Are You Afraid Of Fear? (Part 2. What Is The Fear Of God?)

Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (Part 2 of 2 in series)

* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? the big bad wolf? the big bad wolf? Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? La, la, la, la, la...

Most every person my grandma's age and older was at one time or another afraid of the big bad wolf. Why? because it was likely they saw one if they didn't live in or near a big city. Wolf attacks weren't uncommon that long ago and in fact are on the rise again since hunting grounds for wolves are shrinking. Young children wandering off would be easy pickin's for wolves, so parents would warn them not to wander around alone and then add that "the big bad wolf will get you" if they disobeyed. In more recent generations, parents do not warn of big bad wolves, things much scarier come to mind. Now-a-days the big bad wolf has become a symbol for anything that a person can fear. Depicted with cartoon characters and story caricatures, the big bad wolf looms in everyone's background. One might ask, if you aren't afraid of the big bad wolf, what stands in its stead? Are you afraid of heights or death or of something else? Perhaps you are even afraid of God?

At first glance, that may seem an odd question, are you afraid of God? Yet many people are, and many others think that being afraid of God is a good thing.

We will consider the concept, fear of God verses being afraid of God. There is a difference, and we begin with a classic example which depicts both kinds of fear. That example is our first parents, Adam and Eve, back at the birth of fear, in the first few pages of our history as God's creation.

Some people's image of God is like the big bad wolf.
Some people's image of God is like the big bad wolf.

"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them....Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good... And the LORD God commanded the man saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die."... And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'... So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you that you should not eat?" (Genesis 1:26-27, 31; 2:16-17; 3:2-3, 6-11)

Most every person has heard the story of Adam and Eve and how they fell from grace by eating fruit from the one tree that the Lord had forbidden to them. I want to look at just one aspect of this story, that of fear. There are two types of fear illustrated in this Genesis account. The first fear depicted is the of fear of the Lord, the good kind of fear. Notice, if you will that when God finished creating man He pronounced them "very good." No sin was in them, no flaw marred their perfection and peace existed between man and God. Man had no shame and in this perfection no need to cover any shame. God would walk in the cool of the day and speak to the man. God told him that should one eat of the fruit, that person would die. But an interesting thing happened between the man receiving the message from God about the fruit, and his relaying of it to his wife. The phrase "nor shall you touch it" was added to what God had said. Now most of you reading this and that are familiar with the story, have noted that was not what God had said. Have you ever wondered why it was added? I believe Adam added it as an extra precaution out of fear of the Lord. I don't know I wasn't there, but he probably said something like this: "Now Eve, God said that we can eat of every tree except that tree, that one right there. See it? Don't even touch it, lest you die! Okay? this is very important. Don't even touch it." Why would that phrase be added? I maintain that it was fear of the Lord that caused him to add it. At that time, was he afraid of the Lord? No, Adam visited with Him in the cool of the day. He remained naked, showing that he had nothing to be ashamed of before God. But his concern was for his wife and he truly believed that God was to be taken seriously. He knew God meant what He said. He believed Him. He loved his Lord and in the conveying of this life-sustaining message showed how much he believed God was not a liar and trusted that God would do what He said. In the seriousness of the matter, obedience meant life. Disobedience and its resulting consequences, meant death. In this alone, being afraid is a good thing. It is a fearful thing to be in the hand of the Living God. He is awesome in power, mighty in works. He is holy. He is all the things we aren't. Disobedience should cause fear and trembling. A fool sayeth in his heart "There is no God."

