The good and bad sides of fear

1Kings 18:3: And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:

horse-490280_640Fear has positive and negative sides. Like salt, too much of it in the food makes it unpalatable. Too much of fear makes life unbearable. But it is not all bad about fear.

There are all manners of fears that man can be affected by. While Paul wrote that we should give fear to whom fear (a form of respect) is due (Romans 13:12), the book of proverbs says that the fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

Though because of fear of punishment people obey civil law, which helps to keep the society sane, Jesus told his disciples to not be afraid when they are taken to face panels concerning their faith in him (Luke 21:12-15). That was what happened when Peter stood before leaders of Judaism in his time. His apparent fearlessness amazed them (Act 4:13). They could not imagine such people from such backgrounds did not cow before them.

But Peter and co were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be fearless. Or to fear God more than the feared man. They had the lion of the tribe of Judah within and they are able to stare down all threat to their devotion to him.

When you are about to embark on something new, there is need to deal with fear, which might keep us from our best which lies beyond the bounds of the unknown.

The fear of the unknown can be two-sided. The fear of the unknown can be good when it keeps us from being involved in all manners of activities, dissipating our energy wastefully. The bible says that better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

King Uzziah did not allow the fear of the unknown (2Chronicles 26:16-23), what can happen if he does what God says only priests should do, to keep him in line, to curtail his sense of adventure. He should have allowed the fear of the unknown in that situation to keep him from error. He decided to offer incense and was struck with leprosy.

For King Saul, the fear of the people leaving him, was stronger than the fear of what could result if he disobeyed God who told him to wait for Samuel the Prophet to make a sacrifice to get the favour of God to attack the enemy. He said later: “I forced myself to make the sacrifice. The pressure was too much.” But it was all about the dearth of the fear of God in him (1Samuel 13, 15).

He probably thought that God will understand, he latter learned that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of ram. What you do is not as important as why you are doing it, or who asked you to do it, self-generated or God-initiated.

Jesus said we should not fear men, but recommended another kind of fear. He said that the way to go is the fear of God (Matthew 10:28), the fear of the consequence of not following him, of not doing what he says. You fear not pleasing him. After he sinned, David feared the Holy Spirit being taken away from him as it was taken from Saul his predecessor (Psalm 55:11).

Moses expressed the fear of God not being with them as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness. He said: if your presence do not go with us do not lead us from here. He was afraid of experiencing the consequence of not having God fully with him (Exodus 33:15).

The book of Proverbs says that the labourer is driven by the fear of sleeping hungry (Proverbs 16:26). So fear is not totally a bad thing. If can be positive motivation. The psalmist pleaded with God: for you name sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3). Therefore the fear of not experiencing God in his fullness drives us to pray. That is the fear of the Lord, which the bible encourages us to express.

But when the word of God comes asking us to step into the unknown, the fear of the unknown is not right at that time. The word of God came to the children of Israel to possess the land of Canaan. But hamstringed by fear, they rejected the will of God (Numbers 13-14).

They feared God less than they feared not making the right move in the direction of the will of God. To help him not to fall into the same trap, Paul told Timothy not to bow to the spirit (the influence) of fear but to the influence of the Holy Spirit which produces love, power and sound mind (2Timothy 1:6-7).


Loving God is intimated associated with his fear, because both have to do with obedience. The bible says that the fool said in his heart there is no God. He does not recognise God and so cannot love him or fear him.

Also, the display of love through us, helps others to see God, in his loving, forgiving, compassionate nature and that leads them to fear him. The bible says that there is forgiveness with God so that he can be feared him (Psalm 130:4).

Sound mind

Right thinking brings about the fear of the Lord. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he could think about him more in line with who he really is (Isaiah 6:1-9). The fear of God was increased because of that encounter.

With the coming of Jesus, we have a better view of God. After Jesus did the miracle of a catch of fish for Peter, he was suddenly fearful of Jesus (Matthew 5:4-10). He said to him: depart from me because I am a sinner. It was a similar reaction to what Isaiah had. And in a similar way also, Jesus said to Peter: follow me and I will make fishers of men, as God gave Isaiah a mission after he confessed his fear of the presence of God.

The fear of the Lord is associated with the sense of direction in the mission he gives to us.

When Moses encountered God when he saw a bush burning, without the leaves being affected, he bowed down hiding his face because he was afraid to look at God. And in that event he got a divine mission, he was asked to deliver Israel (Exodus 3).

Nathanael encountered Jesus and he was radically changed. While before he had misgivings about anyone coming from Nazareth, at the end of the encounter, his thoughts about Jesus became changed. He called him the King (John 1:46-51).

In prayer we get to encounter God. And come out of the experience with a sounder mind as the fire of our devotion burn higher. Through right teaching we help the people to have sound mind about God, to fear him. Sound mind tells you that all things work together for your good, that God has your back (Romans 8:32-35).


As mentioned earlier, the display of the power of God bringing fire down from heaven brought the nation of Israel down to their knees, shouting: the Lord he is God.

God conveys his power through us so that human beings can have a true picture of who he is. However the display of the power of God did not easily convince Pharaoh that he was dealing with the great God when he was adamant about allowing the children of Israel to go.

But God kept on raising the stakes until Pharaoh was forced to fold, after Egypt experienced the shock and awe treatment of different plagues. Eventually the fear of God gripped him and he let the children of Israel go.


Love, power and sound mind work together to ensure that the fear of God prevail in our lives, to counter the fear of man, the fear of failure and the fear of death.


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