The same Emily Bronte who penned that famously over-the-top Gothic romance, Wuthering Heights, wrote a poem in which one of the most bedrock truths of the Christian faith is expressed in the very first stanza. Bronte dives right in on the importance of faith and of fearlessness:
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
It is possible, is it not, that the one thing most damaging to fruitful life as a Christian is fear? However, is fear itself the problem or is the real question, “What do we fear?”
Fear itself cannot be the issue, because we know there is something all Christians ought to fear: the Lord. That fear is appropriate and fundamental to the Christian walk; that is the fear that bears fruit in wisdom, righteousness, and life. Numerous references in Scripture teach of the necessity of fear of the Lord. For example, we hear in Job 28:28: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding” (KJV). Psalm 19:9 tells us that “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether” (KJV). In Proverbs 19:23 we hear that “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil” (KJV). Revelation 15:4 tells us “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify they name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (KJV). And, prophesying about the Messiah himself, Isaiah writes: “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2 KJV). Surely anything that can be said to characterize Christ is an attribute towards which all Christians would do well to aspire?
Christians should fear the Lord. But what fears do we suffer from that we need to surrender? Why are those misplaced fears so detrimental to the Christian walk?
Scripture makes it clear that Christians should be fearless in the face of worldly pressures and hazards. Again, there are numerous references in the Scriptures, from Genesis through Revelation, which speak—among other things—of being fearless in the face of natural disasters and the evil intentions of other men. In fact, the Bible actually seems to indicate that Christians, rather than being cautious and inhibited in the face of perceived dangers, should be bold in faith to take risks that others do not dare to attempt.
There are many stories in the Bible that vividly illustrate this. Two which are particularly striking are the story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28-31) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In the first example, Peter successfully walks upon water at Jesus’ command. However, as soon as his faith waivers because of fear, he sinks into the water. Jesus, who has encouraged Peter to walk out in faith and risk drowning, rescues Peter, but reprimands him, saying “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” The second example, a parable told by Jesus, describes a servant who instead of investing money which his master has given him buries it. The servant, out of fear that what his master has given him will be lost and that this will incur his master’s anger, holds onto it too tightly. He refuses to take risks with it and the talent produces no fruit. The master is so displeased with the servant that he has the servant cast into darkness.
Likewise, there are many stories that demonstrate the blessings of faith, which is a trust in the Lord that is so great there is no room for fear. For example, in the oldest book of the Bible, Job exhibits this degree of trust and faith when, in the face of utter disaster, he cries out “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25 KJV). Job, who has already risked all to walk in righteousness, continues to cling to faith and the promise of redemption even when no hope seems to remain. For this he is exceedingly blessed by God who restores everything to him and more. Of course, Abraham, the Father of Faith, is the greatest example of this kind of trust. Abraham leaves the security of his homeland with his entire family at the request of God, not knowing where he is going or what awaits him. He risks everything in order to follow. Again, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, Abraham submits in faith. The strength of his faith annihilates his fear and he risks losing his most precious son, the very thing which he believed was the fulfillment of God’s promise to him. Because of this great trust, risking all for the sake of faith in the Lord, righteousness is accounted to Abraham and one of the most boundlessly beautiful promises of the Bible is uttered by the Angel of the Lord: “I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which [is] upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18 KJV).
Simple stories and metaphors that these are—compared to the sophisticated arguments of so many scientists and philosophers who would tell us what mankind fears and why—we can draw extremely powerful conclusions from them. When it comes to the Lord, fear of the Lord is completely appropriate and, in fact, contributes to our ability to trust in Him completely: to cultivate great faith. Christ tells us that “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20 KJV). In other words, when we fear the Lord and not the world, moving forward to carry out His commands and purposes, this appropriate fear produces a faith that can walk on water, bear abundant fruit, and yes, even move mountains. When it comes to the world, fear of the world—and especially of man—is inappropriate and contributes to our inability to trust God completely. As we bury our talents, shunning seeming risks and seeking to self-protect rather than to glorify the Lord through our faith, we create molehills all over the landscapes of our lives: obstacles that trip us up, damage our soil, and destroy the beauty of our gardens.
Understanding the appropriate role of fear and the consequences of misdirecting it is particularly important for homeschooling parents. As we home educate our children, we should think very deeply about this question: whom do we fear?
Do we fear the Lord or do we tremble at the standards of the world? Do we fear we will lose all of our dreams for our children if we step out in faith, rejecting the predominant views and methods of education in favor of those that are expressed in Scripture (see Deuteronomy 11:18-25)? Do we fear we will risk our children’s future stability and happiness if we continue to homeschool them through high school? Are we afraid that we risk too much if we choose to make greater priorities out of Scriptural mandates which clearly point towards God-centered, parent-directed daily education, rather than the standards of worldly education as expressed in government regulated high school credits, standardized test scores, and government managed systems of higher education (from the community colleges through massive state universities)? Is our fear a fear of the Lord, or a fear of the world?
Is our fear a molehill-maker or a mountain-mover?
The beautiful thing is that when we exercise appropriate fear of the Lord, He always extends His hand to us—as Jesus did to Peter flailing in the water—and He assures us that we need have no fear whatsoever; because of our faith, He is always with us, our shield and our exceeding great reward (Genesis 15): “[E]ven the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 KJV).
Matthew 17:20 Image http://wallpaper4god.com/en/background_matthew-172021/
Molehill Image http://mnwildanimalmanagement.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/mole-removal-experts-of-minneapolis-and-st-paul-minnesota/
Luke 12:6-7 Image http://thedailyverses.blogspot.com/2012/07/luke-126-7.html