Posts Tagged fear of man
Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the problem of fearing man and how this can change as we set our focus on fearing God instead. Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you could apply the gospel to this key area?
In his booklet, “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester describes two powerful things that take place when we start fearing God:
1. The fear of God sets us free to love people.
We are not free to love other people when we fear their rejection or crave their approval. We may speak of loving someone, but in reality we are using them to gain the affirmation that we crave. We may serve them, but in reality we are serving our need for affirmation. If they do not deliver that affirmation, then we respond with bitterness, depression or anger.
Consider a father who craves the respect of his children. When that respect is not forthcoming, he may discipline them out of anger or he may manipulate them through bribery. He is not serving their needs. He is motivated by his need for respect rather than selfless love for his children. As a result, his discipline may well be counter-productive. Imagine now that the fear of God relativises his desire for respect. The respect of his children is no longer determinative in the way he behaves towards them. As a result, he is free to discipline them in love according to their needs.
2. The fear of God sets us free to be ourselves.
When we fear other people, we act in whatever way we think will enable us to gain their approval or avoid their rejection. We are not free to behave as we want…We often fear other people because we fear exposure. I wear a mask to prevent people from discovering the real me. In God we have someone who knows us completely in all our need and sin. Yet still he accepts us and loves us. Confidence in the grace of God means we need not fear exposure and so we do not have to pretend. We can be ourselves.
Yesterday I posted 10 questions to help you discern whether you struggle with the fear of man. These are helpful ways to diagnose what is, for many people, a big spiritual problem. But what’s the antidote to this issue?
In his booklet “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester provides this answer:
The answer to the fear of man is the fear of God. We need a big view of God. To fear God is to respect, worship, trust and submit to God. To fear God is to have a proper appreciation of his holiness, majesty, glory, power, love and wrath. Christians can now call God our Father, and fear in the sense of ‘terror’ has been taken away…
…[We need] to meditate on God‘s glory, greatness, holiness, power, splendour, beauty, grace, mercy and love. Encourage them to compare the person(s) they fear with God. [We should] imagine that person next to God. Who is the most majestic? Who is the most loving? Who is the holiest? Who is the most beautiful? Who is the most threatening? Who is the biggest?
How would this perspective change your concerns about people’s approval?
The apostle Paul says something startling in Galatians 1:10 — “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
There it is. We are either seeking to please man or we are seeking to serve Christ.
Many people (myself included) battle with caring too much about people’s approval. In his excellent book, When People Are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch provides these symptoms of the fear of man:
- Are you over-committed? Do you find it hard to say no even when wisdom indicates that you should? You are a ‘people-pleaser,’ a euphemism for the fear of man.
- Do you ‘need’ something from your spouse? Do you ‘need’ your spouse to listen to you? Respect you?
- Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? … If self-esteem is a recurring theme for you, chances are that your life revolves around what others think. You reverence or fear their opinions. You need them to buttress your sense of well-being and identity.
- Do you ever feel as if you might be exposed as an impostor? … It means the opinions of other people — especially their possible opinion that you are failure — are able to control you.
- Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Are you afraid of making mistakes that will make you look bad in other people’s eyes?
- Do you easily get embarrassed? If so, people and their perceived opinions probably define you. Or, to use biblical language, you exalt the opinions of others to the point where you are ruled by them.
- Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? What about cover-ups where you are not technically lying with your mouth? Lying and other forms of living in the dark are usually ways to make ourselves look better before other people. They also serve to cover our shame before them.
- Do other people often make you angry or depressed? … If so, they are probably the controlling center of your life.
- Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say that you need people, you are still controlled by them.
- Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you are an irrational fool?
What would you add? How have you seen these in yourself or in others?