It can be easy to identify the fear of flying, or of spiders, or of heights, or other fears that seem tangible. As prevalent as those fears may be, I think most people struggle with a fear that they’re often unaware of, and that can have a major impact upon their daily life. And it most definitely is a fear that can impact our Christian witness; especially in these days of ‘political correctness’ when being a Christian is highly unpopular. It is a fear that must be overcome if we are going to obey God and live for His glory. That fear is the ‘fear of man’.The ‘fear of man’ is rooted in our pride and desire for others—especially those we like, or those we fear due to what they could do to us-- to approve of us. It is a fear that often leads us to remain silent when we should speak; to skirt telling the truth or lie; to engage in behavior we might not otherwise so that others will accept us; and it can lead to sleepless nights or daytime anxiety due to our fear that we may have offended someone who will no longer like us and may in fact cause us harm. Can you identify with this fear? I certainly can!
The Bible is replete with stories of those who also had this fear. Abraham, the ‘Father of Faith’, instructed Sarah, his half sister but also his wife, to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister rather than his wife due to his fear that Pharaoh might kill him (Genesis 12:12). Isaac followed his father Abraham’s example and lied to the men of Gerar by saying his wife Rebekah was his sister because of his fear that those men would kill him to gain her (Genesis 26:6-10). Saul disobeyed God’s instruction given to him through the prophet Samuel to kill Agag, as well as all of the Amalekites and their animals, because (1 Samuel 15:24) he ‘feared the people and obeyed their voice’.
One of the saddest—and most convicting-- passages in the Bible to me is found in John 12:42-43:
Nevertheless, even many of the leading men believed in Him [as Savior and Messiah], but because of the Pharisees they would not confess it, for fear that [if they acknowledged Him openly] they would be put out of the synagogue (excommunicated); for they loved the approval of men more than the approval of God. John 12:42-43 AMP (Boldness added)
You may think, “But they believed that Jesus was the Savior and Messiah, so what was the problem? Isn’t salvation all about faith?” True, saving faith will be proven by our words and actions, for God’s Word also states:
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lordand believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.Romans 10:9-10 ESV (Boldness added)
Regrettably, our fear of man can cause us to remain silent rather than confess to others our belief that Jesus is Lord. Our silence is an indication that we, like the leaders in Jesus’ day, love the approval of men and women more than we love the approval of God. God warns us not to fear those who may be able to kill our body, but who cannot kill our soul. (Luke 12:4) We are to fear—to honor, to hold in awe and reverence-- only God Who has the power to destroy both body and soul (Matthew 10:28).
The world was turned ‘upside down’, the gospel of Christ spread throughout the world, and you and I are believers today only because the disciples overcame their fear of man and were instead filled with a holy fear of God. Following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven and the outpouring of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus’ apostles Peter and John were willing to boldly confess that Jesus was the ‘Holy and Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14). Not only did they proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, they also courageously accused their audience of delivering Jesus over to Pilate, and that it was they who had ‘killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead’ (Acts 3:15). They went on to call the people to repentance in order that their sins might be blotted out and so that they would experience refreshing from the Lord (Acts: 3:18). Talk about being willing to be an offense to others for the sake of truth and the glory of God! Talk about being released from the snare of the fear of man! (Proverbs 29:5)
Even though they knew that they could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed for their faith, they did not allow that to stand in the way of their sharing the life-transforming news of the gospel. In fact, because they overcome their fear of man, “…many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” Think of how many people they will spend eternity in heaven with because they were willing to offend them for the sake of the gospel! How many people will be in heaven because of you boldly declaring the gospel?
Shortly after this incident, Peter and John were jailed, and then released and commanded by the Jewish leaders—the very ones who were behind Jesus’ crucifixion—‘not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.’ What was their response? Did they cower in fear and defer to men-- men they knew had the power to destroy their bodies? No! Instead they declared:
Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20 ESV
When we know God through His written Word, have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Living Word, and are willing to fully surrender our lives to His authority in every aspect of our life, we too will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and compelled to speak to others of Jesus, the One and Only Person Who can deliver us from all of our fears and keep us truly secure… for all eternity!
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high. Proverbs 29:5 AMP
Have you ever found yourself telling a ‘white lie’ so that you don’t hurt others’ feelings rather than accurately representing Jesus by speaking the truth in love and trusting Him with the outcome? Do you remain silent in the face of those whom you suspect will be offended if you share your faith in Jesus? Do you care more about what others think of you than you do about pleasing God? Ask the Holy Spirit to release you from all ‘fear of man’, to empower you to be bold like Peter and John and the other disciples, and be willing to confess before everyone without regard to personal cost that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God!
Lord, forgive me for succumbing to my fear of man. I ask you to release me from all fear of men and to fill me with a holy fear of You! Empower me by the Holy Spirit at work in me to be bold like Peter, John, and the other disciples and willing to declare my belief in and love for Jesus, and call others to repent and turn to You so that they too can have the Truth that will set them free and bring about true and lasting refreshing to their souls, for now and all eternity!
Written by Julie