"The mountains quake before Him, the hills melt, and the earth heaves in His presence, yes the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." (Nahum 1:5-7)

"But the LORD is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)

"He stood and measured the earth: He beheld and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: His ways are everlasting." (Habakkuk 3:6)

In contrast, see what happened after they thought on it, and then decided to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All of a sudden their eyes "were opened." Opened to what? Their eyes were opened to the magnitude of the disobedience. They felt the weight of their decision pressing down upon them and trapping them inside of their own sin, causing them to feel dirty and ashamed. Their mind sought to get clean of the guilt, but couldn't. It was just a matter of time before God would confront them with their deed. If only they could look at each other and see some redeeming point to all of it, but they couldn't. Their innocence and purity was gone from their own minds. They saw themselves as open and vulnerable, so sought to hide. Their immediate response was to cover themselves but that was not enough to cover their sin. And why did they run for cover? because they were now afraid of God. They no longer were practicing the fear of the Lord, they were afraid of their Lord. They wished to separate themselves from Him. Running with no reasoning, they thought with the thoughts of their now sin-fouled minds. They crafted the spiritual barrier of sin, by their disobedience. Then they crafted an immediate personal barrier to cover their shame, clothes. Why, that didn't help at all! It just made their difference all that more apparent. No other creation of God wore clothes to hide themselves and their shame. Since clothes were not enough to stay the guilt, they sought a place to hide where they could feel apart from the God that sees everything and is everywhere. Totally irrational right? Yet this is the reasoning that happens when we sin. We only use that which is fear-based, fleshly-oriented, self-centered, and any reasoning that avoids the God who loves us.

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

In part one of this study, we considered the Bible's definition of fear and trembling. It is the fleshly response when one does not fear the Lord. Now we must define the fear of the Lord and how we are to cultivate and practice this fear always. Hopefully, the examples above have given some understanding of godly fear verses fearing without God.

"And now Israel [and the rest of believing mankind], what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 10:12)

"Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17)

The Hebrew word yare (yaw-ray') and it's New Testament Greek equivalent (fob'-os) both are defined: "to fear, to revere, to literally pull into reverence."

I will tell you, to fear is a decision you make and if you don't make the decision to fear properly, (that is to fear the Lord), the decision will be made for you to fear without reason or rationale. Let me explain.

If you look at the words in the original languages to define fear (both good and bad), you notice something interesting. It is the same word used for both positive godly fear and negative phobic fears. Think of it this way: fear was meant for good but we in our sinful bodies have changed it and its use into something evil. When we walk with God, we must practice fear as God designed it to be used, to stop letting it use us in fleshly ways. Fear will elevate something to a status so that all of our attention will be upon that thing. For example, if you hate heights and are up high, your fear will magnify the fact that you are up there and that will be your main concern. It will outrank and overshadow all other things and make them less important (including God). It will be the highest priority in your thoughts, what you consider most important, while you fear that thing. Now suppose you are up on some high place and are gripped with the fear of it and decide you will flee in your mind to Jesus and lay that fear at His feet. When you do that, one fear replaces the other fear. A good fear (fear of the Lord) replaces a bad fear (phobic and irrational). Now suppose that you do not wish to be leaning on God (or you do not know Jesus as Savior) and don't know how to lean on God. When you find yourself on that mountain or high place, you can face your fear and do things despite your fear but you will not have a peace about nor will you ever defeat that fear. It will always be there. It may change shape or it may fade a little but will always be ready to loom large again in another situation. Without God, there will always be fear, the bad kind, whether people want to admit it or not. They may say I'm not scared of anything, but I find that people who say that usually are putting their faith in something that will not save them, like a gun or money. It's easy to say the words "I'm not afraid" when you hold a gun on something that scares you, or can pay it to go away. I believe that somewhere inside that person worries about the gun jamming someday, or if someday the money will run out. I'm sure if faith in anything but God is in play, fear is a constant companion as well. God knows the hearts and every one of those folks that are not practicing the fear of the Lord has something that down deep inside scares them to pieces.

"Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." (Psalm 55:22)

Search your heart, do you find yourself being fearful and afraid? Scripture commands Christians to not be fearful and afraid. "Do not fear" is a phrase found throughout the word of God. One must decide not to be afraid, then accompany that decision by action. We must adopt an attitude of the mind to remain firm despite doubt, a stance immovable in God. I will not be afraid. How is that accomplished? Well, I think you will find it impossible to simply rip fear out of your stream of thoughts, for you see ripping anything out of your thought stream without replacing it, will cause disruption, a hole if you will. The enemy and our own flesh will simply fill the hole with more fear and we will continue to be fearful and afraid.

