“Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
— Matthew 10:28
“To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love. It means that, because of his bright holiness and magnificent love, you find him ‘fearfully beautiful.’ That is why the more we experience God’s grace and forgiveness, the more we experience a trembling awe and wonder before the greatness of all that he is and has done for us. Fearing him means bowing before him out of amazement at his glory and beauty.”
— Timothy Keller
There’s a big difference between fearing God and being afraid. After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Moses came down from the mountain and appeared before the Israelites. Witnessing thunder, lightning and the manifest presence of God caused them to tremble with fear that God would destroy them. “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning’” (Exodus 20:20 NIV). Don’t be afraid but fear God? Sounds like a contradiction but it’s not. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of him; he invites us to approach him yet at the same time he wants us to be obedient to him, respect him and avoid the consequences of sin.
“There is a fear that is slavish,” writes John Piper, “that drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God … God means for His power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. His anger is against those who forsake Him and love other things more.”
Actually, proper fear of God leads us to courage. As men who fear God, we are not to fear other men—what they may say or think about us. When our focus is on God and on doing His will, our fear of God (that drives us to Him) overshadows our fear of man. Then we are free to serve God all out, regardless of the outcome. “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul,” Jesus taught, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Our fear of God should produce boldness in the face of men that would oppose us.
In our hearts, we know we ought to fear God, but our fleshy nature battles against us in an attempt to keep us from doing so. In the same way as men, we know instinctively that we ought to be courageous, but again, we are caught in the conflict between flesh and spirit–between what we know we ought to do and what we often choose to do. Instead of acting with courage, men today too often choose not to act at all.
In the face of danger, in the face of adversity, a man is to respond in courage. To stand up and do the right thing at the right time. If a husband is going to fulfill his calling to love and lead his wife, he is going to need to draw on his courage and convictions. He will have to stay alert to spiritual and physical danger. He will have to stand firm in the faith and to lovingly lead his wife to stand firm with him. He will have to be courageous and act like a man.
It takes courage to stand in the face of an ungodly culture where, “evil men and seducers [are waxing] worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13) and say “No” to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16).
Let me fear only those things that drive me to boldness in God.
Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored over 20 books including Breakthrough: When to Give In, When to Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married 36 years to his wife Julie and together they have two children, Megan, who recently married Ben Allison and is practicing medicine in dermatology, and Zach, who plays baseball at Liberty University. In his free time, you’ll find him outdoors or at a game with family and friends.