By David Stahl

When I grew up in West Virginia life was slow, quiet, and safe.  Fear was not eve on our radar.  My father would pull up in the drive way and toss his keys onto the hood of the car, leaving them over night, and in the morning he would get them and head out. We never locked our doors or windows at night.  The cool breeze (we did not have air conditioning) through the open windows was a great memory, but as I grew and as America slipped further and further away from God we found ourselves locking our car and doors at night. No longer were our windows open, oh no we were locked up, sealed up tighter than a drum sadly we feared man because we were losing the fear of God.  As Karen and I travel around this days visiting churches we are awe struck by the fear we see and hear in the lives of many Christians.  We see the fear that man gives to the world through his evil acts of hatred, racism, arrogance, religious rituals, and worse selfishness. You know fear is one of the most debilitating inward emotional forces we contend with.  Strange how on one hand fear can be good for us keeping our senses sharp and resilient where we can respond to dangerous situations in our lives, yet on the other hand fear can paralyze our thoughts, spirit, emotions, even our physical health.  We all like to laugh in the face of fear, but I am here to tell you my friend fear usually gets the last laugh.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have laid on Karen’s lap before  a trip overseas and wrestled with fear.  I think fear is the last enemy we must conquer before God can use us in what He has planned for us to do on this earth now and in the next life to come.  At the heart, at the center of fear in us (believe it or not) is selfishness.  We hate to lose anything.  Pastor Jacob from Romania told me one day no one is afraid to die, but what we are afraid of is how we will die not wanting to suffer. But my friend to conquer fear we all must die.  Death in us is the only way to conquer fear. The death I speak of is our spiritual (maybe physical) death where must die to our selfish emotions and ambitious.  As long as our “self” is alive there will never be any resurrection life in us. In Romans Paul tells us, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”  (Romans 6:3-5)  Did you get that?  Newness of life, resurrection life (where we can conquer fear and do the things God has asked us to do) comes out of us being baptized into the death of Christ not being the strongest, bravest, most spiritual Christian in town.  Now that is not what most preachers and teachers share.  Oh no most teachers and preachers today share a humanistic, performance based religion doing things to get God to do things for us. using our faith to get God to move on our behalf instead of using our faith to align our expectations with God’s will and plan for our lives.  Strange, but when we are alive to our “self” and when God’s plan comes to us it can cause fear to develop in us.  At this time we must relinquish our thoughts, ambitions, and yes emotions, we must abandon our “self” to God’s loving hands.  Strange how it is God’s word to us that can cause us to be uncomfortable and fear, but if we can push through our emotions and all of the phony religion  we seem to embrace on the other side is a satisfaction and contentment that only God can give.  I see in so many lives a running around in God (zealous, workative, and showy) trying to do things for God when all He wants is for us to die.  He does not need us to be a conquering warrior only a humble servant.  He will take care of the battle we need no battle axe, oh no all we need is a sling. And at the end of the day either we will fear man or God.  If we choose man we then shall fear or please (translated persuade) him because of our selfishness, worrying more to what man says then God.  Paul helps us here,  “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”  (Galatians 1:10)  Sadly today there is not much of a fear of God.  Seemingly respect,  civility, and wisdom has been flushed from this world leaving most people (Christians included) stuck (narcissistic)  on themselves and self-centered not fearing God.  You know God does have  a big stick, He is not the old man upstairs, and yes He loves us, but He will only put up with us for so long, then He will draw back his love (his stick) to modify our behavior in more with what we must become to be able to do that which He has asked us to do.  God cannot and will not use untrained, unapproved (to His ways) children. We must have a fear of God or we will have a fear of man and this my friend will destroy the work of God in our lives and God’s plan for us.  We must come to a place in God where we value God’s dealings and judgments over man’s  In 1 Chronicles we read of King David’s transgression when he numbered the people of Israel. “And God was displeased with thisthing; therefore he smote Israel. 8  And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. 9  And the LORDspake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying,
10  Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
11  So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12  Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
13  And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.”  (1 Chronicles 21:7-13)
  King David knew it would be better for him and the nation to fall in to the hands of God than the hands of man. King David knew he if he feared God he would not have to fear man.  Let me say that again, King David knew he if he feared God he would not have to fear man.  Somehow King David knew the truth of the New Testament that there is torment in fear.  John tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”  (1 John 4:18)  That is the fear of us losing something we hold near and dear to our heart.  That is the fear of us not getting what we think we want.  When we fear we are troubled in heart and our mind does not work right.  I have learned  when our heart is not right our head is not right.  When we fear man (even our self) our thinking does not align with what God wants for our lives and we find ourselves doing and saying things we would never say and do.  In Proverbs King David’s son King Solomon) shared, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: . . ” (Proverbs 23:7)  Or as our heart is so we shall be.  If our heart (where we spiritually think) is wrong we shall think wrong spiritually.  In the Greek these words are translated,  “as a gate swings open wide.”  Our heart is that gate to our thoughts and our soul and whatsoever we allow behind the gate (our heart as it swings wide) we shall be that.  All throughout the Bible the heart has always been a place of decision.  In Revelation 3:20 we read,  

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”  Revelation 3:20)  What door is Jesus knocking on?  Our heart of course.  And whatsoever we allow behind the door of our heart we will be that.  Do we fear man or God?  You know the older I get the more fear of God I have.  When I was younger I seemed to have this invincibility about me and feared nothing, but now that I am older I see my frailty, the older I get the more I see I am as grass and someday will wither away. The older I get the more I see my weaknesses and understand what King Solomon was talking about when he said, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  (Proverbs 1:7)  You know the Book of Proverbs really scares me.  We read the Proverbs written by King Solomon from his father King David, but the sad thing about Proverbs is King Solomon NEVER learn the lessons from his father.  All we have to do is read the Book of Ecclesiastes to see this truth.  Yet in the end we see the conclusion as the whole matter is exposed. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The conclusion is “Fear God” first (order in the Bible matters) and then “keep His commandments.” Make no mistake my friend you will either fear God and be at rest with Him and man or you will fear man and not have one moment of peace in your life. Again fear has torment.  Not only King David and King Solomon knew this truth, but Brother Job, “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”  (Job 28:28)  No fear of God no wisdom and no wisdom we will not be able to depart from evil. The fear of God is our all in all in God.

I do have some good news.  I do not want to close out this article seemingly down in the mouth, but please know fear not!  No matter the situation and circumstance fear not — fear not, God will be with you!  It is the folks who do not fear God are the ones who live in a world of ungodly and unrealistic phobias. It is the one who do not fear God who fear man.  Man rarely gives mercy and certainly is not longsuffering. When we are wrong and are caught we all want mercy not judgment, but man does not have the capability or heart condition in him to give real mercy and then righteous judgment.  Man can only give what he has and if not dealt with by God he can only give of his “selfishness. ”  Make no mistake we will either fear man or God it is our choice.