“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:12-13)
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Previously, we shared a message on fearing God, in which we mentioned the fear of man as one of the factors that can hinder us from experiencing a strong relationship with the Lord. The truth is that if you don’t have reverence and fear for God, then most certainly you will live your life in fear of man and the uncertainties of life. In this week’s message, we will emphasize what the Bible teaches us about fearing man.
As the day of the Lord’s return draws near, Christians all over the world are finding themselves encircled by a permissive society that is hostile to God’s truth (2 Timothy 3:1-4; Matthew 24:12). If you don’t agree with these “modern” lifestyles and sinful behaviors, you will find yourself being looked down upon, isolated, or even being hated. We are living in the days when we have many who “call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NIV). Additionally, we are seeing an upsurge of violence against Christian believers as Satan continues to use deceived individuals and false religions to discourage or destroy God’s children. These may seem like isolated incidents and the world’s media tries to “cover-up” or ignore the many cases where Christians are being targeted for persecution because of our faith. However, for those who are discerning the times, you will remember that the Lord Jesus forewarned us that there will come a time when we, His followers, will be “hated by all” for His name’s sake, and He encouraged us to endure to the end in order to be saved (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13). He also forewarned us to “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 ESV).
Should we be Afraid of Man?
The Lord created man to have free will, and He operates with us on the principle of choices and consequences (Deuteronomy 11:27-28; 30:15, 19; Joshua 24:15; Galatians 6:7-8). On the other hand, Satan uses force, coercion, manipulation, and other schemes and devices in order to force us to comply with his will (Job 1:13-18; Job 2:4, 7). Persecution of believers is not new; throughout the ages, Satan has used wicked men to abuse and misuse power in order to force their will on others. Children of God who stand firmly on God’s Truth have been threatened, excommunicated, insulted, abused, tortured, and persecuted in all forms, even by being put to death because of their faith (Hebrews 11:36-38).
In both the Old and New Testaments, we see righteous men being mistreated by others, for example, Abel being murdered by his brother Cain (Gen 4:4-10), Peter and John being beaten and threatened not to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 5:28, 40), Daniel’s three friends being thrown into a fiery furnace for disobeying a king’s order to worship an idol (Daniel 3:13-20), Jeremiah being thrown into a cistern for prophesying truth (Jeremiah 38:1-6), etc. In these examples and several others, the Lord encourages us not to fear man. As human beings, naturally, we are fixated with life here on earth, but God sees from the beginning to the end, and He is the Righteous Judge who ultimately avenges the righteous (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19).
As King Saul experienced, fearing men can cause us to be rebellious and disobedient to the Lord, hence displeasing Him while losing His favor and promises (1 Samuel 15:1-3;10-11;17-24). Fear of man also causes us to be snared, trapped (Proverbs 29:25), and to carry out shameful things (Matthew 14:6-10).
Instead of fearing man, we should take courage in God’s Word and promise, and not given to the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). The Lord Jesus came to lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:15-17; 1 John 3:16), and He admonishes us to pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us or mistreat us (Matthew 5:44). As a result of sin, the ungodly reject the message of repentance and turning to our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Romans 10:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10), but our duty is still to love them and pray for them as the Lord commanded.
Fear of Man when Witnessing
For those of us who go out to share the gospel, there are many instances where we are threatened or kicked out of certain places and warned not to witness there. In such instances, it is important to remember that we are sharing a life-giving message, and we should therefore take courage, like Peter and John, to obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29). As an encouragement, some of us at times have learned to quickly walk away and leave when we see someone who seems to be walking towards us to stop us (John 10:39).
There are also times when you might feel intimidated to witness a certain person, especially if they appear to be of a higher social class. Following our Master’s example of boldly sharing the good news with the rich young ruler, we likewise are called to share without fear because the Lord Jesus is able to save all who choose to follow and obey Him (Luke 18:18-27). You may also have friends or church members who you are afraid to correct for fear of losing them. Prosperity preachers avoid rebuking sin in order to maintain members and financial offerings. However, for true children of God, it would be good to pray for deliverance from the fear of man and simply obey the Lord as He leads us to share in the love and for the sake of eternal life (Ezekiel 33:7-9). We see in the Bible that the Lord shared truth even at the departure of many of his disciples (John 6:60-66). But those who are the Lord’s will humbly accept the truth and remain in Christ (John 6:67-69), for the Lord Jesus said: “..no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65).
Finally, turn away from the fear of man that you may enjoy the blessing of fearing the Lord, walking in obedience to Him (Psalm 128:1-4), trusting Him, and being kept safe (Proverbs 29:25). To begin a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, please start by praying this