A little over a week ago at the men's breakfeast I was just finishing my bacon and eggs when Ron Fraser the president of Alberta Bible College and the speaker for the morning stepped up to the microphone and began outlining a definition to what we consider fear to be. While doing so he depicted the many "phobia's" we label in our culture. I couldn't help but let my mind drift to the stickers I used to keep on the side of my wheelchair with the label of 'No Fear'. They would read, "Today is a good day for a reality check." Or, "Precious few are born with it. Even fewer know what to do with it." And my personal favorite was, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the dog."
Reflecting back, I don't think these statements were so much about my own state of no fear but rather were explorations of trying to redevelop my own self identity following the car accident that had put me in a wheelchair. Which causes me to ask the question; "What role does fear have in character development?" And, "Are there different kinds of fear?'
On the one hand, fear seems projected as negative. We see Jesus warning us in Matthew 10:28 "do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." A picture which instructs us to be fearful of those who project an evil context and desire to cause harm or even destroy our faith and hope. I found it interesting though that this passage is about dismissing our worries so that even though we may find ourselves in fear of harm, Jesus is not saying to avoid it at all costs. Perhaps this kind of fear is meant to keep us focused of the Christ centered goal rather then the presider of that fear!
On the oppisite side, fear is projected as healthy and good. Psalm 2:11 says, "Serve the Lord with fear,/and rejoice with trembling." Fear in this context is one of reverence and acknowledgment of God's greatness and authority over our lives. I think of the soldiers who are fighting over seas and how when they are confronted with their senior officer standing beside them they are filled with fear in the understanding of their authority and influence over their lives. At the same time they are filled with pride and security knowing that their commanding officer cares for them and knows the best actions to take. I can then imagine just how much bigger it must be then in our relationship with Jesus!
Throughout his speech, Ron continually pointed out that fear seems ultimately centered around our fear of the lose of control. Perhaps, it is true! We continually try to convince ourselves and maintain this illusion of self control and even control over others without really reflecting on who or what is really in control. In calling Christ my Lord and Saviour I must acknowledge that he has ultimate authority over my life both in its intricacies and its whole dynamics. Put in the words of Fyodor Dostoevski, "The whole law of human existence lies in this: that man be able to bow down before the infinitely great." Now I pray that I also make that choice!
In facing fear we are also expressing a virtue of courage to which God instills into our spirit. Courage in essence becomes organically a part of us; external from our original character yet internally inseparable as we live in relationship to its source in the character of Jesus. This stuck me with the greatest impact when Ron made the statement "Courage is not the absence of fear. Godly courage is the ability to love something bigger then our fear."
I must admit that fear grips me the most in moments of self doubt but, my courage returns the quickest when I take a moment to breath deeply and remind myself that God is present and will act through me to fulfill his desires. Wrongfully in the moment of fear I think my existence, character, and purpose comes from my own or other peoples definition of me. Where as when it is rightfully placed fear becomes the place where God's full purpose and fruition for my life can be fully experienced. Fear should not be avoided but sought out in the light of Christ's direction for all of life.
Voltaire once said that, "The burning of a little straw may hide the stars, but the stars outlast the smoke." How great God is when we reflect on how big and awesome he can truly be when we do not hide from the fears we face in life but rather face them knowing that he is eternally with us!
"It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them."
"And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”