The Bible uses numerous words to denote fear. The most common of these (giving the noun forms) are Hebrew yir’â, ‘reverence’; Hebrew paḥaḏ, dread’, ‘fear’; Greek phobos, ‘fear’, ‘terror’. The fear we will focus on here is the “dread, fear and terror that a man who walks with God often encounters. There is a Holy fear expressed variously as “fear of the Lord”. This is not fear but reverence. There is a fear of the Lord that comes from the believer’s apprehension of the Living God, who is so “all knowing” and “all powerful". But Holy fear is God-given, enabling men to reverence God’s authority, obey his commandments and hate and shun all form of evil (Je. 32:40; Gn. 22:12; Heb. 5:7). It is, moreover, the beginning (or principle) of wisdom (Ps. 111:10); the secret of uprightness (Pr. 8:13); a feature of the people in whom God delights (Ps. 147:11); and the whole duty of man (Ec. 12:13). It is also one of the divine qualifications of the Messiah (Is. 11:2-3).
However there is a fear that comes from Satan that is torment. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, [or punishment] and he that fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Sometimes a spirit of fear will come against a man even when he has faith at the same time. The enemy would try to dislodge the faith that God has brought to him. That spirit of fear must be rejected. If not he will not be made perfect in love.
A wise man once said “fear freezes, faith frees”. It is the creation of a cloud of fear that hangs over you because you do not turn to the Lord and fix your mind and your heart upon him. David was a man who went through many troubles but he said”My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed (Psalm 57:7). When a man turns to the Lord and he fixes his mind and his heart upon the Lord, it is inevitable that great peace, great blessing will attend him and that is important. It is also important for us to remember that it says in II Timothy 1:7. “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline”, or as in the King James translation, “a sound mind”. It means a “disciplined mind,” with “wise discretion.” So if you are fearful in heart, remember that God did not give you that spirit of fear; because God gives us the spirit of power, and of love, and of discipline to our thinking, so that we can meditate upon Him and understand His will, His purpose and His goodness which is beamed toward us (Stevens, John Robert: (This Week, Volume I (1970). Living Word Publications, 1980, p. 53).
Fear, especially fear of death, places the man of God under an intolerable bondage. Christ appeared that “He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Hebrews 2:10–15. This passage speaks of rendering powerless him that had the power of death; that is, the devil. Jesus came and took upon Himself our flesh and blood, so that He might defeat the devil and that we could be delivered from the fear of death.
The disciples, like most people, were conditioned to respond with fear instead of faith. In a great storm, with the winds so contrary, instead of them being thankful for the one person that could control it, they didn’t believe; didn’t accept Him [Jesus] as He was. “When He [Jesus] got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, [cowardly] you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27). Their fears painted a completely different picture of what was taking place. They should have known the Lord of Heaven and earth was on their boat and that he would not have let them perish. Do we believe the Lord is on our boat? Or do we shrink back in fear anticipating the worst in every situation?
The U.S. President Roosevelt once told his nation, which was in the direst of circumstances, “all we have to fear is fear itself”. That is because fear is the root of nearly every negative human reaction. What is personal insecurity but a form of fear? What is fear of man but fear itself? Fear of man can be a blind dread of them and what they can do to us (Numbers 14:9; Isaiah 8:12; Proverbs 29:25). Why do we respond in fear more often than we respond in faith? Revelation says: “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly [fearful] and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (verses 21:7-8). It is the cowardly, fearful, and the unbelieving, who lead the parade into hell, even before the murderers and immoral persons. What is fear but a lack of faith and an unbelieving heart?
Without faith (the absence of fear) it is impossible to please God. Hebrews says: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We can do many things but all are fruitless unless we have faith. We can do many things motivated by fear but they will not please God. What we do and are must be done with faith.
In addition to faith it is love that casts out fear. “Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us…By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment [torment], and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:7-21).
We are not naïve so as to say that as Christians and non-Christians we do not face many fearful circumstances in our lives that seem overwhelming. But faith is a gift (1 Corinthians 12:9) and all we need to do is ask for more faith. Faith is not a natural trait of human man; it is a gift of God. The Lord said: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
God has promised us He will always be with us. His last words to his disciples were: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). If Jesus is always in our boat what have we to fear.