On the 31st of this month (which happens to fall on a Wednesday night this year—so come to church!), millions will flood the streets of America dressed in the garb of ghosts and goblins, the wardrobe of witches and warlocks, and the suits of superheroes and celebrities. While most at the door will not be scared by the sights of Halloween they will see when they answer the bell, there are those experiencing fear on an everyday basis as they attempt to answer the challenges of life. Challenges that can’t be bought off with candy, that don’t leave in moments to go bother someone else down the street, that are not only scary in appearance but become even scarier when the mask comes off. A grim report from the doctor, a pink slip in the mailbox, a pile of bills on the table, a wayward child, an unloving spouse, an unsure future, and the list goes on of things that capture us in fear; a fear that keeps us bound, tormented, and insecure; a fear that keeps us away from the abundant life Jesus promised and from the joy of the Lord that gives us strength (John 10:10; Nehemiah 8:10). In this month in which the world celebrates being scared, let’s see what the Bible has to say about who we are to fear.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 that we are not to be afraid of man (or even the devil) who could, at best, kill our bodies, but rather fear God, the One who could not only kill our body but also cast our soul to hell should He choose. I dare say that Jesus made such a comment because the people of His day were far more scared of men and the devil than they were of God. 2,000 years have passed since Jesus’ statement, but I don’t think the people of our day are much different than those of His. Notice, no one tries to be scary by dressing up like God during Halloween (nor am I suggesting that anyone should). You won’t find a Jesus costume replete with robe, sandals, and beard piece hanging on the racks at any of the stores. Indeed, the world is much more afraid of devils, ghosts, goblins, witches, even fictional characters like Freddy Cougar and Darth Vader, than they are of Almighty God! Worse yet, this ‘fear system’ not only pervades the world, but has invaded the church as well! We fear the attack of Satan and look for a devil under every bush much more than we fear sinning against the law of a holy God. We fear our bosses who may ask us to do something under the table more than we fear the Lord who commands us to be above board. We fear the disapproval and disdain of those who would call us foolish for believing in God rather than fearing the One who calls anyone a fool who disbelieves in Him (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1). We fear the opinions of people on the street that we don’t even know and probably won’t see again who might sneer and ridicule our witness of the gospel to them more than we fear the Lord who commands us to be His witnesses even to the uttermost parts of the Earth (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We fear the rejection and abandonment of our family and friends more than we fear the One who declares that if we put anyone or anything above our relationship with Christ then we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). We fear not having money enough for the things we need (which almost always are just things that we want) more than we fear the One who commands us to give generously to the work of His kingdom (1 Corinthians 16:2). We fear who may be elected the next president or governor more than we fear the King of kings and Lord of lords, so we are more engaged in politics than we are in prayer.
As already stated, Satan and men, the world and its systems, at their very worst, could only kill our bodies! I have spoken at funeral services for those as young as 7 and as old as 85, but no matter how long you or I have in this life, it pales in comparison to how long we will have in the life that is to come. And the life that is to come (aka ‘eternity’!) is held solely in the hands of God. When we stand before Him, He will either send us to hell forever or receive us into heaven forever based upon whether or not we’ve believed in Jesus and neither Satan nor any man will have any say so in the matter (Rev. 20:11-15). At the end of the day the devil, whatever his earthly costume, is an empty suit that stands impotent before the throne of the Almighty!
The fear factor in our lives should thus be tilted far more in the direction of God than it is of Satan or of any man, but often the scales of our fears are wrongly weighted because our values are misplaced. You see, and if you hear nothing else said in this article—hear this, what we value determines who we fear! Why do we fear losing our lives? Because we value our lives. Why do we fear losing our businesses, our homes, our jobs, our positions, our families, our friends, etc.? Because we value our businesses, our homes, our jobs, our positions, our families, our friends, etc. Why do we fear Satan, men, and circumstances who can only take away the things of this world and/or our physical life from us more than we fear God who could cast us into hell? Because we value this life and this world’s goods more than we do the next life and the goods of the kingdom of God.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that businesses, homes, jobs, positions, families, and friends shouldn’t be valued; I’m simply saying that if we regard those things more than we revere God, then our values are improperly prioritized and our fear is misplaced. Whereas if we put the highest value on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the eternal ‘things’ that the world didn’t give to us and cannot take away from us, then not only will all the temporal ‘things’ of this world be added unto us, but we’ll actually be able to enjoy them because we won’t be constantly tormented by fear of their loss (Matt. 6:33). Once we put our trust in Jesus as our Savior and know that the next life is secured, then we can walk free from fear and can enjoy the abundance God has promised us in this life (Hebrews 2:14-15; John 10:10). Once we value what God values, then we can walk in power, in love, and in soundness of mind because we are set free from the spirit of fear that comes from the evil one (2 Tim. 1:7)! Once we are set free from a misplaced fear, then we will be able to respond appropriately and positively to the legitimate challenges of life instead of being paralyzed by irrational fear. Fear God, not man or the devil! Let’s not allow the tricks of Satan or the value system of the world bind us in a misplaced fear that keeps us away from the treats (the genuine spiritual blessings that is) of God!