For some time, I have been thinking about the concept of the fear of the Lord. That phrase, “the fear of the Lord” is used at least 21 times in the Bible. Most of the occurrences are in the Old Testament, but it does occur once in the New Testament.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31 NIV)
One of the important characteristics of the early church was that it lived in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord gave early Christians the courage to be thrown to the lions. What is the fear of the Lord? What should it look like in our lives today?
As we were out on our daily walk yesterday my wife and I started talking about this. She commented that fear has to do with power. I think she’s right. The thing to which I attribute the greatest amount of power over me is the thing that controls my actions. For much of our world right now the powerful thing is COVID-19. We don’t understand it, we can’t prevent it, and we can’t cure people who get the disease it causes. People are dying. COVID-19 is powerful, but are we attributing greater power to COVID-19 than we attribute to God?
COVID-19 could cause me to die, but it has no power over my eternal destiny. Jesus understood this and wanted us to understand it as well.
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5 NIV)
Jesus was very clear. He tells us very directly to fear God. I think He is telling us to act with the continual awareness that God has far more power than anything or anyone else we encounter in life. The practical application for me is the way I allow what I think other people will think about me to govern my actions.
For Easter Sunday my wife put together a series of activities to help us and some of our neighbors walk through the last week of Jesus’ life. One of those activities involved putting a pillowcase over our heads and counting to 39 to represent the number of hours Jesus was in the tomb. There is no physical pain or suffering that is going to occur from putting a pillowcase over my head. However, in my mind I begin thinking that people would think less of me because I was doing this. That fear in my mind came from attributing greater power to my neighbors than to God. Fortunately, in this case I allowed God’s power and grace to be in control and put the pillowcase on to honor God and communicate the gospel.
I don’t know how this plays out in your life. As you go through the day today, stop and think about who or what you’re giving power to other than God.
There are many people who are talking about fear given its overwhelming presence during this COVID-19 pandemic. A good friend of our produced a series of videos that are specifically designed for expats, but I think everyone could benefit from listening to what he has to say. Videos can also be found at https://www.expatup.org/.
Andy Stanley has also put together a short message that explores the relationship between faith and fear. I found it helpful. You can look at it here.