This past Sunday we were doing a lesson on Gideon. We were focusing on the fact that even though he may have had a great military victory, he spent almost the entire scripture devoted to him scared. Maybe he found some courage later on during his time as a judge, but from the very first greeting of God’s angel up until his attack on the Midianites Gideon was scared. So naturally one of the questions I asked the group was what they were afraid of. For some reason this question stumped the group. Most likely because you don’t ask a group of Kuria people to talk about their fears, they have more pride in their courage than your average person. However, the secondary student I was talking to, a young man who wants to one day be a pastor did not have a problem with his answer. He said the only thing he feared was God. “Anything else?” I followed up. “Nope. Just God.” Now I will admit I have always had a problem with understanding why we as Christians are supposed to be afraid of God. We spend the majority of our time talking about God’s love, His mercy, His forgiveness, these are all characteristics that to me make God…well, not scary. If he is not scary than why should we be afraid? That has been my line of reasoning for a long time, up until today. However, Emmanuel is consistently challenging me on previously held opinions and this was no exception.
I have spent time since that Bible study trying to figure out why this faithful, and extremely bright young man, would be afraid of God and nothing else. It was then that the first part of his answer, when put together with the second part of his answer started to make sense. Since he was afraid of God he could not be afraid of anything else. If the fear of disappointing God fills your heart, you don’t have room to fear disappointing others. If the fear of not doing enough to display your faith to God fills your heart, than you won’t have time to fear being embarrassed in front of others because of your faith. If the fear of not giving glory to God for the things in your life fills your heart, than you won’t have to fear who gets the credit when something noteworthy happens. People say that fear is healthy because it protects us from danger, and keeps us from actions that are self-jeopardizing. What if that same idea works with God. We are filled with a fear for God so that we cannot be afraid of the other things, the things that keep us from fulfilling our call from God, the things that keep us from talking to the stranger, helping the poor woman while everyone is watching, or coming to a far, far away country like Tanzania.
For the first time in my life I think I understand that having a fear of God is not because I am supposed to understand God as a scary God. The fear of God is there to protect me from the other fears of the world that keep me away from that full, abundant life that God offers. So in the coming days may your fear of God grow, and your fear of everything else shrink.