Fearing God and being afraid of God are two very different human experiences.
Fear and afraid are two words that are used interchangeably in casual conversation and, by dictionary definition, considered matching counterparts. However, fear can have an entirely different meaning depending on the context and perspective of the speaker, transmitter, and receiver. Confusion, misunderstandings, quarrels, and ill feelings are common outcomes of bad communication. Not distinguishing between fear and being afraid can lead to loss of relationships, position in life, and good esteem. In this day and age, it is important to know what to fear and what to be afraid of. Having a mutual understanding with The Lord makes for a strong relationship, position in His kingdom, and good esteem with oneself and others.
To set the table, one arena in which to rightly handle the words fear and afraid is the stadium of World Views. For example, in one world view, there is great concern over environmental conditions; some are afraid that outcomes from the use of fossil fuels will be irreparable. Another view would be a healthy respect for the risks involved in utilizing that source by acknowledging that wise management can mitigate the danger. The “shut it all down” position is a reaction of panic, while the “wise use” world view is a response of thoughtful and considerate action. The former behavior is being abridgedly afraid, while the other is having tempered fear. Panic never figures things out. The “clean” alternatives to fossil fuel may well be more detrimental to the earth’s environmental conditions.
Total electric, yeah, right. If one looks only at the battery issue, the environment loses. It takes the mining of rare minerals to produce storage for clean energy. How much dirty energy does it take to provide the necessary infrastructure to make clean energy available? What are the costs and benefits of shutting down fossil fuel energy in a highly accountable culture only to rely on a less responsible national entity to use unabated dirty energy to produce goods and services so that the “ethical” society can have unlimited clean energy to consume?
Sorry for the soap box, but not really. There is no such thing as renewable energy except eternal energy. When humans tap into solar power, natural energy is just being redirected to consumptive use. That energy was used somewhere else in the environmental system. Is there any general fear that this redistribution may cause calamity? Hydropower, is there a dam involved that destroys a downstream ecosystem? Do the windmills alter wind patterns besides killing birds? Do vibrations off oceanic windmills interfere with marine life and their reproductive patterns? Is there enough energy robbed from the wind to change ocean temperatures and currents? Is the Chicken Little short-term panic leading to long-term catastrophe? Just some word salad: dirty energy is used to produce a clean energy battery that will need to be replaced after its useful life by another clean energy battery which will be produced by more dirty energy. There is a cost here that has yet to be calculated in the afraid cheering section of this ball game. It is hard to cover all the bases.
Another world view in which fear and afraid have different connotations is in the realm of faith and religion. If one holds that there is no God, then there is nothing to be afraid of or fear. If a god is in one’s world view, then that god can be feared and is someone to be afraid of. Now this is where context is important because different faiths have different gods. I do not claim to know any of them except the Judeo-Christian God. If you fear this God, He calls you a friend. If you are afraid of this God, you really don’t know Him.
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraidIsaiah 12:2 (NIV)
In the Holy Bible, fear and afraid do interchange. However, in some contexts, fear better conveys respect and reverence. Fear as a word has a dual origin, danger from Anglo-Saxon and revere from German. When one knows God, they know His power, His righteousness, His faithfulness, and His mercy. In His salvation, dread turns to rest, calm, and peace. Abraham had a long history with God, a lasting relationship available to anyone seeking His face.
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.James 2:23 (NIV)
Fear of God Requires Context
With all the turmoil in the world, it is good to have friends, even better to have one that is God. Jesus, being the Son of God, is also God. And scripture says the first thing to do is believe in the Son and embrace the fullness that came to dwell with us in a created body. Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, NIV). Not a bad deal if you know Jesus. He knows almost everything and is willing to share what He knows with a friend. A caveat, most everything since He doesn’t know the day or hour He returns to re-establish common sense and bring order to the dumb stuff people are doing, believing, and giving their lives to today.
Now then, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10, NIV). It may take some time to be vindicated, but after an offer of mercy is extended to the proud and the cup of wickedness becomes full, the believer will float right on out of the bad situation. No punches should be pulled here; physical death in this world is sometimes involved. The silver lining is that in God’s great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope, and death in this world only ratifies an inheritance of that new birth which cannot perish, spoil, or fade. (See 1 Peter 1:4) Can you only envision eternity in Glory as friends of the Most High God? Can you believe God even as Abraham did?
Feature Image: Bigstock.com | Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.