Have you ever stood at the ocean’s shore at night? It is one of the most wonderful experiences on earth. The water seems to extend out right into the sky with no split…and you start thinking about all that might be taking place under its surface. The waves are the only sound you hear, coming in one after another with a loud crash…crash…crash… They are letting you know how strong they are and how strong you are not. The water is dark and powerful and holds a mystery to it. You stand there knowing that if you enter in you would likely lose control. Those waves would have their way. We are cautious and stay back a little bit, but we are admiring. We find it alluring in a way. We are in awe.
This is a healthy sort of fear. And this is the sort of fear that can make us happy. If we fear the right thing.
I’ve been reading a Psalm a day and today I got to 112. Yes, that’s 112 days of Psalm reading. Pretty cool when I stop and think about that.
Psalm 112 was the vessel of God speaking to me today, telling me things I needed to hear, that enlarged my heart and my courage and my love for my Lord, through teaching me about fearing Him.
The very first words sparked a light bulb in me that got brighter and brighter as I continued through to the end. They say:
Happy are those who fear the LORD yes happy are those who delight in doing what He commands.
The word fear is always a confusing one in the Bible. We are TOLD to FEAR God. Should we be cowering in a corner? Should we have anxiety over what God might do to us? Not exactly. Maybe.
Most people agree that the word fear in this context is referring to a “reverential awe.” It’s that similar sense of wonder, of our littleness, of respect, that we have for the ocean. In this case it should also lead us to submission, because unlike the ocean, this fear is directed toward a being, and not just any being, but our sovereign Creator.
Acknowledging God is NOT the same as Fearing Him
So many people in our culture find it enough to think that maybe God exists. Others think it good that they believe in His existence and ask Him for help when life throws them a tragedy. Yet happiness is not found here. Happiness is found in having such a deep and profound respect for God, for being so in awe of how big and powerful He is, for knowing that your life hangs in His hands, fully dependent on Him for each breath, that you respond in obedience.
Happy are those who delight in DOING what He commands.
We are so afraid to obey. We are fearful that if we obey we are going to LOSE happiness. We are afraid that if we let God be God in our lives that we are going to miss out on something. But it turns out that when we decide to just go along and let God be in the corner of our lives or even out of the picture entirely WE are the ones missing out.
Psalm 112 delves into the benefits of fear and obedience.
We are Happier When we Fear
Ok, maybe not every single second of our existence, but the general state of our heart when we are constantly listening to God through His Word and putting it into practice is happiness. Why?
- Because His word is filled with TRUTH and our souls recognize it.
- Because He gives us proper perspective.
- Because He gives us the BEST hope- there is no better hope than knowing eternity with the God of goodness and joy, who created laughter and happiness, is ahead. Sealed. A sure thing.
- Because He encourages us repeatedly.
- Because He warns us of what to be aware of in this life.
- Because He tells us how to live and gives us principles to act on so we are not always guessing or making it up as we go.
- Because He made this world, Has control over it, and thus knows BEST how it works He can tell us what to expect and how to respond.
- Because there is power in His words.
We are More Confident and Less Fearful
They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. (vs 7-8)
Why do we (I) so often fear obedience? Why do I fear fearing God? Why do I fear the future He may call me to?
When darkness overtakes the godly (those He is making like Himself) light will come bursting in (vs 4).
Do you hear that soul? Do not fear the future, if and when hard times come, His light WILL come BURSTING in!
I need not fear bad news, a recession, terrorism, society losing all morality, something happening to a loved one, etc. He will meet me there.
It turns out that the more I fear God, the less I fear anything else.
I know I have had the movie Frozen on the brain lately with my Bubba’s obsession with it, but there is actually a scene that comes to mind that helps me as I think through walking out fearlessly.
Remember this scene?
Elsa stands in front of the fjord with her enemies chasing her down. She knows she needs to get across the water and takes a hesitant step, afraid of what might happen to her if she stays, afraid of what happens to her if she steps out. Amazingly, she finds that when she steps down, the ice forms instantly under her foot. The next thing you know she takes off running, with each step the ice is there just as her foot hits, even though there is still water ahead. She goes and goes, the ice comes and comes, until she is safely across. The ice is there for her foot as she needs it.
This is us with God. We see all the “what ifs” and they form a giant fjord in front of us. They form water and cliffs in our minds. We are so afraid to step out and sink. We think that we know better, a safer more fulfilling way. But it turns out that as we step out God meets us there. Even if our “what ifs” happen, God is going to meet us there. We have to realize that when we imagine our “what if” scenarios they are so scary because God is not in our “what ifs”. He is in our reality. Those scenarios terrify us because He isn’t there.
I have seen people live out some terrible “what ifs”. What if my spouse dies? What if I lose my job? What if I lose my child? What if I lose my father? I have seen people who these things were not “what ifs” but “what’s happened” and I have seen them met by God in the midst of those things and experience the truth of the light bursting in on their darkness. Did they suffer? Yes they still felt the hardship, but they were not left, they were not desolate, they had a rock to stand upon.
The truth of the matter is “What ifs” are going to happen in one way or another whether we follow God or not. Wouldn’t we rather go through the “what ifs” of life with Him? We are going to face a fjord in our lives in one form or another, the question is whether our feet meet ice or water. Unlike Elsa this is not something that is inside of us, but a powerful God who will reside in us.
Such people will not be overcome by evil circumstances, those who are righteous will be long remembered (vs 6).
Fearing God, knowing that He is strong and powerful and worthy of my deference, that He could judge me if He pleases but chose instead to judge His Son, enables me to give those other fears to Him.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ said, “To be disobedient to the one who loves us and who alone knows what is really best for us would be sheer folly. Remember, He is even more desirous than you are that you have an abundant life.”
He Makes Me More Like Him
As if real happiness and courage were not enough, there is more. As you read through the Psalm you pick up on the traits of a person who fears God, who is molded by Him. Such a person is:
- Generous (vs 4,5,9)
- Compassionate (vs 4)
- Righteous (vs 4)
- Fair in Business (vs 5)
- Confident (vs 7, 8)
- Fearless (vs 7, 8)
- Person of Influence (vs 9)
- Honored (vs 6, 9)
Does not your heart respond to this saying “yes please! Make me like that!”? As you read these descriptions, it all comes full circle. A person possessing those qualities is the person who is happy and able to step out on the ice.
“God meet me here. God go before me. God let Your Word transform my heart and my mind. God take my “what ifs” and my fears. Make me like You.”