The Truth about Fear
Introduction: Jesus' words constitute truth (Jn. 8: 31, 32, 40). In fact, Jesus is "the way, the truth" and "the life" (Jn. 14: 6). Moreover, the words of Jesus are "spirit and life" (Jn. 6: 63). Jesus' word will judge us on the Last Day (Jn. 12: 48). Therefore, let us visit the Bible to ascertain the truth about fear.
1. The meaning of fear.
A. One common Greek noun translated fear is phobos. Mr. Vine comments thus on phobos: "First had the meaning of flight then, that which may cause flight." Vine defines phobos with such words as "dread, terror " (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
B. The Greek phobos forms the root of many English words. Such words as acrophobia (fear of heights); aquaphobia (fear of water); cynophobia (fear of dogs); and nyctophobia (fear of darkness) are a few examples. We are told that the average man has 2. 21 phobias, while the average woman possesses 3. 55.
a. Relate a personal experience regarding fear. Here is mine: I recall as a young man fishing in the remote swamps of Louisiana. I was wadding in snake invested water and I came to a long narrow piece of ground. I gladly embarked on the solid earth and almost immediately came to a large fallen log (the land was about ten feet in width). I knew the cover offered a perfect place for "nesting" snakes so I cautiously proceeded. Sure enough, snakes came from every direction of the log. I just knew they were all the dread Cottonmouth Moccasin for which the swamps were famous. I immediately experienced a flood of emotion that paralyzed my reasoning ability and before I knew it, I had run to the end of the five hundred feet island with snakes all around me (many ran in the same direction). My heart was pulsating and I was sweating. After I gained some composure, I then realized the nest of snakes were not the deadly Cottonmouth, but were in fact, harmless Blue Racers (they could sure race, all right). This is the full and classic meaning of "fear," flight and terror.
C. Fear as mentioned in the Bible has two applications, bad and good.
11. The bad meaning of fear.
A. Fear is debilitating. The one talent man failed to multiply because "And I was afraid" (Matt. 25: 25).
B. Fear when not correctly channeled often produces the very thing that is feared (Matt. 25: 24-30).
C. Fear can cause people not to confess Christ and fail to do other acts that are to be characteristic of the Christian (cp. Jn. 12: 42, 43).
D. John wrote as follows regarding fear: " because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I Jn. 4: 18). Paul told Timothy, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1: 7).
III. The good use of fear.
A. The wise man wrote of fear positively, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1: 7).
B. The essential purpose of man is, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole of man" (Eccl. 12: 13).
C. The writer of Hebrews penned, "Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12: 28, 29).
Conclusion: In review, the Bible uses fear both positively and negatively. We must never be afraid to do what is right (Matt. 10: 28). Fear will be responsible for many being lost (Rev. 21: 8). Fear can be a powerful motivator, initially (Acts 10: 34, 35). In time, though, love will become the dominant means of actuating the Christian to submit to God's teaching (I Jn. 4: 17, 18, Gal. 5: 6).