“Fearful people who do not speak or act out of a reverential fear of God will either aggressively lash out and injure others or timidly retreat and injure themselves. We must return to a foundation of the fear of the Lord. It is the beginning.”
Walking in the fear of the Lord
Like many, I have been pondering the current environment we live in, with all its attitudes and rhetoric. That includes not only the multiple cultural contexts that exist in the world, but also within the life of the church. My thoughts and emotions have ranged from being puzzled or amused to being deeply moved, flabbergasted and downright angry.
In all of this, I have been drawn to focus on and contemplate the stop sign that is on the street corner in front of our house. I know that may sound strange, but stick with me. That stop sign restricts my freedoms. When I pull up to it to turn onto Guelph Line, I am wise to respond to its instruction. Why? Because it identifies a genuine risk, a health and safety hazard. If I ignore it and go barrelling through, I am quite likely to get broadsided by a bus, a delivery truck, or one of thousands of vehicles that drive along Guelph Line and my street every day. It is wisdom to stop, look, and listen before I proceed, something I have known since childhood.
Ah, wisdom! Not a popular word in today’s conversations. You sound bolder, even more spiritual, to advocate for faith versus fear or to declare words that are more assertive than “wisdom.” I know that faith, declaration, wisdom, and even fear are all very valid biblical concepts. I also know it is a critical thing to understand how they interact, and to see how it is in the very scriptural integration of these truths that we learn how best to interact in the contexts we face today.
Let us start with the word fear, for it is on that foundation that faith and wisdom align. Proverbs 9:10-11 reminds us,
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.”
The Scriptures consistently teach two parallel understandings regarding fear. We are to live in the fear of the Lord, and we are not to live life paralyzed by fear of circumstances or others. A classic example would be Paul’s instruction to Timothy, where out of a sense of confidence arising from his calling from God, he was not to be fearful about leading the church in Ephesus. His fear (reverential awe) of God was to motivate and guide his leadership calling so that he was marked by power, love, and soundness of mind.
I have never heard the phrase “Have we lost our minds?” so often and from so many cultural and church contexts as I do currently. There seems to be much action and speech that is not marked by godly authority, love, and sound, self-disciplined wisdom. Fearful people who do not speak or act out of a reverential fear of God will either aggressively lash out and injure others or timidly retreat and injure themselves. We must return to a foundation of the fear of the Lord. It is the beginning.
The fear of the Lord motivates us to live our lives with a constant awareness that we are in God’s presence. We recognize that every thought, action and word can honour the Almighty or grieve the One who created us. As these understandings become rooted in who we are, they mark our speech and actions as we draw from our knowledge of the Lord and His truth. Truth rooted in God’s character and Word will allow us to gain an ever-increasing understanding of His love, grace, holiness, mercy and sovereignty. The result? A life of wisdom empowered by the Spirit. We will live a life that brings life, redemption, and transformation to many lives and situations.
So back to a stop sign on my street and the cultural context in which we find ourselves. Do I fear to run the stop sign? Yes, for my safety and the safety of others, but more so because everything I do is for the glory of God. Every action and every word is conducted or spoken in the loving and awesome presence of God. I do not want to mar His name by unwise actions that demonstrate a lack of love and understanding. We need Christians of sound mind in every aspect of today’s culture. That will not happen unless we recapture the fear of the Lord and pursue the knowledge of the Holy One.
So let us agree together that we will walk away from the lack of wisdom that has generated harmful, unwise decisions, unsound tweets and posts, naive acceptance of conspiracies and speculations, and unloving actions and speech. Let us agree to live a life of wisdom arising from knowing and understanding the Holy One. We choose to walk in the fear of the Lord, tangibly experiencing His presence, power, love, and soundness of mind. And—oh, yes!—we choose to stop at stop signs out of love for God, ourselves and others! It is the loving, wise thing to do.
We humbly bow our hearts and minds to you, O Holy One. Continually fill us with Your knowledge so that our lives are marked by truth, power and love. Let all that we say and do demonstrate Your wisdom and bring You glory. Amen.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2021 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2021 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.