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The Fear Factor

Los Angeles Lakers’ star, Kobe Bryant, is claiming today that his hyperdunk jump over a pool of snakes is for real. His stunt, that recently hit the internet, echoes a television series that aired for six years from 2001 to 2006.

“Fear Factor” was the first reality show to be syndicated by a television network. As NBC raked in 600 million in advertising revenues, many of us watched to see which contestants, in an attempt to win $50,000, would be the quickest to do the most doing daring or disgusting things.

For a few seasons, ratings were high enough to keep producers coming up with new annual versions of the series. But eventually, the novelty of seeing others deal with cockroaches, high places, or confined spaces wore off and the series lost audience share to programs like “American Idol.”

Seems to me that the fear factor has experienced a similar rise and fall in its spiritual application. It used to be common to call people of faith God-fearing people.

Today, we seem more inclined to point out how often the Bible tells us not to be afraid, and that there is no fear in love (2Tim 1:7; 1John 4:18) .

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be quick to say that the “don’t worry” and “don’t be afraid” passages of the Bible continue to help me face fears that would otherwise drive me to drink or despair.

At the same time, I find myself drawn to the fact that the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Prov 1:7; 9:10). Many texts urge us to see that fearing the Lord is the answer to an unhealthy fear of man (Psalm 117:4-6).

So what do we do when faced with a book that tells us both to fear and to not fear, to be afraid of God, and not to be afraid of him?

Seems to me that the answer comes in a couple of basic themes that are repeated over and over from Genesis to Revelation.

Theme #1– Always be afraid of turning away from the Lord (Heb 10:31). Why?

Theme #2– Never be afraid to run to him (1Sam 12:13-25). Why not?

A healthy fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Its purpose is to bring us to the place where we can say in the presence of the Lord, with confidence, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us (1John 4:18-18).

But, now having said this, I realize that because of terrible experiences in early home life or religious schools many have a fear of authority figures that is so strong they can’t relate at all to a healthy fear of God. The result, all too often, is that such persons find themselves caught in a cycle of self-defeating behavior that makes it hard for them to trust anyone, let alone a God who asks for their fear and love. I tried to touch on that some time ago in a series of posts on “Father issues.

Would be interested now to hear how some of you have, or have not, been able to work through “the fear of the Lord”– to eliminate the fear factor– and hear him say, “Don’t be afraid.”

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12 Responses to “The Fear Factor”

  1. poohpity says:

    Good Morning Mart,
    This again is a very thought provoking item. My fear of the Lord is because they spoke the world into being. Everything that is, is because God made it so. God has power beyond anything I can even imagine. Yes I fear God because of who He is and what He is capable of doing whenever He wants. My fear is a realization that God brought everything into being and can take it out of being . I even get confused by referring to Him as Him because that is not an all encompassing pronoun for God. My finite mind can not comprehend this being.

    Yet God revealed many who spoke with Him and God, “said do not be afraid”. The angels, “said do not be afraid”. Then because we were unable to approach His Holiness He provided a way. If someone went through all that trouble to let us know He wants fellowship with us, I’m there. That does not mean however that I forget exactly Who I am approaching even though His completeness I am unable to understand. So maybe awe with the fear and then thankfulness for the person of the Godhead Jesus so I can understand the awesome love felt for us. John told us that there is no fear in love.

  • wclaek says:

    I read something Gordon MacDonald wrote awhile back about this. I believe he said that we don’t fear God enough, given who He is, and His majesty. In this case, I see fear as reverence. We sing about His awesomeness, yet we often treat God as though He were one of the guys. I am learning, after many years as a believer, about the absolute awesomeness of who He is. Although I talk to Him easily, as an old friend, I am trying to remember that He is to be respected and revered and honored.
    I don’t think God wants us to be afraid of Him — how could we draw close to Him if that were the case? No, I think God wants us to respect His holiness and His being.