Fear is one of the most confusing emotions that humans experience. It can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the object of the fear. It can warn us of danger, it can cause us to agonise over what might happen, and it can also thrill us and cause the adrenaline to rush in exhilaration.
The way the Bible speaks of fear can be equally confusing. Some of the time, the instruction is given not to fear. Other times, fear is viewed as something that we have been freed from by Christ. At still other times fear is spoken of in a positive light, and particularly the fear of God.
This will be a topical sermon, looking at several passages to tease out what the Bible has to say about our fear.
Different Fears – One of the most intriguing Bible passages about fear is Exodus 20:18-20. The Israelites are at Mount Sinai, where they experience thunder, lightning, trumpet sounds and smoke. This causes them to be afraid and tremble asking Moses not to allow God to speak to them. Moses tells the people not to be afraid, but then says this is a test that the fear of him may be before them. Clearly there is fear and there is fear.
Wrong Fear – The type of fear that the Israelites initially had is not something that belongs to a believer. It is being afraid of God in a way that recognises his power and makes you want to flee. This is the fear of the demons in James 2:9 and Genesis 3:10. It is a fear based on a perception of God as powerful but not good (or at least not good to you). It is an appropriate response to a dictator but not to a Father.
Right Fear – In contrast to this is the right fear of God that characterises believers. Understanding this is important. It is not a counterpoint to kindness and grace but a consequence. Fear of God is a part of the new covenant promise (Jer. 32:38-40) and is the response to God’s grace (Jer. 33:8-9). It is a wondrous awe that captivates the heart and draws you towards God (as opposed to the wrong fear that draws you away).
- A time of worship would be a fitting response to this sermon, as well as offering space to pray for those struggling with a wrong fear of God.