is ultimately trusting in who God is — His nature and character — and believing that what God has said is true — His promises and commandments.
Fear and worry and anxiety are the opposite of faith because they are at the heart of unbelief. Unbelief is the greatest sin because it is the root of all other sins.
Fear says that God can’t be trusted and that His word is a lie.
That is why fear is the opposite of faith and why it is sinful to dwell in fear. Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Another word for faith is trust, as we read in the well-known proverb.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6
The Fear of the LORD is Good
If we continue reading in Proverbs 3, however, the very next verse commends the fear of the LORD.
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”Proverbs 3:7
The Scriptures abound with warnings against the attitudes of pride and arrogance and deliberate disobedience. The Word reminds us often that God is holy and forever righteous and that He must be revered, respected, and honored as Creator and Judge of all the earth. For it is a “dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”Matthew 10:28
So what is different about the sin of fear and the fear of the LORD?
One word … perspective.
Sinful fear forces us to take our eyes off of Jesus and quench the peaceful presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Sinful fear gives way to the ever changing circumstances of life, leaving us on shaky ground. Sinful fear doubts the nature of God and portrays Him as a promise breaker and lousy father.
Godly fear, however, produces a healthy and holy attitude in our hearts and keeps us forever humble before the Almighty. Godly fear keeps our focus on God Himself and reminds us daily that we must all give an account to Him on that Day.
Godly fear places us on solid ground, as we build our lives upon the Rock of God’s word and revere Him enough to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Godly fear produces a deep respect in our hearts for God, knowing that He is justified in casting us into hell, but at the same time produces an even deeper love in our hearts for our Heavenly Father, knowing that He has graciously provided the way for our salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.
So as we navigate this fearful time together, remember … have faith in God and don’t be afraid.
But never forget that you cannot even begin to understand anything about this life until you first fear of the LORD.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.“Ecclesiastes 12:13-14