Can I tell you about an incredible blessing in my life?
This wonderful gift from God has brought joy and gladness into my life and has spared me from unimaginable pain and suffering. Yet I have never heard a message preached on it. I don’t hear Christians talking about it. It doesn’t seem to be in the forefront of many people’s minds. It may be, but I don’t hear much about it. What is this wonderful gift from God, this incredible blessing? It is the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is so crucial to our lives that in the very beginning of Proverbs, Solomon tells his son the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowing God and understanding how to live:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov 1:7)
So what is the fear of the Lord? In my pre-Christian days, my understanding as a Roman Catholic (at least this is what I grew up believing) was essentially a fear of going to hell. I was taught that if I missed Mass on Sunday that was a mortal sin that needed to be confessed if I were to escape hell. I had no sense that God loved me. I felt like I could never please him, that he was always unhappy with me and waiting to punish me.
I carried that unhealthy fear into my early days as a Christian. Gradually I came to understand the gospel that God so loved me he sent Jesus to die for me, and that when he saved me, he adopted me as his son and that nothing could ever separate me from his love.
I’m so grateful that early on I began reading the Bible, and especially Proverbs, for God taught me through his word that to fear him didn’t mean I was to be scared of God or always expecting him to backhand me for some mistake. And God taught me that a biblical fear of God is a wonderful thing, and a doorway to life and blessing.
I had been afraid of punishment. But Jesus took my punishment on the cross. So I no longer had to fear God’s punishment for my sins:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 JN 4:18)
Does this mean I feel free to sin? That I can do whatever I wish and there won’t be any consequences? No. A healthy fear of God grows from coming to know God is infinitely, unimaginably, gloriously holy. Sin is the opposite of God’s holiness. One of God’s plans for his children, in conforming us to Jesus is to make us more and more holy, as he is holy. So in his perfect, deep love for us, in his holiness he will discipline us. Not punish us. But discipline us as a loving Father when we sin.
So to fear God means to dwell upon his beautiful, glorious holiness which is the very opposite of sin and evil, and to revere God and know that he loves us so much that he desires us to hate and turn away from sin.
I like the way GotQuestions.org puts it:
"Believers are not to be scared of God. We have no reason to be scared of Him. We have His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). We have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Fearing God means having such a reverence for Him that it has a great impact on the way we live our lives. The fear of God is respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshipping Him in awe."
So to fear God is to worship him in his holiness. Now what I’d like to look at next is another aspect of fearing God I don’t hear many people talking about. And that is the benefits of fearing God. God tells us that to fear him will lead to all kinds of wonderful blessings in our lives. For example, the fear of the Lord leads us to an abundant life.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. PR 14:27
Sin leads to death. God wants us to experience an abundant life – a fountain of life. God doesn’t tell us to fear him to squelch our fun, but to give us overflowing joy.
The fear of the Lord gives us great confidence in life and blessing for our children:
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. PR 14:26
The fear of the Lord causes us to experience God’s friendship and to know his covenant promises to us:
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. PR 25:14
Fearing God unleashes his mercy upon us:
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. LK 1:50
The fear of the Lord leads to life and blessing:
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. PS 34:9-10
The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. PR 19:23
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. PR 22:4
I want to fear the Lord and grow in the fear of the Lord. A healthy fear of God has delivered me from sin and temptation hundreds of times in my life. The fear of the Lord has led me to seek him in my weakness and protected me from so many things that could destroy me. God has been true to his word. In fearing him, and turning away from evil, he has given me joy and peace and life and blessings.
What a wonderful gift from God is the fear of the Lord! If you haven’t read through Proverbs in a while, read through it again and note all the blessings that come from fearing God.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Splendens
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.