Let me give an illustration: If you look at your computer screen and imagine it to be everything that comes into your focus, everything to which you give your attention. If you put a "Post-it" note marked GOD smack dab in the center of the screen, it will block out some of that scary input coming into your mind. Now, if you focus all of your attention on that post-it, the rest of the screen fades into non-importance. That is how you replace being fearful and afraid with fear of the Lord. You superimpose God over the fear, and concentrate on Him; pleasing Him, loving Him, serving Him, praising Him. The more you concentrate on Him, the larger the "Post-it" grows until you see everything through the eyes of the Lord God of the universe. The world begins to grow dim and you begin to realize that there really is nothing to fear.

How do I fear without being afraid?
How do I fear without being afraid?

Learning The Fear Of The Lord

Fear is a natural response in humans to prepare them to protect themselves from danger (fight) or prepare them to flee from the danger (flight). It was created originally for our protection. It was not meant to be used for evil, not meant to be a tool of the flesh, to be sin. Fear has become something that is used by the devil and by which we baby our flesh. We all succumb to fear, from time to time, but the more we fear the Lord our God, the less we fear anything else. We need to look at how one learns the fear of the Lord and begin to make it a very real part of our life.

1. Confirm your own salvation. The first thing a person must realize is that salvation is necessary to be able to fear the Lord. Unsaved people can not fear the Lord because they don't know Him. They have no spiritual side with which to fear Him. Spiritual things are foolishness to them. In Jonah, the people had an experience in which they had seen God working and their fear (the terror kind) had convicted their heart for the salvation experience. After that experience "then they feared the LORD exceedingly" and "made vows" and sacrificed. Terror contributed to salvation. Salvation made fear of the LORD possible. Salvation is a standing between God and man that Jesus paid for by dying for us. When we receive Christ, we are adopted from the family of Satan into the family of God and we receive the Holy Spirit of God that dwells in our hearts. We become a "new creature in Christ." Once we are "in Christ" there are things that are now possible that once were impossible, without the Holy Spirit indwelling us. One of those things is the ability to be free of fear. Before salvation, we are pretty much at the enemy's mercy. Some folks are simply paralyzed with fear. Others have phobias and doubts and things that get in the way of a peaceful full life.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

"So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows." (Jonah 1:15-16)

"And the peace of God which passes understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry "Abba Father!" [a phrase that means Daddy] The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Romans 8:14-16)

So the first step is to confirm your own salvation. Did you ever have a time whereby you turned from your sin and prayed to Jesus to be your Savior because you could not save yourself? If you have not, you could do so before the end of this article. Once you know you are saved and are God's child then you may begin to learn the fear of the Lord.

2. Learn of the Lord so that you may begin to trust Him. After salvation, we need to begin to grow in faith, in love, in closeness to God. The closer we come to Him, the more we understand who and what God is. We begin to grasp the magnitude of the payment for our sin given on our behalf at Calvary. As saved individuals we see how wonderfully we are made, how beautiful is the creation of God and we know His faithfulness. We gain insight into the awesome majesty of God, who keeps the sun shining and the earth turning. We learn that we can trust Him and to give more and more of our lives to Him. As you learn that you can trust Him and that He is faithful, you realize that He will never leave us, especially at the times where we would be facing fear. He is right there with us and is our strong tower in which to run. All one has to do is pray. To talk to Him and lay your fears at His feet. We trust that He knows what to do with them and we don't have to worry. If something looms in our future, God will lead us through it. If it is powerful, don't worry, God is more powerful.

3. Learn to put God first and to obey Him. The other aspect of learning to fear the Lord God is to be able to put God first before things you want to do. To learn obedience is key to escaping any bondage to fear. As we trust God more and more, it makes sense that His commands would move us to action, more and more. He is the omniscient God, isn't He? That means He knows more than we do, doesn't it? So why question or hesitate to obey when His word speaks to you? The greater the obedience, the more confidence you have in God's ability to deliver. Fear begins to fade and will continue to fade as long as you focus on Christ and follow Him.

