Friday, August 10, 2018

Healthy Fear

I was a men’s group leader for a large group of guys in Pennsylvania and we always did things with wood, whether it was cutting logs for firewood and then chopping them up. One time, the young group of guys got all excited because they found a bunch of pine trees that were freshly cut laying on the side of the road for free and they filled their pickup full of these giant logs. Quite literally, some of them were the size of a loveseat. It was kind of a strong man thing. But we had this fire pit that was smaller and so we had to cut these logs the size of loveseats up and then chop them. We had crazy bonfires… I had my chainsaw and one of them borrowed their brother’s chainsaw, you know how that goes, and I let some of the guys run mine. One could easily tell the guys who have run them before from those who haven’t. The ones who have run them, would actually cut the logs efficiently. The ones who haven’t, would cut the logs with terrified and timid motions, unproductively and inefficiently. They knew that there was a sharp chain revolving around the bar at several hundred RPMs, so they stayed away from it as much as possible. They didn’t want to admit that they never ran a chainsaw, but you could tell that they were very uncomfortable handling one, let alone cutting logs.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” –Proverbs 1:7

What a fitting verse for the beginning of the book of Proverbs. A book which seeks to bring wisdom to its readers. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Why would we fear such a loving and good God? How does it even make sense that we should fear God?
Because God is the one who created us, He is the one who can destroy us as well. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Ouch… Why would we put our trust and hope in such a being? Because God is good.
We forget that God is who He is (Exodus 3:14), and that we are not God. We become so desensitized about our relationship with God and we lose our reverence for Him. Desensitization won’t happen overnight, but we get more and more comfortable with His mercy and grace that we eventually take it for granted. This is something that, as Christians, we simply need to continue to wake up and smell the coffee again and again.

When my wife had her close friend over from a different state, they were planning to go on a hike, and I suggested that they take some protection (We now live in the Rocky Mountains). I grew up around guns, my dad is a master gunsmith and I learned a lot about guns from him and I am very comfortable around them. My wife, on the other hand grew up in what my fellow villagers and I would call a city. When it came to hiking time, her and her friends seemed hesitant to take protection. I said things like, “Well, you might regret not taking protection if a bear is chewing on your foot.” Or, “If a mountain lion etc., etc.” I won’t go into detail. But then they were afraid to go on a hike. I told them that now they were ready. There is a method to my madness… “You have a realistic picture of what could happen, and you will be more alert while hiking. You’ll be more awake.” We must have a healthy fear.
Fear is, despite what people tell you today, a friend we should keep close to us. Fear keeps us alive. I don’t mean that we should live in an unhealthy fear, this is why there is a qualifier of health. It must be healthy fear. I coined this phrase because I recognized that much fear is unhealthy, if not completely irrational. We do not let fear rule our lives, but we do not want to be oblivious.
I once saw a billboard for an insurance company that said, “Live fearless” (not fearlessly).  It showed a person jumping out of an airplane and a smile on his face. This, I think kind of goes in the wrong direction a bit. Should we just carelessly do whatever we want because we have good health insurance? No, because accidents, the last time I checked, still involve pain and death. “But you’re covered!” You get the idea, I am just using this for clarity.
It is just like the chainsaw. A person who has never handled a chainsaw would never go ripping and tearing through the woods, full throttle, knowing the danger ahead of them. They would have a healthy fear of the chainsaw and the trees, and they would proceed with great caution. We have a natural healthy fear of these kinds of things, so why do we lose our healthy fear of God?
In every area of our lives, we continually live like this. When someone learns that they have diabetes from their doctor, or high blood pressure, our first reaction is fear. Our diets immediately change, even if it is only for a week. We do this out of having a healthy fear. So why would we not continue to fear God? The one thing that we should realistically revere. Fearing God means that we should fear what He does to evil. We should fear His wrath. This is something that we should never be comfortable with, even as Christians.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (emphasis mine). This is something that should keep us on the right track. We should remain aware of what we are doing with our lives. Are we building on the true foundation? If we do not build on the true foundation, whether we use costly materials or garbage, it will be burned up. Then we will realize that all that we have done in our lives, all the work we pour into what we have built will be for nothing. We will suffer because all of the years we poured our lives into our passions, if it was not built on the foundation, it will be as if it never happened. This should cause us to have a healthy fear of what we are doing with, and through, our lives.

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

--Ecclesiastes 12:13

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus