Exchanging Fear for Fear

From Kevin DeYoung: Exchanging Fear for Fear

Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Because the end of folly is the love of the praise of men. Or to say the same thing in a different way: there is no sin so prevalent, so insidious, and so deep as the sin of fearing people more than we fear God.

Think of Saul, that tall Benjaminite who became the first king of Israel. His downfall was the result of misplaced fear. As he explained to Samuel after the whole business with the bleating sheep, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam. 15:24). Here’s this powerful, impressive looking king worried about what people think of him. And it’s not his enemies the Amalekites he’s worried about. Except for Agag, they were all dead. Saul wasn’t afraid of his enemies; he was scared of his friends—afraid that they would desert him, afraid they would revolt, afraid he would he be an unpopular King. Saul was a head taller with more authority than anyone in the kingdom and yet he disobeyed a clear command from God because he feared people. He was the Lord’s cautionary tale for Proverbs 29:25 (“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe”) and a preview of Christ’s indictment in John 12:42-43 (“but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God”). Saul is but one of many sad examples of those who counted it more precious to be acceptable and palatable and influential in the eyes of their peers, than to be honored and affirmed and found faithful in the sight of God.

It’s easy to see how foolish Saul was, but each one of us struggles with the same fear of man and love of the praise of man.

  • Do you struggle with peer pressure? Do you give in to things against your will just to go along with the crowd? That’s the fear of man. And it doesn’t get any easier when you get older. Adults just find more creative ways to mask it and more socially acceptable ways to channel it. We don’t set things on fire as much. But we still feel peer pressure when gossip starts, or a raunchy movie is on, or bad mouthing someone begins.
  • Are you over-committed? Is it impossible for you to say no? Could be a sign that you love to be loved by others.
  • Are you a people-pleaser? I hate to say this all of the very nice people out there, but if everyone likes you all the time, then it might be that you aren’t really the most kindhearted person in the world, but you simply know what people expect and how to please them. Unrelenting niceness can be man-centered.
  • Are your relationships more about being loved and seeming lovely than actually loving others? Many times our … Read More
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