“I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.”
1 Peter 1:6-7 (The Message)
I’m a very nonconfrontational person. Luckily, this usually keeps me from offending others or getting into useless debates about trivial topics or participating in potentially explosive conversations. Unfortunately, some people seem to thrive on controversy and/or creating disturbances, saying whatever they think whenever they think it, whether on social media or in everday interactions.
While there are always important issues going on in our lives and in the world overall that need to be brought to light and discussed with love, understanding, and compassion, all too often these discussions dissolve into disagreements filled with misunderstanding, name calling, and hatred. In these cases, no one wins.
I’m sure you have heard or seen this advice many times, but it bears repeating, “THINK before you speak or post” (using the guides below) even if you believe you are right or doing someone a favor or you’ve got a great snappy comeback line.
“God hasn’t asked us to be right all the time. He has called us to love. This is the harder, braver choice because it requires opening our hearts instead of our mouths. It’s about seeing each other not as threats but as people made in the image of God. It means we lay down our weapons and go, with arms wide open, down a path that could very well lead to a cross.” Holley Gerth, Love Is Still Stronger Than Fear
Let’s commit to using our words more for showing love rather than hate or discontent. Think of the differences we can each make every day in bringing others hope and happiness rather than hurt and despair. Below is a Commitment of Words written by Holley Gerth a decade ago; I hope these words, which are still valid today, will help you realize that it’s possible to lift others up and walk beside them, even if we disagree with them.
God, You are the Maker of all human beings, those who are most dear to us and those with whom we disagree. Give us eyes to see others as You do, a heart that has compassion like Yours, and the strength to keep on loving [no matter what]. Amen. (HG)
“Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.”
Years ago, when I was doing a little editing and writing for a Christian magazine, my husband, Bart, wrote a paragraph to describe me. In it, he referred to me as “a God-fearing woman.” I changed the wording in his description (I can’t remember to what) because at the time it made me uncomfortable. I thought to myself, I don’t fear God. I love Him and I’m amazed by Him. But I don’t fear him. Yet there are so many places in the Bible that refer to “fear of the Lord.” So, I wondered … What am I missing here? What does that phrase really mean?
Over the years since then, I have heard a few sermons on the topic and read some articles that have helped me get a clearer picture of what “fear of the Lord” means. This information helped me understand why it’s not really such a scary term. So, I wanted to share what I learned here to possibly help someone else who may have been, or is still, confused by it.
This past Sunday, Jarrett Stephens, Teaching Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas, preached on this very topic. As he explained, we often think of “fear” as related to feelings of terror. But, in this case, it’s not technically about being scared, it’s more of a feeling of awe or deep respect.
Dr. Stephens pointed out that anyone God revealed Himself to in the past trembled with fear when they saw His glory. However, because we have been made right with God through Jesus, and perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18), for Christians today, terrorizing fear has been replaced with more of a respectful fear or a reverence.
However, some might consider fear of the Lord to be related to a fear of God’s judgement. Still others may see it as a reference to revering God alone and not fearing anyone or anything else.
According to O.S. Hawkins (pastor, GuideStone President, and author), we need to understand that “the fear of the Lord is not a fear of retribution but an awe with reverence and respect of the holy God that prevents Christians from doing anything that might dishonor or displease God.” In talking about his past, Hawkins once said, “It wasn’t that I was afraid God would put his hand on me. My greatest fear was that God might take his hand off me.” He believes “This kind of fear should rest with every man or woman called of God.”
Continuing with his sermon on Sunday, Dr. Stephens gave the following explanation of what he believes “fear of the Lord” means:
“Honoring God from so deep within that it motivates us to live a life wholly pleasing to Him.”
Simply speaking, he said, fearing = obeying. Following are just a few examples of how this fear, or awe, has been demonstrated or lived out throughout the Bible. “By faith, Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.” (Hebrews 11:17) Abraham provided an example of obedience no matter what is asked (Genesis 22). “By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7) Noah showed obedience no matter what others thought (Genesis 6–8). In Exodus 1:15–17, the Hebrew midwives demonstrated obedience no matter what the cost. Although the king of Egypt had ordered them to kill any baby boys delivered by Hebrew women, “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.”
Of course, this theme of fear and obedience continues with Moses, Ester, Daniel, David, John the Baptist, Stephen, and too many others to mention specifically.
O.S. Hawkins once said, “With every man and woman in the Bible who was greatly used of God, there is a common thread woven from Genesis to Revelation — they lived in the fear of the Lord.”
These people all show us that to be fearless and effective Christians, we must live with a fear of the Lord and act in humble obedience, honoring and serving God to the best of our abilities. Psalm 115 encourages all who fear the Lord to “trust in the Lord — he is their help and shield” (11). In other words, fearing God should produce confidence, hope, and trust in Him, which are necessary when we are looking to God for mercy, forgiveness, and salvation (OliveTree.com).
JoHannah Reardon (ChristianBibleStudies.com) says, “fearing God is good because it saves us from caving in to our own sinful nature. That’s why hearing someone is God-fearing actually makes us trust that person more. If they fear God, they are more likely to keep their word and treat others with kindness.”
In that case, I now hope that anyone who knows me actually does consider me to be a God-fearing woman. Have a blessed day.
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
but love from the Lord is its completion.”
William D. Eisenhower, “Fearing God,” Christianity Today
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”
When you are whole, you can transform negative thinking, mindless thinking, and over-thinking brought about by the world and your current circumstances into acceptance, forward focus, and peace.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you…“
Romans 12:2 (MSG)
Hang in there, take every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5), and hold tight to Jesus. All things are possible with hope, faith, and prayer.
Click on the caption above to read the recent devotional from Jasmine Williams posted at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised.”
Hebrews 10:36 (NIV)