Several weeks ago, my son came home from Thursday School frazzled and frightened about a story that was taught. That morning, they learned about Jonah and the big fish and how Jonah was swallowed up for disobeying God. The idea scared him, and during class, he began to feel as if he too would share that same fate.
When he and I came home, it was a difficult task telling my three-year-old that God would not do that to us, to him. I told him how much God loved him, and that what he did to Jonah happened a very long time ago, and it would not happen again. It took a few weeks of reassurance, but in time, my son forgot the fear placed within him, and didn’t worry anymore about the big fish that was out to get him if he disobeyed God.
As Christians, we are to possess a Godly fear for our Master. What is this Godly fear? Is it the kind of fear that makes us watch our backs when we do wrong, worrying that our “big fish” will swallow us whole if we misbehave? Is it a fear that makes us think twice before we turn to sinful ways because of the consequences we know that lie in wait? In order to understand how to have a Godly fear for our Lord, we must understand fear itself. Fear, as defined in the online resource, Dictionary.com, is stated as follows:
1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
4.reverential awe, especially toward god.
5.that which causes a feeling of being afraid; that of which a person is afraid: Cancer is a common fear.
There are several different ways a person can show fear. Notice some of the emotions used to define this term: distress, pain, anxiety, concern, and reverential awe. In the Old Testament, we are told how to fear God by obeying Him (Deuteronomy 10:13-13), loving Him (Deuteronomy 11:1), and by worshipping Him (Psalms 2:11). Each of these traits are in the form of a reverential awe, as defined earlier, a type of fear.
A Godly fear shows respect and awareness. Having fear for the Lord shows how much we want to honor and obey Him. We must respect, or fear His power and His just decisions, but in a healthy manner. We know that God ultimately judges us all and He is the one who will make the decision to allow us to spend eternity with Him, or be cast away into darkness and misery with Satan. Is it Godly to be scared of Hell; to feel anxiety, concern, and distress over the subject? Absolutely! We have been given the emotion of fear to keep us safe from certain dangers. Is it Godly to posses these same emotions when we fear God? I do not think so. We must fear God because we love and respect His righteousness. God is not a danger, He is our sustainer. We should follow Him and keep His commands because we love Him, and want to obey His will, not exclusively because we know that if we do not, we will go to Hell. The latter statement is true, but it should not be the driving force in our obedience.
Are we running around just as my child was, fearing that the Lord will swallow us up if we do not stay in line, or are we obeying His will because we love and respect Him? We fear God because He has forgiveness (Psalm130:4); we fear Him because of grace (Ephesians 6:7-8); we fear Him because He is holy.
Fear is a normal emotion that can be shown in many different ways. Our Father demands a reverential fear from His children, not because He is a bully, waiting for us to mess up, but because consequences are real; heaven and hell are real. He wants us to fear His judgment to keep us safe from the dangers that come from disobedience. As long as we are loving, serving, obeying, and worshiping our Lord, we are safe from the things that try to consume us on a daily basis. Just as we train children to have fear, and respect for things that may cause them harm, God, in His word, trains us to continue to posses these same qualities. Love is the driving force behind everything the Lord has done for us. God is love, and we shall continue to let this force–love –guide us through this life… with a nice touch of Godly fear added to the mix.
By Ashley Hudson
Ashley Hudson is a stay-at-home-mom with three children ages 9, 5, and 3. She and her family worship at the 7th and Beech Church of Christ in Durant, Oklahoma. Her husband, Jake, is the Campus Minister for the Student Bible Center at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Be sure to check out her blog at www.hudsonfive.wordpress.com