Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)
Pastor John’s Notes:
We don’t talk much these days about the fear of God. This phrase has been almost entirely eradicated from common speech and thought. We are happy to amplify every idea of God as loving and forgiving but seldom speak of God as being worthy of our respect and obedience, let alone a God to be feared. Some people have suggested that the fear spoken of here is not a fear of terror but a fear of happy respect. But no, the original word is “phobeo,” from which we get our English word “phobia,” which means to be terrified or frighted of someone or something. Consider this teaching of Jesus who said, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Yet the fear of God is not meant to ruin our joy or suppress our spirit. In fact, the fear of the Lord can release us into a life of joy and create within us a deep abiding peace. Let me explain how.
Many years ago, I was worried by a problem I was having in the church I was serving, and particularly by an individual in the church who was behaving poorly. Try as I might, I could not seem to reason with this person or stop her from behaving poorly. I seemed to be locked in an ongoing drama filled with contentious emails and endless meetings over an issue that made no sense to me whatsoever. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and started losing sleep. One morning, I went for a walk and prayed my heart out to God. The Lord then spoke through these clear and simple ideas, “You are giving your time, attention, and focus to this difficult woman because you fear her, and this fear is an honor of which she is not worthy. Instead, if you fear and honor Me alone, I will release your soul from this terrible trap.” I stopped in my tracks, raised my hands to God, and confessed my sin of fearing people rather than fearing God. My soul was immediately liberated.
The fear of God is not an oppressive burden, but a joyful liberation. When we fear God, we are setting things in their rightful place. We are honoring the One who is worthy of our honor and worshipping the One who is worthy of worship. All other things then fall into their rightful place. Our soul becomes balanced and we experience deep inner peace.
Almighty God, teach me to fear You, and You alone. Let me no longer fear people who can neither save nor harm my soul. Instead, by fearing You alone, let all other relationships in my life fall into their rightful place. Let my soul then rest in peace, knowing that the God I fear is also the God who has promised to save me.