Dear Reader: As you honestly look at yourself and what you are afraid of, do you see meaningless fear running through your life? or perhaps even running your life? Do you wish that there was a place of safety to which you could go and stand, in spite of the fear that grips you? There is a place and that place is God. He stands with His arms outstretched to you, saying, "Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

The first step in learning to fear the Lord is to come to Him and confess your sin to Him and receive Him as Savior. It is real easy to do. Do you believe that Jesus died for your sin? Do you believe that He was buried and rose again on the third day? If you do, then admit you need Him to pay for your sin and cry out to Him right from where you are. Pray this:

Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe that you died for me on Calvary's cross. I believe that You were buried but the grave could not hold You and you rose again. Please forgive me for my sin and save me. I turn from my sin and turn to you as my Savior. I do not want to be afraid anymore. Thank you for hearing me and saving me for I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Other independent studies in this series:

Are You Afraid Of Fear? (Part 1. Why Am I Afraid?)

More by this Author

Comments 22 comments

Michael Adams1959 profile image

Michael Adams1959 6 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

Good work enjoyed the reading

Unchained Grace profile image

Unchained Grace 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

Respect and fear share a space on opposite sides of a thin line and since fear is based in confusion and God is NOT the author of confusion, where does that really leave us?

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

Glad you were blessed Micheal. I wanted to give some things that I have gone through and hopefully to strengthen my brothers in Christ. Also if some people came to Jesus it would be so grand. Many blessings bob.

fred allen profile image

fred allen 6 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

Love this! I pray that some who are searching for meaning in life stumble upon it. It is the prescription for life. You did a great job! May God richly bless you!

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

Bless you Fred. When a servant of the Lord is blessed, the blessing is passed into God's service. Perhaps on to the lost through your ministry. Fear is a very private thing. No one trumpets their fears to others. Most claim to fear nothing. We all have weak points where Satan knows we can be vulnerable should our focus on God waver, even a little. Even the scarecrow of Oz was afraid of nothing (except, he whispered, a lighted match). It makes it imparative to cling to Jesus and find shelter under His wings. Love you Brother. Bob.

fred allen profile image

fred allen 6 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

I love you too my brother! Love the wizzard of Oz reference. It is a very spiritual story.

Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 6 years ago from Southern Minnesota

I really loved this revelation!! Awesome insight. You articulated what has been rolling around in my fragmented understanding for a long time. I just couldn't put it together and here it is.

We will fear something.

"to fear is a decision you make and if you don't make the decision to fear properly, (that is to fear the Lord), the decision will be made for you to fear without reason or rationale."...this was the big one.

Your explanation how fear plays out in the flesh as opposed to fear under the loving Lordship of our God depending on our determined focus, is a bulls eye.

"The fear of the Lord causes men to depart from evil"

bookmarking this for sure.

Thank you for sharing.

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

You are beloved in the Lord. So encouraging in your comments. I struggled with this one because it was so important that I put into words things I had never heard before. The Lord was faithful to give it. The knee-jerk panic that the devil loves to see in us does not have to be. We can run to our Abba Father and cling to Him and not fear. O to be fearless... Wow... still practicing the clinging part. Still quaking from time to time. But soon the Lord will come and we will be made into the people we were meant to be.

Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Believe it and live it. Psalm 23.

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

I'm not sure we need to be afraid of fear either, my brother. God gives us a way to defeat fear. I am fearful when I find myself sinning and clinging to it. Then I say "hey what am I doing?" It is a fearful thing to be in the hand of the living God. Paul said that when we think we have "arrived" be careful lest ye fall. I am wary of that. I want to stay wary of that. I know my Lord will convict me of sin and I will repent but I don't want to sin again and I fear my own flaws. When I get to heaven and am made perfect, I will be happy to be rid of the dreaded sin that pull at me constantly, traps me when I let my guard down, and generally besets me at every turn. I truly battle each moment a spiritual battle. The Lord grants me victory moment by moment. But I must be constantly aware of the enemies, the world the flesh and the devil. I battle in Him, I rest in Him, I believe in Him, I count on Him. Praise to Him. Love you brother.

DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago

Bob, There is much to ponder here… This is very thought provoking, It is important that we each take a look at our personal relationships with the Lord and see where we are… It is also really important that we each then spend alone time meditating on HIS WORD and ask HIM to fill us with HIS Holy Spirit. As we grow spiritually our reverent fear of the Lord grows but we become even less afraid of Him as our trust in Him grows. Instead of running away from God we run to Him! As you stated: ‘Fear begins to fade and will continue to fade as long as you focus on Christ and follow Him. “ AMEN!

As we stay in contact with Him and pray without ceasing throughout the day we can become refueled and refreshed to press on... Thank God for HIS PEACE that surpasses the understanding of man…. Yes! “WE CAN TRUST GOD! “ AMEN! THANK GOD FOR JESUS!

Beautiful & Inspiring! Thank you for sharing, In HIS Love, Grace, Joy, Peace and Blessings!

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

You know how I love your comments. They always add important things, many of which I haven't thought of, but then again, that's why we all have different spiritual gifts to add insight and strength to our brothers and sisters. I know people that are so afraid of God as if he is waiting with a switch to tan their hide instead of patiently instructing us with love. I'd guess that that is how they are used to parents dispensing discipline. I agree sometime God's discipline hurts but His hurt is to our good. "Thy rod and thy staff comfort me." Love you DeB.

daydreamer13 profile image

daydreamer13 6 years ago

Interesting and fun to read! Well done!

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

You have no idea how many people think that one must be afraid of God. You can't approach the throne of grace. You must always pray as if you are talking to some earthly king. You can't be yourself because it shows disrespect. You must cringe in terror when you sin, instead of just forsaking the sin and confessing it like Scripture says. Some are even afraid of sin that they don't even know they did and that God will squish them like a bug for things they did that they didn't even know. God wants to hold us and love us and for us to be sorry when we sin. He wants to forgive us and use us and give us gifts and blessings. Thank you for your comment.

christ4ever profile image

christ4ever 6 years ago from a life in sin saved by the Lord's grace - we are blessed with the ministry in Florida & Georgia

Great job on presenting this topic. It is often difficult to portray how our sheer fear of God can actually result in a truly positive experience which further nurtures our relationship with Him. It not only builds our respect and awe for the Lord but by also promoting our willful obedience, more doors to His love and glory can then be opened to us!


no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

The knowledge that there is a God that knows everything, created everything and will have our future in His hands should be enough to cause anyone to obey without question but we are sinners and love to do things our own way. So it behooves us to get to know God. The closer we get to Him the more we want to obey Him because the bigger He gets.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Terrific article, Brother Bob! You are right on target, man. Many folks misunderstand what it means to "fear the Lord." It is not the same thing as to fear the big bad wolf, as you have rightly explained. Thanks for an outstanding and edifying read. It is very good!

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

Glad you were encouraged. Want you to stay strong man so that you can keep edifying others. They depend on you and your godly view of history to keep a good attude. Many blessings my brother.

drpastorcarlotta profile image

drpastorcarlotta 4 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

You Go no body! This article everyone should read! It will encourage all!!!!! Voted-Up! I have missed you but I am back! lol, lol, Come visit me when you have some time. LOVE YOU!

no body profile image

no body 4 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

I will Lottie. I missed you too. I know you have been busy. I have too. I love you so much sister.

pattyfloren profile image

pattyfloren 2 years ago from Illinois

Fear begins to fade and will continue to fade as long as you focus on Christ and follow Him.

This saying will help me to remember to focus on Christ. Thanks for this great article.

no body profile image

no body 2 years ago from Rochester, New York Author

Thank you Patty for reading. I so love to see people helped in some small way by the things I write. It makes it all worth it to see you blessed by it. May God continue to bless you. Bob.

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