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When Fear Ought To Be A Factor

Many things in life ought to be feared, but not all things ought to be feared equally. Actor Kevin James said, "I discovered I scream in the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a Great White or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot." Some people are afraid to fly, but each year in the United States fatalities from motor vehicle crashes on the highway number in the tens of thousands(about 37,000 in 2008). Meanwhile, fatalities from plane crashes average at most a few hundred per year. The threat of swine flu has alarmed hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and is a serious threat which cannot be taken lightly. Statistics are a little sketchy, but deaths from the H1N1 virus are between 12 and 15 thousand worldwide, with about 3,200 of them in North America. Serious enough for a healthy level of fear? Without a doubt, especially if you are in a high risk group. Yet research reveals 36,000 die each year in the United Sates alone from the common or seasonal flu (center for Disease Control website). Examples could be multiplied, but the point is established: sometimes fear is a factor when perhaps it does not have to be, and sometimes fear is not a factor when, indeed, it should be.

Allow me to make a spiritual application. The Bible teaches us fear should be a factor as regards our relationship with God and the well-being of our souls. Hebrews 10:26-27 sounds a lot different from the "user-friendly, I'm okay, you're okay, everybody's okay" kinds of messages about God we often hear today — For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries." Verse 31 adds bluntly, 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Fear is simply not a factor in much preaching and teaching these days. The words "fear God" show up quite often in the text of the Bible, but some assure us they don't really mean fear, just reverence or respect. After all, we are told, God wants to be your friend, so you don't have to fear Him. It sounds good, but Isaiah said, The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread" (8:13 NIV). Jesus apparently didn't think God is always comfy and cozy for He said, "My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him" (Luke 12:4-5)! The upshot is that when the Bible says "fear God," it means respect and reverence – but, as in Hebrews 10, it also means "fear God." The thought of coming near God ought to arouse the same kind of fear you might have standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. There is incomparable beauty and majesty that draws you like a moth and causes your jaw to drop and pulse to quicken in breathless wonder and amazement. But there is a real danger, too. Some who acted foolishly near it have died. Fear ought to always be a factor in your relationship with God.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