Friday, 1 October 2010

A Remedy Against the Fear of Man

What is one of the greatest obstacles in the Christian life? What is one of the biggest hindrances to godliness and gospel proclamation? Is it not the fear of man?

All of us, no matter what our personality, struggle with some element of people-fearing. Do we not all find ourselves frequently asking: "What will people think of me?", "What will people say of me?" and "What will people think of me?" These questions reveal what's going on in our hearts. These questions expose our fear of man.

The fear of man can be devastating to the Christian life. It hinders our growth in godliness, as we are constantly more concerned with what people think than with living out a gospel-shaped life. It waters down evangelism as we shy away from proclaiming Christ to those are in rebellion against Him, and don't want to hear about Him. It can devastate the ministries of many gospel workers, as they care more about what people want to hear than what God has said in Scripture.

So what shall we do? How can we remedy this deadly disease? Jesus shows us how to deal with the fear of man in Luke 12:4-7. He says: " not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke 12:4-5).

What is the remedy? The best remedy for the paralysing fear of people is the liberating fear of God. If we put things in perspective then our worries over what other people may do to us melt into insignificance. The worst that people can do to us is kill us, and no more. If we belong to Christ this should not worry us because we have life in Christ which cannot be taken from us. However, God has infinitely greater power. He has the power, not only to kill us, but also to cast into hell. He has all power over life eternally. He can cast into hell and he can deliver from hell, no one else has such authority. If we belong to Christ then this power is working for us so that we need not fear anything (v 6-7).

J. C. Ryle, commenting on this passage, puts things much better than I could. I shall let him have the last word:
But what is the best remedy against the fear of man? How are we to overcome this powerful feeling and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord reccomends. We must supplant the fear of man by a higher and more powerful principle, -the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body to Him who has dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the life that now is, to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him that is invisible, we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker before the stronger. "Ifear God," said Colonel Gardiner, "and therefore there is no one else that I need fear." -It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, -"Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death is more bitter."
Taken from "Expository Thoughts on Luke" by J. C. Ryle, published by Banner of Truth.