Last night my men’s group came across the chapter in the book “Man in the Mirror” that deals with fear. It is a chapter that I disagree with very much in it’s premiss and while this sort of thing would mostly go unsaid I think it would be helpful to talk about what fear is and what role it plays in our faith.
Patrick Morely essentially states that fear is an absence of trusting God. Which inherently would make it a sin to experience fear. I have seen that Morely has since changed his view on this and has given other talks that don’t communicate this point in this way but I still think that this is a ditch that many within the church and those outside of faith are tempted to fall into. I would even argue that fear is essential to faith.
The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This means that fearing God should be axiomatic as a starting point. This is best seen whenever an agent of the Lord appears or whenever the spirit of God appears to people. People who encounter God in this way respond by throwing themselves on the ground or cowering in fear. Yet, the first thing spoken by these emissaries of the supreme is “don’t be afraid.”
In our secular driven culture “fear of the Lord” is looked at as some sort of superstition but we don’t view fear of dangerous things in any other arena of life as ignorant or superstitious. To the contrary, we see it as wise. For example, If I had no fear of surfing a giant wave I would be stupid. I should be afraid. In fact those who are addicted to adrenaline highs get such a high not because they experience no fear but because they experience so much fear. The fear helps them come alive in a way.
In the same way it is appropriate (once you fully understand just what God is) that we should at once be afraid, and then choose to not be fearful. And let’s not hear any of that patronizing non-sense about fear equaling a healthy respect for God. I’m sure it is that as well but that is not the issue here.
So fear in this case is not a sin, and it is good to then know that it is not fear that is the issue but what we fear and to what degree.
The first group listed in the book of revelation who don’t make it to heaven are “cowards.” So obviously being a coward is not something any of us should strive for. But what does this mean then? Is a man who, while hunkered down in a fox hole taking mortar fire prays like he’s never prayed before considered a coward? Of course not, but we could say that the man who runs from the fight is. So cowardice is then a choice while fear is a reaction.
So did Jesus experience fear? I believe He did. I don’t think those drops of blood that came out of his pores in the garden were due to any normal amounts of anxiety. The important thing to remember here is that if Jesus didn’t experience fear then carrying the cross would have taken no courage. In fact, without fear nothing courageous could ever be done. This is because courage is not the absence of fear, but how we act in spite of it. This is where fear is essential to faith.
As I have learned in my own experiences as well as talking to others, I have noticed that those who feel like they are coasting in their faith often feel that way because they have not placed themselves in a position (that God desires for them) that requires them to be fully reliant on God. I’ve often heard it said that, in ministry if you aren’t doing something that scares you every now and then you aren’t really don’t ministry.
This is true. We must always be seeking for that next place that God wants us to go and it will make us afraid, but we should only fear God and not be fearful in order to get up off the ground and stand in courage.