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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.

  2. 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.

  3. estuardo says:

    I can definately relate to the unhealthy fear of God that you mention. My attempt to work through this involves extensive therapy, and a very small try at asking God to help me trust him more. Of course I don’t say it with much confidence, waiting for the shoe to drop. Still waiting to see how this will work. I’ll keep you posted.

  4. BruceC says:

    First, let start off by saying thanks to you and all the others here at RBC! Your ministry has been a blessing to my wife and I and many others that we know. May the Lord continue to bless all of you.
    Your post is thought provoking as usual/. During our time here we are confronted will many challenges and trials. I believe that the Lord is telling us not to look at them and tremble no matter how “fearful” they be; but to look at Him. The battle is the Lord’s. He helps us through so many things. He is saying that He will be with us and because of that we can trust Him and not be afraid. When we are tld to fear Him it is to hold Him up in awe, honor, respect, and reverence. Be fearful of disobedience, not just because He chastens those whom He loves; but also because of a possible break in fellowship amd saddening of His heart that His child did not listen or heed. But this I know…He is always there ready to restore us to His fellowship and forgive. What a wonderful saviour He is!!!

  5. mike ajibola says:

    At every stage of fear and dispair, a still voice always ring in our hear that fear not I’m here. that voice is no other than the voice of God. Fear has no good produt to offer than to take away what is advantageous to us. What amazed me most is that we fear nature and have no fear for God. They sin continually and refuse to honour God in the life. I’ve learn to trust God for my up keep than to fear nature that I have no control over but GOD DO!

  6. daisymarygoldr says:

    We fear God when it comes to sin but we are never afraid to run into His arms while smarting with the pain of sin. It is the same with our biological fathers too. There is no fear in love because His love leads us to trust Him even to the point of “Though he slays me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15)!
    BTW, just found out the other day that there is no mention of a cat in the Bible:(

  7. hal.fshr says:

    Without being overly simplistic, it seems to me that the fear of the Lord refers to a reverentual respect. Having grown up in a loving Christian family, I had the idea of respecting my parents impressed upon me especially during the teen years. I did not fear my father but knew I couldn’t step over the line of showing disrespect to him or my mom. This illustrates the reverence we should show to our Creator.
    In the bigger picture of fear in general, I would agree with Augustine that fear is a God given emotion. The young mother who worries about her sick baby is a legimate function of fear. However, to overly obsess with a worried attitude is not the biblical way.

  8. pegramsdell says:

    I agree that we need to have a reverentual respect (fear) of the Lord. But it is hard sometimes to give, when growing up, you were more afraid of your parents than revered them. However, it is not impossible to learn how to love and have a healthy respect for those in authority. Nothing is impossible with God.

  9. Gena says:

    Like those who posted before me today, fear of God to me is about respect/reverence to God – not shakin’ in my boots afraid. I have a healthy fear of my employer, but sometimes I don’t trust him and over compensate in some ways where I really needn’t. The secular world probably thinks us Christians are a funny group of people who go around trying to do the right thing and getting legalistic, worrying about the wrath of God. I think when Jesus returns, every knee and head shall bow in reverance to Him. His Glory will be such that we will prostate ourselves before Him.

  10. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Evening everyone, Mart i read the blogs that was discussed over the weekend, my desire is to value the life of others as God does, it would not do much good for me to literly give up my life for another person, but i do have the power to put the desires of others over my desires for today.
    Valuing their desires to be more important than my own, the Lord has helped me through the Holy Spirit to be content with what ever state i am in, whereby what ever another person desires, my desire is to please them, unless it is not lawfull.
    The fear factor, i believe this is another word that can be, and has been translated, and used differently.
    I do not believe God desires for me to fear him in a way that if i do not do exactly what he says i am on his black list.
    i have come to know God in a way that i know God desires the very best for every human being, fearing as we know the word is not what God desires for a human to be living out in thier life.
    I believe God desires for us to love Him, in my opinion there is no way i can love someone i fear as we know the word.
    I desire to obey God in all my ways, because i know without a doubt God’s ways are the best ways of living, and acknowlegeing God is the way for God to lead me, and i believe obedience is the key to the abundant life, not obedience out of fear, but obedience because this is the right way.

  11. Elaa says:

    I think just as a negative childhood experience of the fear of authority can influence how we relate to reverence for God, a positive childhood experience can help such a relationship.

    While on one or two occasions, I may have thought my parents used a sledge hammer to kill a fly, in terms of disciple, I don’t recall ever considering their actions are unjust. They were such loving parents that not only did chastisement seem within their limits (ha), but they were also worthy of any extra mile necessary to comply with their expectations.

    I can’t imagine God just chastising me because He is Almighty and can get away with anything. I would feel like an orphan, if I don’t feel His chastisement (my conscience convicting me perhaps) when I step out of line. And I can’t imagine wanting to draw up my own terms for living – not out of fear but out of gratitude, when the life I have is courtersy of a loving GOd.

  12. dejean33 says:

    Growing up I was blessed to have a wonderful Father.

    You did not choose Me, but I chose you ….. (John 15:16a) God choose me …. He hasn’t forgotten that I am just dirt, dust, mud and clay ( Psalms 103:14 ) !

    But you know what else I am ???

    I’m Holy too … Psalms 86:2.


    I’m sealed … Ephesians 1:13

    The kicker ??? ( I dont’ want you to miss this, so I’m sending you to the text: Read – Job 13:15)

    In eternity past God WILLED to love me – God is counseld ( WHAT ?!? ) by His Will. Ephesians 1:11 Guys, Jesus said it was finished. ( John 19:30) Those 3 … they couldn’t lie ( even if they tried )Hebrews 6:18 – Thank You Father !!!!!

    Sometimes, in prayer or in a conversation about God, I have totally crossed over and called Him Dad.

    P.S. If You believe in Christ – His Life, Death, and Resurection, all these wonderful promises pertains to you too.

    Thanks Dad !!!

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