Check your fears

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Check your fears

April 7, 2022 - Gerald Griffin

© ijeab /stock.adobe.com

© ijeab /stock.adobe.com

In all my life, I have never seen so many people afraid of so many things.

War, poverty, disease, crime, shortages, violence, and suffering are in news reports on any channel, through the internet, and even intruding upon “social” accounts.

Last week, I was reaching out to families who haven’t attended church since the pandemic started and heard that some are still afraid of meeting in a large group.

I don’t discount fears. They are real and they have a way of adding up.

Is it any wonder that Jesus continued to say “fear not” in his time with the disciples?

Do you fear man or God?

We just fear so many things and so often. But, in Luke 12, Jesus goes to the core of fear and divides it into two disparate categories: those who fear man and those who fear God.

He starts with a warning about the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when we create a public impression to hide our real motives. It’s as though we wear a mask and play-act at who we really are because we are afraid of people. Being a fake is no laughing matter to God and, as a pastor, I find it especially poignant that Jesus is exposing religious leaders as fakes.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t give this warning to the multitude who are crowding on top of one another to get to him but to the twelve because they needed it. Jesus knew even they could fall to hypocrisy, and Jesus loved them enough to say the hard truth to them. They need to beware, to watch out, because that small bit of spiritual leaven is dangerous.

And what a picture of hypocrisy Jesus gave when he called it leaven. You and I know the implications: something that can start small and grow, something that works its way through the entirety of where it is placed, and something that is hard, if not impossible, to remove.

Doesn’t that describe fear well too?

Hypocrisy is born of the fear of man and he said it was the leaven of the Pharisees as it had filled their lives.

What if Jesus called you a hypocrite?

Think about all the things you might be afraid of and ask yourself this: “How afraid would I be if Jesus called me a hypocrite”?

Your answer determines which column you fit in.

The Fear of Man column isn’t really afraid of his opinion.

But if you line up under the Fear of God column, these are chilling words.

It also shows just how far away from God religious people can be. Didn’t they know they were pretending to be someone they were not?

And they had to be shocked at how Jesus was able to see through their pretense, but there is no indication that they ever considered listening to him and making a change. They fit into the description of verse 4: they feared man, not God.

Can that be true today?

Are there people religious people, even those serving in ministry who fear men more than God?

If Jesus warned the disciples, it seems that answer is yes.

When my focus changed

The church I serve started as a plant. During those early days when money was tight and the future uncertain, a few people banded together to try to force a change in the direction of our mission.

Eventually, they left. As you know, they seldom leave silently.

I was experiencing my first real fear of man as a pastor and it must have shown. One of our early leaders pulled me aside and told me he was praying I wasn’t “snakebit.” He had grown up in the country, where a snake bite could alter your behavior and make you live with fear of the next snake. He reminded me that I was here to serve God and he loved me and believed in me.

In those few words, I realized my focus had changed and I never saw it coming.

I was looking at and fearing man so much I had not even given a glance toward the God who called me. I have come to believe that it’s a constant struggle for most pastors. So let me encourage you that if you feel that way, you are not the first, and you don’t have to live with that fear.

Even the great prophet Jeremiah was afraid and needed straight talk about fearing man and he got it! “Get up and dress and go out and tell them whatever I tell you to say. Don’t be afraid of them, or else I will make a fool of you in front of them” (Jeremiah 1:17 TLB).

Then, just like the heavenly Father that God is, he seems to pull Jeremiah close in verse 19 and says,  “‘They will try, but they will fail. For I am with you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will deliver you.'”

It’s like Oswald  Chambers said, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

I do not want to fear everything else. I want to fear God.

The benefits of fearing God

As ministers, we have already made the big decision to follow Jesus in a life of ministry, but sometimes we need to be reminded of some of the benefits of fearing God:

  • I have a singular focus on God.
  • I don’t have to fear man.
  • I accept the blessing of personal conviction rather than run from it. God is drawing me to be close to him.
  • I am in a relationship with the only One who knows me completely and still loves me.
  • I don’t labor alone but with him.
  • I don’t know what is next, but God does.
  • I am part of something eternally significant.
  • I can pray with confidence.
  • I am on the winning side. We’ve read the Bible and we know how this ends.

I’ll end with the testimony of David: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:4–5).

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

More by Gerald Griffin

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