Fear is an extreme motivator. A little over a year ago I was mowing my yard. There is a portion of my side yard that could best be described as a slight hill with holes peppering it. As I mowed that section of yard, I backed my lawn mower off the hill to survey the areas that I had missed. As I did that, a 5-foot long snake emerged from one of the holes and slithered up to the top of the hill. I screamed like a little girl and ran the other direction.
Now I hate snakes – hate them. I am afraid of them. It almost borders on irrational fear. So when I saw that snake it changed the way that I behaved. For I while I wouldn’t mow that area of the yard, and when I began to mow again I wouldn’t do so without a shovel in my non-mowing hand. I mowed very quickly when I did mow the side yard. I had friends come out and try to find the snake to kill it. And even though I only saw that snake once (I’m pretty sure it is gone by now), I still get a little nervous when I am over in that spot in my yard. Fear of that snake has changed the way that I mow my yard.
Fear of the snake motivated my erratic lawn-mowing behavior. Fear has a tendency to do that – we adapt the way we do things and interact with people because of what we fear. And everyone fears something – maybe you, like me, fear snakes. Maybe you have a fear of failing, or a fear of heights, or a fear of storms. If you fear failing you might never take risks, of you fear heights you might never go up high, or if you fear storms you might allow the weather pattern to dictate your life. No matter what that fear may be, it has a tendency to affect the way we live life.
There’s another fear that many, if not all, of us struggle with – the fear of man. We fear people. We want people’s approval. We want people to like us. We don’t want to feel rejection by others. We don’t want to upset others. Fear of man – just like any other fear, it can affect the way we live and interact with others. We can easily find ourselves making decisions based not on what we feel called to do, but on who we fear not impressing.
Is there a leap of faith that you know God is calling you to take, but you won’t take it because you are afraid of what others might say or think? Maybe it’s a sinful behavior you know God is calling you out of, but you keep participating because you are afraid your friends would laugh or scoff at you. Maybe it’s a tough conversation you know you need to have, but you value that person’s approval of you over helping them walk faithfully with the Lord as you help to point out a blind spot in their lives.
We all do it – skimp on the things we need to do because we fear the people that it might affect. But what is the solution? I understand from personal experience that fear of man can be both gripping and, at times, paralyzing. How do we walk in obedience to the Lord instead of in fear of man? The answer is fairly simple to understand but takes a lifetime to apply – we fear the Lord.
In dealing with a situation where the people he was leading were fearing man, Nehemiah tells them in Nehemiah 4:14 “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” I would echo the words of Nehemiah as I encourage both you and myself to not fear the created, but fear the Creator. Remember how awesome He is who saved you, who created you, and who created the world in which you live!
Most of us, if not all of us, will struggle with fear of man until we see the Lord face-to-face. But my prayer for both you and me is that in times that we are fearing man that we would “remember the Lord, who is great and awesome”. In doing so our behavior will be motivated by a fear of the One who gave it all for us, not by those whom we are called to minister to and minister with.