BCC Staff: This is the final part of a three-part series on using 1 Peter to address the fears and worries of people as they contemplate what they hear on the daily news. In Parts 1 and 2, the first three principles for dealing with fear and worry were:
- We have a “living hope” because of Jesus’ resurrection.
- We have a heavenly inheritance that can never be diminished.
- There is beauty to be revealed in a tested faith
Today’s post offers one more principle, with suggested application to “Maria’s” situation.
Truth #4: The fear of the Lord helps us overcome other fears
Peter writes: “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1:17). A concern for holy living (reflecting God’s character in all situations) is motivated, at least in part, by recognizing our accountability before our holy heavenly Father (4:17–18). Although the fear of the Lord is often defined as “respect,” the biblical usage of the phrase suggests a much richer definition. The fear of the Lord is a combination of:
- Awe: a jaw-dropping amazement of who God is
- Apprehension: a heart-stirring desire not to offend God
- Appreciation: a breathtaking sense of gratitude for God’s grace, mercy, and love
“Reverent fear” is an English phrase used to communicate how Peter draws on the Old Testament’s frequent references to the “fear of the Lord.” Packed into this phrase is a surprise for those who struggle with paralyzing fears. Though it might not seem obvious at first, fostering the “fear of the Lord” actually helps us overcome other fears.
Although the elements of awe and apprehension might feel very intense at times, the element of appreciation always draws our attention to the blessings associated with the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord strengthens us to deal with “fear of bad news,” because it pushes us to trust in Him (Ps. 112:7) as well as to embrace His Word (Ps. 111:10, 112:1). The fear of the Lord gives us both the humility and the boldness to respond to bad news with confidence in the Lord’s leading.
Applying this truth in Maria’s life
Fear ignited by bad news can tempt people to respond in ungodly ways: lashing out in anger, lying, stealing, etc., because within fear-framed reasoning, the goal is to ensure what they think will be best for them. God’s expectations or purposes get pushed out. Maria is someone who has not fostered the fear of the Lord in her life as a believer. She often reacts to frightening situations by lashing out. When Maria hears a local news report about proposed changes in the credentials needed for her job, she realizes more education will be necessary for her to keep her job. She becomes sullen, moody, and “snippy” with her co-workers. She often is heard bad-mouthing the special-interest groups who are insisting on the changes and the legislators who are listening to them.
Maria fears what might happen with her livelihood. But without nurturing the fear of the Lord, she is not hesitant to respond in sinful ways. How might her pastor minister to her?
It would be good if Maria would be able to acknowledge her fear as such. Her fear reveals how much she is placing her security in the way she is running her life. As she is able to live the way she wants, she is relatively comfortable. But with that point of view, she is also making herself vulnerable, because she cannot control all of the variables that affect her life (like legislators who are swayed by special-interest groups). This would be a significant revelation of what’s going on in her heart. In addition, she can be reminded that her style of reacting with anger is inappropriate and ineffective. When she does this, it’s not the holiness of God that she is concerned about. She might experience His discipline, for example, in the form of a reprimand or even getting fired from her position. Trusting God with upcoming changes in her career and responding to others in a godly way will yield better results for her in the long run.
Conclusion: God Can Transform Us through Our Fears
In a fallen world, there will never be a lack of reasons to be afraid. When the fears inspire responsible diligence and caution without compromising God’s holiness, they are appropriate. However, when the fears of either current or future threats overwhelm and immobilize the people in our congregations, they are inappropriate, because they grow out of a suspicion that God is not as powerful as He says He is or is not as reliable as He says He is. “[Inappropriate] fear is momentary atheism that denies God’s goodness, his ability and his plan. It reduces the majesty and power of God in our hearts and shrinks him as one who is effectively powerless.”1
We must encourage fearful and anxious people not to run away from their fears. Instead, we can present this question to them: “What do your fears reveal about your understanding of God?” Wrestling with this question primes them for transformation. The transformation occurs as illegitimate fears are replaced by the more powerful fear of the Lord, which produces boldness, joy, obedience, and perseverance. With these outcomes, it is clear that the Spirit of God rests upon them and that they are truly blessed.
Join the Conversation
What other passages might you use to counsel Maria? How would you use them?
- Dan Darling and Micah Fries, “What Have I to Fear,” accessed June 2, 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/january/what-have-i-to-fear.html.
Note: The full-length article first appeared on: http://www.careleader.org/4-truths-help-people-frightened-news (June 23, 2016).