Acts 9:31 tells us the early church was, among other traits, “living in fear of the Lord.” What does that mean? Is that a good thing?
When we think of someone “living in fear” we think of that as a horrible state. We think of a victim of abuse and domestic violence. We think of someone in a rough area of town, always vigilant of gang violence, shootings, muggings, rape and murder. We think of someone who has a horrible secret, an unconfessed wrongdoing that they suffer its revelation every day.
If that is what is meant by “living in fear of the Lord” then, for most of us, our first thought would be: count me out!
But as I prayed on this and researched it, I found a completely different, but accurate, meaning. In Isaiah 11:2, we learn that “the fear of the Lord” is a gift of the Spirit, on the same par with “wisdom, understanding, counsel and power.” Clearly, this isn’t something to avoid or dread. So what is it?
Christ refers to “God the Father”, which prompted me to think in terms of fear of my Dad. I grew up far before the days of “time out” and when I, justly, had pushed things to the degree that I was going to receive a deserved spanking, then I had a clear element of fear. But that was seldom and a last resort, so I didn’t believe that is what these verses were trying to portray. Instead I thought more to my teen and adult years and my view of my Father.
I grew up in an area where, from my perspective at least, everyone knew my father. He has been gone from this earth for 7 years and, on a weekly basis, I will still run into someone who recognizes me because of my Dad. My Dad cared for me, loved his family, went to church was involved in the community and did his best to follow God’s design for his life. As I matured to the point that I understood this and appreciated it, I realized that one of my greatest fears was to do something to let my Father down or cast him in a negative light. How could I repay his love and devotion, not to mention his support and patience, by dishonoring him or his name?
I think this type of fear is what is meant by “living in fear of the Lord.” When we mature to the point that we recognize the love and sacrifice that our Lord has made for us, we should live our lives guardedly. How could we ever desire to disappoint or reflect His love and gifts to us in a negative light by our actions? We live in fear, not of punishment or retribution, but that, by our actions, we would somehow fail to show our appreciation, respect and honor for the Father who has given us so much – His only Son!
They say that there are healthy fears. Fear of power tools, fear of great heights, fear of electricity. These fears don’t paralyze us, but they cause us to be attentive in all that we do. I believe that as we mature in our faith and the Spirit grants us the amazing gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel and power, we also receive a very healthy and humbling gift of being able to “live in fear of the Lord.”
What are you thoughts and experiences? Please comment back to me!