What are you afraid of?



What are you afraid of?

Afraid - now, that's an interesting word in our language. We use that word to signify a variety of things, don't we?

Taken literally, "to be afraid" means something is causing us terror, anxiety, or is a potential threat. When we ask, "What are you afraid of" we might be asking someone who is acting terrified what the source of that terror is. They are standing there anxious, or crying, or with a concerned, fearful expression, and the question is naturally, "what is causing your fear?"

What are you afraid of?

But sometimes, and very often in fact, we use the phrase idiomatically in the sense of, "Why do you hesitate?" When we are afraid of something, it can lead to paralysis. Uncertain or wary of the outcome, we become unable to act, and thus we use the word "afraid" to represent hesitation, not really "fear" in the original meaning. So, when we ask the question, "What are you afraid of" we aren't really trying to find the source of the fear - the person may not really be afraid at all - but are asking what source of uncertainty prevents the person from action. We may also ask someone, "what are you afraid of!" in a jeering or taunting manner. It's kind of a challenge to someone, accusing them of being hesitant for no good reason.

I'm afraid you are right.

Now, that's a different meaning of "afraid" isn't it? When we reply to some statement that way, we don't mean that we have some paralyzing fear because of what the person said. In this case it is a sense of "belief" in what was said. We could also say something like, "I believe you" or "I agree" or even "I trust what you say even though I don't like the idea."

It's strange, isn't it? One word can have this wide variety of meaning based on how we use it. The original meaning of "afraid" shifts through similarity and idiomatic usage until the meaning is almost opposite of where it started. The same thing shows up in the usage of the word "fear" in the Bible. Sometimes fear refers to that paralyzing negative emotion born from a sense of potential or immediate threat. But many times, fear is used in the Bible to mean reverence and awe, or to mean a trust and obedience that comes from awe. The "trembling" that represents terror of something comes to also mean a trembling in awe of something and then that awe leads to trust and obedience. That's what this means:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psa 111:10)

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. (Psa 112:1)

Backup a little. Psalms 111 through 113 really should be treated as one Psalm. Read them all together and you'll see that all those Psalms are connected by the repeated phrase "Praise ye the Lord." Psalm 111 begins with a description of God's works and then at verse 10 shifts to talking about the nature of those who "fear" God. Psalm 111 also establishes the theme of "endurance" - the things of God stand fast and do not dissipate or fall away. Psalm 112 (which is what I am going to talk about here) is a continuation of Psalm 111:10.

Notice the context carefully. The verses preceding Psalm 111:10 are all talking about the glorious things that God has done and will do. Why should we be afraid of God because of that? We don't generally praise the things we are fearful of, do we? The meaning of fear in 111:10 has to be understood in that context. It is the sense of "trembling in awe" because of the awesome things that God has done. When we understand His majesty, power, integrity, and justice, we begin to gain wisdom - the knowledge of God's ways - and act obediently (delight in His commandments) because of the wisdom of God's ways. Out of that obedience, that "delight" in following God's ways, righteousness is born in us. And that righteousness establishes the character of the man who "fears" God.

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish. (Psa 112:1-10)

Throughout this Psalm there is an association of two things: righteousness and endurance. Look at all the qualities of the man who has learned to fear God. Notice that in every case the Psalm speaks of things that do not fade away, or dissolve, or dissipate. His offspring continue and are blessed, he has sufficient wealth to not only provide for himself and family, but to also lend and to give to those who are poor. The evil that is coming against the righteous man will perish while the righteous man remains. Because of his trust (faith) in God, because of his delight in God's ways, that righteous man gains something vital: He is not moved ever. He can stand fast whatever the situation. He is not afraid. This is God's promise to us.

How many times a day do you hear people speak words of fear? I hear it all the time. I hear people moan and bemoan the concerns and evils of this world, whining and wailing about how awful it all is. Sometimes the fear is over personal things like paying the bills, or keeping a good job, or sending the kids off to a good school. Sometimes it is over larger things such as the potential of terrorism, of war, of economic disaster. I would have to say that they are afraid of "evil tidings" continuously. They hear on the news of the awful things that happen. They obsess over everything from potential economic disasters, natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, political intrigues, and on and on and on. And I hear that there is "nothing we can do," or I hear that "we better do something drastic," or some even shout and scream, "Why doesn't somebody do something." Hmmm. Kind of like, "What are you afraid of?"

So, what are you afraid of?

Do you fear God? Or, do you fear evil tidings? Are you standing there, unmoving, hesitating, unable or unwilling to act, because you are afraid of evil tidings? If you dwell on the evil tidings of the times it can lead to a continuous internal terror that leads to immobility. You can become unmoved for all the wrong reasons. That's not good.

Or, are you standing there, unmoved by evil tidings because you have the courage born out of an awe of God's power and a total trust in Him? To be in awe of God, perfectly trusting in Him, allows us to stand firm against the evils of this age. To be unmoved in that sense doesn't mean standing there unable to act. It means that the threat of evil in this world will not cause us to change our trust in God. We stand fast in the knowledge of His deliverance and the evil tidings do not become a source of fear. We do not lose our fear of God because of a fear of the things of this world. That's good.

So, what are you afraid of? Are you concerned about the goings-on out there and obsess over what might happen, when it might happen, or what might happen to you? Learn to fear God - listen for His voice and keep to His ways. Be firm because of your understanding that Jesus has already defeated the evil of this world. If you are in Him, and He is in you, the evil tidings of this age will wash over and around you while you stand unmoved. That is living by faith, and when we learn to live that way, it removes the fear of the things of this world and we find that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Praise Ye The Lord.

This is the best and surest way to get past any fears we have. When the terrors come, when the perceived threats and uncertainties seem to overwhelm us, we should immediately break out in praise and worship. That point of fear is the precise moment when we most need to glorify God. Reminding yourself of the awesome power and glory of God is the quickest and surest way to regain your footing so that you will not be moved in the face of evil tidings.




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