Fear is often regarded as a negative emotion. Apart from the times in which we pay to ride roller coasters, or those other times when we watch scary movies, most of us don’t enjoy being afraid. We go to great lengths to satiate our fears and to safeguard ourselves from them. Scripture, however, teaches that there is a healthy type of fear. It says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). When the Bible talks about fearing God, it isn’t describing an unhealthy emotion of trepidation and intimidation. It holds up a healthy type of fear — a holy reverence for the holy God. When we respect our awesome Lord as we ought, four benefits will result.
Human fear is usually a result of a desire for security. When a violent storm approaches, you might have alarm because of the prospect of disaster. Parents often experience anxiety in parenting because of a hunger for stability and success for their children. What are you afraid of? If you will trace the roots of your fear, you will likely find that it is based in a desire for security. Ironically, a fear of the Lord will conquer all other fears. When we have reverence for Him, He assuages our earthly based fears. Solomon said, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
Real insight for life comes our way when we learn to stand in awe of who God is. By making Him first in our life priorities, we see life according to reality. A clear perspective enables us to make better decisions, to treat people the way they should be treated, and to trust God with the tough things of life. When we fear the Lord, we gain a correct perspective of ourselves. This liberates us from the bondage of ego which often makes us do all types of dumb things. The Psalmist said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 110:10).
A healthy regard for God will also produce a holy lifestyle. When we fear God, we naturally desire to do what He says. This causes us to erect strong standards in our life so that we might avoid the ways of sin. The God-fearer is scared of doing anything that might displease God, anything that might dishonor His holy name. Those who have a low estimation of God don’t show much concern with their lifestyle. They gladly and glibly engage in attitudes and vices which are an affront to God’s character. Job said, “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom. And to turn from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
may seem unspiritual to many Christians. Unspoken rules have made them assume that God’s children aren’t supposed to be happy. In truth, Christians are supposed to be the happiest people on earth. Read Jesus’ famous sermon in Matthew 5:3-10. Over and over again, He talks about how His followers should experience joy. Because they live life according to the way in which it was designed to be lived, God-fearing Christians have real enjoyment in life. The Bible says, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16).
Dr. Patrick Latham