Faithfulness · Fear · Knowing God · The Word of God

Does Fear Affect My Behavior?

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We all fear someone or something. If anyone says they are totally fearless, they are either being dishonest with themselves (or you), or ignorant of the truth. Whatever or Whomever we fear impacts the choices we make every single day.

If, for example, I drive close to or under the speed limit, it is not because I have a passion for following the speed limit signs; I fear the ticket I will get if a law enforcement officer catches me! On the other hand, if every car around me is moving at twenty miles per hour over or under the speed limit, I will likely adjust my speed in order to avoid a deadly collision. At that moment, I fear the death or injury more than I fear the consequences of law enforcement. Both actions are motivated by fear; what I choose depends on what I fear more at the moment.

In our series on “Why Beliefs Matter,” we have been examining how our beliefs impact our behavior. Fear classified as both a noun and a verb depending on usage. It is a belief that someone or something can cause unpleasant consequences, but it is also a behavior. In the driving example, I fear the law, but if a car barrels in my direction, I will scream with fear. Do you see the difference? For our purposes, fear is a noun (a belief) that affects my actions (behavior).

How Fear of Man Leads to Denying Jesus

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus illustrates the impact of fear upon our choices:

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10.27-33, ESV

Informing His disciples of coming danger, Jesus advised them to fear properly. He says, “Do not fear those who can kill the body… fear Him [God] who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” There are many who say that fear of the Lord is “reverent awe.” What does that actually mean?

Let’s illustrate:

If one stands at the top of the mountain and is in “reverent awe” of the great height, they will respect the law of gravity and not attempt to dance a jig on the mountain’s edge. A person in “reverent awe,” will more likely attempt to anchor themselves to the side of the mountain or move with great caution. Reverent awe, therefore, is respecting (or fearing) the awesome power of someone or something and behaving accordingly.

Returning to our text, we see Jesus reminding His disciples of their value to God—“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God values me. God values you. We can face the wrath of man knowing the Lord will guard our soul because it is precious to Him. Do we behave this way? Do I share the gospel openly with my friends, knowing they may never speak to me again? Do I fear the loss of their friendship more than I fear God?

Jesus wraps up this small section with that we call a “clincher.” He restates His original purpose with a more imperative meaning. If we deny God before others—either in words or deeds—Jesus will deny us before God. If that fails to strike fear into our hearts, we need our heart checked! Jesus shows us that fear will motivate us one way or another, but if we are wise, we will choose to act based on a proper fear of the Lord.

How Fear Leads Us to Act Unbecomingly

The apostle Peter was a man ever in the moment. He responded courageously when Jesus called Him out of the boat onto a stormy sea, but as soon as he fixed his eyes on the danger, he sank! He professes a desire to die with Jesus, then denies Jesus three times. I am very much like Peter, and I believe his example is highlighted so we can learn two things: 1) Fear God more than anything, 2) When we do fail, God is merciful because we are given grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Here is one example of how fear affected Peter’s behavior:

When Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

~ Galatians 2.11-13

Peter’s poor performance caused others (even the amazing Barnabas!) to “act hypocritically.” If we are motivated by the wrong fear, we will make the wrong choice. Fear God above all else.

Fearing God Leads Us to Better Choices

Regarding fear and its impact, Proverbs says the following:

Proverbs 1.7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 14.27: The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16.6: By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.

If we truly fear God, we will turn from evil, resist temptation, share the gospel, risk our relationships, and stand in the face of a literal firing squad. We will seem to others to be fearless for the gospel, but in truth, we will have simply trumped our earthly fears with our faith in Almighty God.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

~ Ecclesiastes 12.13-14

Who do you fear more?

Do your actions reflect a greater fear of God or the world?

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11 thoughts on “Does Fear Affect My Behavior?

  1. I think in regards to fear and positions of authority, I am kind of simplistic. I always want to know if someone is leading out of fear or insecurity vs. faith. I think great leaders can divide themselves better. They can see their insecurities and know their triggers, and make a faith choice that goes against their insecurity.
    Often times what makes it hard is their are reasons one decision is made over another that looks like faith, or it could have been a fear based decision. So, we come full circle and realize only God can see and judge the thoughts and intensions of the heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Only God knows why we make certain choices. It’s up to us to look in the mirror of His Word and examine our own motives. Too often I have made decisions out of fear of man rather than fear of God. I’ve still got plenty of growing to do!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey Elihu !! I Look at fear a little differently, based upon 1 John 4:18… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (NJJV)

    That perfect love is the love of Christ filling our heart, mind, and soul !! There is no room for fear of the unknown…or from Satan’s temptations…or from making the wrong choices…if we stay focused on the Lord, and do our best to walk in the FULL power of the Holy Spirit…

    Not sure if I have shared this link with you before…so I will share it again… A commentary of Galatians 5:16…

    Blessings in Christ, bruce

    https://bible.org/seriespage/5-spirit-work-spirit-filled-life

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    1. Thank you so much for pointing out 1 John 4. It adds to our discussion so beautifully! 😊

      1 John is referring to fear of judgment. If we walk in the light, we no longer have fear of death or judgment or God’s wrath. (Verse 17) I don’t have to worry about being thrown out of His grace and mercy every time I trip up and sin as long as I keep clinging to God’s hand. If, however, I returned to my old life and old ways, disregarding God and counting Christ’s blood as no value, I would have much to fear.

      There are overwhelming examples in the scriptures encouraging us to fear God—and we should. It’s a very healthy fear. In Hebrews, it says:

      “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
      ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:28-29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

      God is a consuming fire and expects us to treat Him with proper reverence.

      In Matthew 7 we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
      ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

      We should not live in a state of edginess or fear about our saved state, but God expects us to acknowledge that He is Awesome, Mighty, Powerful, Holy, and a Righteous Judge, and needs to be treated as such in both our lives and hearts.

      The Apostle Peter—mentioned above—allowed improper, worldly fear to trump His fear of the Lord. If an apostle can fall prey to it, why do I think I’ll be exempt from the same weakness? My works cannot possibly save me, but I am expected to live my faith and it is manifested in what I say and do. I have to possess a healthy, reverent, fear of the Lord and allow that fear to overwhelm any earthly fears.

      I love your comments, Bruce! God bless you brother.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic Elihu. Fears are real. I have struggled a lot with my own fears. But when faith in Jesus came in my life, my fears have reduced so much that it has no crippling impact on me as it used to have before. Thanks for sharing. God bless you my dear friend. 😇🙏👍

    Liked by 2 people

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