“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
–Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)
Many times people are confused when the Bible talks about the fear of the Lord. They say, “I won’t serve a God who wants people to be afraid of Him.” But they don’t understand that God only wants to bless them, or that He loves them more than they could ever know. God wants them to be His best friends, and He wants to walk with them through good times and bad.
Jesus told us that in a fallen world we would have trouble, but He also told us that He died on the cross and rose on the third day to overcome the world. Fearing the Lord just means to have a deep love, respect, or reverence for Him. It does not mean fear in the sense of intimidation. We can only cultivate our friendship with God by spending time in His presence, engaging in prayer and becoming students of His word.
Let me explain what I mean. When you were growing up in your parents’ house, there were certain rules that you had to follow. Assuming you had a good relationship with them, you did this out of mutual love and respect. Fortunately, since I spent a lot of time with my parents, I knew that they truly loved me. Because of that love, I usually went along with their wishes. In the same way, developing this kind of love for God means knowing that He loves us more than we could fathom.
It says in the Bible that we love God because He first loved us. As we experience that love in a new way each day, we will want to do what pleases Him. Therefore, fearing the Lord also means hating the things that God hates. We do this by avoiding the things He says are sinful. But don’t think you have to act weird or go to extremes. Simply let the Holy Spirit do His work and point out what needs to be changed within you. Instead of looking down your nose at others, remember not to be self-righteous or arrogant. God’s love is a gift to others, just as it was once a gift to you. While it may be hard at times, we need to ask Him for help loving those He puts in our path.
I once found myself living and working in a filthy environment that was mostly made up of very depressed people. That was one case when I didn’t listen to my parents, so I took a detour down a long downhill road. I came from a middle-class home, and poverty had not touched me. But that changed overnight during this difficult time in my life.
If you have ever lived with people who’ve hit bottom, you can understand what I am saying. Most of them had apparently reached a dead end in their lives, and this was reflected in their language and their attitudes. Their general lifestyle was one of aimlessness, where thoughts of survival were of the highest importance.
I was a Christian at the time, but I found myself at the bottom of the barrel as well. I knew the problems in my life had largely been of my own making, so all I could do was look up to God. I tried to listen more intently to what He had been trying to tell me all along, because the complacent attitudes of my neighbors were beginning to rub off on me. Gradually, I began to love the people more, but I also wanted to hate whatever God said was wrong and evil. I would often put on my headphones and listen to a local Christian radio station, in order to tune out the world and tune in to God’s Word.
I didn’t want to be bombarded by filth, and as I now know, God was working in my life. But even though I was trying to become more focused on God’s wishes for my life, my thoughts were still terrible.
Whenever I was upset, I would talk to myself using the language of the street. I knew this grieved God, but instead of praying for those who surrounded me, I didn’t take responsibility for the things I could change by letting Him change me further. I whined about my circumstances, instead of asking God for the strength to endure them.
Gradually, I have learned to hate what God says is evil, and He has steadily chipped away at the rough edges in my life and blessed me. I have found that fearing Him has not only kept me from difficulties that I might otherwise have had to face. It has also helped immeasurably as I seek wisdom in practical matters. I have not only come to know Him in a deeper way, but He has also given me a wonderful wife and a lovely family.
The Bible says that the pleasure that sin brings only lasts for a short time, while the fear of the Lord will bring about eternal treasures without measure.
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