Be afraid. Be very very afraid. Allow me tell you why you should be afraid.
In the Thursday evening Cell Group we are studying Deuteronomy. In chapter four of this book, Moses is giving a long talk to the people as they stand on the edge of the promised land. He tells them that they must never forget the day they stood in front of God at Mt. Sinai. Moses tells the people that at that time God told him directly what he would do. God told Moses he was going to teach the Hebrews an important lesson. God said, ‘They will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’
Didn’t we learn last week that perfect love casts out fear?
Don’t we read in Isaiah 41:10 – ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’
Well, which is it? Are we supposed to be afraid or are we not? There is a possibility that some people might get confused by this. We shall see that there is not a contradiction here.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.’
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says, ‘Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’
How do we marry this dichotomy? How can we fear God while he expels all fear?
The midwives in Egypt saved Moses and many other children because they feared God. Pharoah brought great disaster because he did not fear God. All through the Old Testament again and again we are told and shown that it is good to fear God and folly not to fear God.
I think that a key thing to note here is the nature of this fear.
Fear of God is good. All other kinds of fear are bad. Be afraid of God but don’t be afraid of North Korea, for example.
What are your fears? If you are normal, you’ve probably got several.
Professor Robert Leahy is a fear expert. Robert is a big deal in the fear field. He is among other things president of the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy. Robert has some bad news about fear. He says, “The average child today, has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.”
Divorce is up, fewer people are getting married and they’re less engaged in their churches.
Surveys show that while lives are improving in every material way, people feel less satisfied.
Acts of terrorism have made people afraid when they travel on the subway in a major city. People are afraid of heights, afraid of spiders, afraid of being afraid. The list is enormous. We have so many fears.
Strangely enough, when I examined lists of phobias I didn’t see fear of God among the top ten on any list. Here is one list. See how many you score.
Fear of Failure
Fear of Success
Fear of Being Judged
Fear of Emotional Pain
Fear of Embarrassment
Fear of Being Abandoned or Being Alone
Fear of Rejection
Fear of Expressing your True Feelings
Fear of Intimacy
Fear of The Unknown
Fear of Loss
Fear of Death
You might presume, as many people do, that the world is the ultimate threat. You might then conclude that God’s function is to neutralise this threat. How different this is from the biblical position. God is far scarier than the world.
If we think the world is the ultimate threat, we give power to the world. In reality, the world’s threats are temporary. If we treat God as a power to balance the stress of the world, we reduce God to the same level as the world. God is supreme, he is the one and only creator.
Do you remember where fear comes from? It comes when there is no love. It comes when there is no relationship with God, because God is love.
Fear is the work of the devil. The devil lives in the dark, where there is no light. He lives where there is no love, and only fear. So we might say that in the same way that God is love, so Satan is fear.
Your fears all come from Satan. The root of all your fears is the devil. He is also a liar. He won’t admit he is the source of your fears. He doesn’t even want you to know he exists.
Once you do know he exists, he wants you to fear him. But God clearly says you mustn’t fear the devil. You must fear only God.
I believe God works gently with us to bring us out of bondage and into liberty.
If you’ve been afraid of something and desire to be free of that fear, you will eventually have to face your fear and not run away from it.
The only way to do this is reach out and take Jesus’ hand, submit to him as your Lord, and believe that his perfect love can cast out all of your fear.
If you’re afraid of people with authority, the time will come when you’ll have to confront an authority figure and not cower in fear. God will have arranged the time. God will be there, but its you who’ll have to choose whether to accept his love or run away.
If you’re at one of these crossroads in your life, let me encourage you to go forward. Don’t stand still in terror, but hold hands with Jesus and go forward. Remember, fear is from the devil and Jesus has overcome the devil.
We don’t need to fear Satan, because he has no power over us. There is only one God, the creator of all things. One of the things God created was the creature Satan, who became the devil.
We read in the Bible how Satan tried and failed to tempt Jesus. We read how demons knew who Jesus was and were very afraid of him.
1 Peter 5:8 warns us: ‘Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.’ And then Peter reminds us that we have been given the power to resist Satan. You know that God wouldn’t tell you to resist Satan if it were impossible.
Kind David says in Psalm 53 – ‘When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.’
All of us must learn how not to “fear the fear”. The devil brings fear, but you can choose not to bow your knee to it. You can ignore the fear, resist the fear. As you turn instead to the love of God, the fear will vanish. Fear flees when there is love, just as darkness vanishes when the light comes.
If you do not have God’s love, you are at the mercy of Satan’s power. Satan is the prince of this world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says he ‘is the god of this world, [and] has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.’ If you are a citizen of this world, he is your ruler. Disciples of Jesus are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We have accepted Jesus as our lord. We have been born again as children of God. Satan has no authority over us.
We have no need to fear Satan. Satan fears us.
Jesus warned people at every turn to fear God, not men. He spoke lovingly but sternly to all, and was blunt when people needed to repent. Jesus also demonstrated love beyond human understanding when he lay down his sinless life for us.
With love like that, what is left to fear but God?