Brother Michel Lankford
What is the Bible’s Definition of Fear?
Hello, I am brother Michel Lankford. Our podcast is called Discipleship Answers. This is a podcast where I answer questions that people have sent to me as it pertains to how to walk as a disciple, and how to make disciples of YHWH Almighty God, and of Messiah Jesus Christ. After more than 30 years and discipleship ministry, I have received a lot of questions from up-and-coming disciples, and I thought I would take some of the most prevalent questions and make them available as a podcast, so that people could listen to them in the car or while they’re doing their housework or what have you. And so was born the podcast, “Discipleship Answers.” I bid you welcome.
Today we are exploring the question: Neighbor Saiful Alam Asked:
“What is the Bible’s Definition of Fear?
Sir, I thank you for your Question.
Fear is HUGE Topic
Neighbor, the concept of fear is a HUGE concept. Basically, there are 10 different biblical words in Hebrew that are translated as fear in our English Bibles. There are basically eight different words in our Greek New Testament which is translated using the English word fear. The meanings can be extremely wide-ranging as well. Honestly neighbor, for the sake of time, and not to overtax people’s attention span, I’m not even going to attempt to cover all 18 different biblical language words for fear. If you want to know more about fear in the original languages, a good starter resource that I recommend is the Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. It’s a great beginner’s resource, but it’s one that I still use to this day, even after more than 30 years in service.
The Practical Overview
For the most useful and practical information that a growing disciple can use, suffice it to say that all of the definitions of fear that are found in the Bible will fall into one of two piles. There are times when fear can be a very good thing, (the fear that will help you obey God, and do what is right which can save you). That is a good thing. On the other hand, there is a pilot fear that can lead you to cowardice. There is a fear that can lead you into seeking the approval of people so much that it drives you to sin and to disobey God, because you are afraid of what people will say and do to you if you do not satisfy those people. That pilot fear is sinful. That kind of fear can condemn you. That is a bad kind of fear.
In the Bible, there are many times when we are told that fear is a bad thing.
As It Is Written: ““Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NASB95)
- Fear is always a bad thing when it drives you to sin against God.
- Fear is a bad thing when it leads you to cowardice, or when it prevents you from being able to act courageously and faithfully. We saw a perfect example of that in Numbers chapters 13 & 14. YHWH Almighty God promised to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Isaac Abraham and Jacob. When the children of Israel first approached the Promised Land, God told the people that He would fight on their side, and they would possess the land. 10 of the 12 spies who went to spy out the land brought back a terrifying report of all the obstacles that the children of Israel would have to overcome in order to possess the land, and those 10 spies spread their terror and fear throughout the camp. The people became so terrified, that they refused to obey God, and they initially refused to take possession of the land inheritance that God wanted them to have. Only two of the spies remain faithful to YHWH Almighty God. Only Joshua and Caleb were encouraging the people to trust God, to obey God, and take possession of the inheritance that God said he wanted them to take. I said all that to say this. When fear drives people to cowardice, and drives people into a refusal to obey God, that is a very bad thing. It will generally lead to hardship and to disaster.
- Fear is a bad thing when it drives you to pleasing people, instead of pleasing God. People pleasing can be very dangerous, because it can separate you from your fellowship with God and Jesus Christ.
As It Is Written: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 NKJV)
As It Is Written: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17 NKJV)
As It Is Written: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)
Loving people is a good thing. We are commanded to do that. Not loving them is a sin. It breaks a commandment of God. However, we must not take things too far. Whenever our love for people, and our concern for what they think about us is so high that we are willing to sin and disobey God to gain the approval of people, that is a very BAD thing. Allowing that kind of fear to rule us, will CONDEMN us. So, it is dangerous to let fear go too far.
As It Is Written: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NKJV)
Please pay attention to that verse folks. Did you notice that in God’s economy, being cowardly, (failing to be courageous for the right things), is the SAME as being an unbeliever? Did you notice that in God’s eyes being cowardly and failing to be courageous for the right things is the SAME as an idolater who worships false gods? Did you notice that in God’s economy, the cowardly person also receives the same punishment as a murderer does? In God’s eyes, failing to be courageous for the right things is a big deal. It will lead you to the second death. So, we need to work hard to overcome the BAD type of fear.
It’s a popular saying in Christian circles that the phrase, “Fear not,” appears 365 times in our English Bibles. That would make it one “Fear Not,” for every day of the calendar year. It does appear in the Bible frequently. In some translations it appears more often, and in others less often, but you see the phrase a lot in the Bible. In any case, ungodly fear and cowardice, is something that we MUST overcome. We must be believers that have the courage to love God, to love people, and to do what God says is right, regardless of whether or not it is popular.
When Fear is a GOOD Thing
What makes things even more interesting is there are times when we read our Bible that we are told that fear is a good thing. When you fear God that is a good thing. When you have enough fear and reverential respect for YHWH Almighty God that it makes you walk very carefully so that you do not offend God because you are afraid of offending Him, that’s a good thing. That is a very good thing. In fact, we can’t even begin to really know anything until we have a proper fear of offending God.
As It Is Written: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 NASB95)
As It Is Written: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ” (Job 28:28 NKJV)
As It Is Written: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10 NASB95)
As It Is Written: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 NASB95)
As It Is Written: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility. (Proverbs 15:33 NASB95)
As It Is Written: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 NASB95)
Fear can be a good thing, or fear can be a bad thing according to Scripture. So, in the end what really matters most is what you are afraid of, and WHY are you afraid? If you are afraid because you honor and respect God’s opinion, and the thought of offending Him genuinely scares you, then your fear is a good thing. If on the other hand you are afraid because of what other people will think. If you are afraid because you fear for your reputation among other people. If you are afraid because you love protecting your situation more than you love God; or if your fear prevents you from doing what God says to do in His Word, then your fear is misplaced, and you need to repent.
As It Is Written: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV 1900)
As It Is Written: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7–9 NKJV)
First Steps to overcoming Ungodly Fear.
So, let’s say that you are listening to this podcast, and you suddenly realize that you have a lot more of the bad or ungodly kind of fear than you should have. What should you do? Always do the practical and the simple stuff first.
- First, be as honest as you can be. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. If you are afraid, then admitted and say so. Come to God with your fear. God knows the truth anyway. Lying never served anyone but the devil. Don’t try to act great if you’re not.
- Second, ask your God to transform you and to fill you up with His unfailing Love. Perfect love drives out all fear. So, his love working in you will push the fear out of you.
- Cooperate with God to develop the godly kind of fear and to replace the ungodly fear with righteous fear of God.
- Whatever it is that you are afraid of, cooperate with God to develop an action plan for confronting your fears.
- Practice confronting your fears a little bit at a time. Practice doing what you are free to do, even when you don’t feel like doing it. Practice doing it afraid until you are not afraid anymore.
As It Is Written: “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)
Brother Michel Lankford