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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fear ... Not?

How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. (Prov 28:14)
Okay, now, that can't be right ... can it? Blessed is the man who fears always? I mean, we know that fear is bad ... isn't it? Or is it? Is there a healthy, even happy fear?

The truth is that fear comes in different ... flavors. There is abject, soul-wrenching, heart-stopping fear. There is momentary, fleeting fear. And everything in between. Some people thrive on fear, that momentary adrenaline rush that gets them revved up. They call them "fear junkies." They're parachutists and base jumpers and daredevils of all types. For most, though, "fear" is equated with those things that prevent us from doing things. Fear of heights prevents some from going up in airplanes or even tall buildings. The fear of death, they say, is only second in humans to the fear of public speaking. Can't do it. Just ... can't ... do it. Some, at least.

Many will tell you that there is no place for fear for believers. It's understandable, I suppose. In John's first epistle we read, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) A simple reading would say, "There is no fear in love" and be done with it. A simple reading like that would not be wise. One of the most scathing indictments against sinful humans is in the third chapter of Romans where Paul writes, among other things, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Rom 3:18) (That's not a good thing.) So "fear of God" in Scripture is a good thing and a lack of it is a bad thing.

While that paralyzing fear is a problem for many (most?), reasonable fear has advantages. For instance, fear prevents us from going where we shouldn't. You don't walk out in traffic because you are wisely fearful of getting run over. That's a good thing. You recoil from a rattlesnake because you are rightly fearful of getting bitten (and potentially killed). That's a good thing. There are things we should fear and avoid. In the same way, fear directs us to other things. As an example, in relation to God, fear of displeasing Him would redirect us to obeying Him. Wise indeed.

Solomon said that we are blessed if we have reasonable fear, rightly-directed awe (which includes "dread"), a correct level of dismay over things that should concern us. Always. Never with a hardened heart. That, he says, will produce calamity. Bad things. We can lose a lot of fear when walking hand in hand with our Savior, but not all fear because some fear is good, healthy, even happy.


Craig said...

I came across this quote from Swindoll while preparing for a Bible study on David that I thought was interesting. Often in the story of David you see references to "fear" that refer to something other than simply being afraid of something.

“There is in kingdom living such a thing as a healthy, saving fear; a fear that preserves, a Godly fear that should control us. “ “…fear grounded in love.”

I think that puts it pretty well.

Stan said...

I like it.

Craig said...

I did to.