godly fear

Peaceful and Pleasing

By mercy and faithfulness, peace is made with the Lord.

By the fear of the Lord, evil is avoided.

When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,

he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:6-7 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:1-15 GW)


Stress—continuous and sustained—is unhealthy. This is well-documented and verified through life experience. Unhealthy stress can be emotional, mental, or physical—sometimes it’s all three at once. Stress can be self-induced but also beyond a person’s control.

Some common advice today is—focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control. This is echoed by gifted athletes and business leaders alike. If only it were that easy!

People in war-torn nations and refugees seeking safety from war and oppression are in situations way beyond their control. Still, they look for ways to create a sense of normality and safety in whatever way they can.

Those of us in less desperate conditions may have a lot more freedom and opportunity to exert control over stress in our lives. Yet, too often we add stress rather than lessen it. This is unnecessary stress we choose to live under daily—often by default.

Think about what causes stress in your life. Now, consider how things might be different without certain stresses and what that would mean for you.

What do you have control over? What can you do about it?

Even when we focus on what we can control, it’s usually external things—what we do with our time, how we do our work, who we spend time with, and so on.

Not all unhealthy stress can be relieved by changing things outside of us. Why? Because we tend to bring unhealthy stress on ourselves.

This is where we need to consider what we worry about and why we do. Such things are often called first-world concerns—what we think we need and what we want are easily confused.

What if unhealthy stress can be relieved in a simpler and better way?

Think internal rather external. Think surrender rather than control. Yes, surrender.

When everything depends on us—our ability, our strength, our efforts—it’s a never-ending strain that produces and adds its own stress.

When we trust in the Lord—the way a young child trusts her parents—we learn to surrender and submit our worries and concerns to the Lord. This reduces our stress.

But how do we go about this in everyday life and within environments and situations where we are not in control?

We can choose how we respond rather than react to situations and people we encounter in a given day. We can extend mercy where our tendency is to be judgmental and harsh. We can remain faithful when dealing with inequity and unfairness.

When we choose to be peacemakers, God extends peace to us, as well as through us. When we choose the path of godly fear and integrity, we’ll avoid the evil others encounter.

And here’s the best part—God will extend His peace in our life so that even those who seem to be enemies will be at peace with us. This is a peace and a way of life guaranteed to reduce stress!

Reflection—

We can choose how we respond rather than react and choose the path of godly fear and integrity instead of the path everyone else follows. As we extend mercy and peace to others, we’ll experience God’s peace and freedom from unnecessary stress in our life.

Prayer Focus—

Begin each day in surrender to the Lord, asking Him to help you show mercy to others and for strength to be faithful in the midst of difficult and unfaithful times. Pursue peace with God and ask for His wisdom to navigate each day.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

The Path of Wise Counsel

Stupidity is fun to the one without much sense,

but a person who has understanding forges straight ahead.

Without advice plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.

…and a timely word—oh, how good!

The path of life for a wise person leads upward

in order to turn him away from hell below. (Proverbs 15:21-24 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:20-24 GW)


When I was in school as a young student, we used encyclopedias as references for projects and term papers. The Encyclopedia Britannica was somewhat the gold standard then but the more modern American version—the World Book—was a bit more accessible and easier to use.

If you wondering how long ago, it was after dinosaurs were extinct but before Jurassic Park (LOL). We went to public and school libraries to do research, unless your family could afford to buy a set of encyclopedias. Even then, if you needed several reference sources, you went to the library.

But today, a laptop and a good wifi signal will suffice most of the time. Need some answers? Check Wikipedia or “Google it!” Want to know how to do something? Search YouTube.

But the wired-world of today isn’t nearly as reliable and trustworthy as many believe. It’s a closed system of information and tech-savviness. Wisdom and understanding aren’t contained in articles or downloads that await us in the Cloud.

True wisdom is gained through reading, discussion, reflection, and thinking. But who has time for that?

Godly wisdom requires a similar process but is based on the Scriptures as a primary reference of truth and the wise counsel of godly people.

There was a time when “experts” thought the world was flat and ships would fall off the edge of the earth if they went too far. Of course, this was proven false countless times, centuries ago. The earth, planets, and stars in their orbits was also understood in Bible times (Job 26:7, 10; Psa 19:6; Isa 40:22).

Current wisdom is uncertain and short-sighted. It’s based on insufficient evidence with unverified extrapolations. Years ago, certain foods were said to be unhealthy for us. Now, these same foods are considered essential to good health.

Too often, what may be true to some degree is taken to an extreme. This is true in various fields of knowledge. It leads to what I’d call pop-wisdom. It’s pushed by popular opinion but my cynical self says it’s driven by what’s marketable rather than sound reasoning.

True wisdom—godly wisdom—takes the larger view of things and yet sees the smaller details. It doesn’t rush to unreliable conclusions. It’s also practical. True wisdom applies to everyday life and is time-tested.

Godly wisdom is based on an eternal perspective rather than individual preference. This is seen in the larger context of these verses and is summed up here—

The fear of the Lord is discipline ⌊leading to⌋ wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Prov 15:33 GW)

As spoken of in an earlier devotional, the fear of God isn’t a fearful attitude but a personal, respectful trust in God. It’s not relativistic but a disciplined view of life and truth.

When the wisdom we hold to is no longer based on assumptions and opinions but anchored in a transcendent source of truth, it is reliable and sound.

It includes trustworthy advice from people whose lives are an example of godly wisdom based on biblical truth, not arrogance and self-importance. This is the path of wise counsel.

Reflection—

How are you guided through life? Do you listen to the popular wisdom of the day or rely on the soundness of godly wisdom? True wisdom is gained through reading, discussion, reflection, and thinking on the truth of God with those who trust in Him.

Prayer Focus—

Approach each day with a fresh willingness to seek godly wisdom from the Scriptures—asking God to give it you as you pray and read (James 1:5)—and spend time with the people of God who trust in Him as shown by the example of their lives.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

When Fear Is Strong

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

and his children will have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:14-33 GW)


The fear of God is often misunderstood. Western culture typically portrays fear as a weakness. It's certainly not seen as a strength. Think of the stories in horror and sci-fi movies that feed off fear as the main attraction and intrigue to keep viewers watching.

Some relegate the fear of God to being an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to followers of Jesus under the New Covenant of grace.

After all, when we see Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man who gives Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of humanity—a gift of perfect love, and who heals people and has concern for the outcasts.

2 different fears

It's common for people to confuse the general idea of fear with the fear of God but they're different. The fear of God is not what is more typically in mind which is a fear of anxiety.

The simplest definition of the fear of God is reverence. But the fear of God, as expressed in several places in the Bible, speaks of respect, awe, holiness, and so much more. Similar phrases are found throughout the Bible, such as godly fear or the fear of the Lord, probably more than you might think. 

In these verses in Proverbs, the fear of God is "a fountain of life," and a place of refuge and strong confidence. The fear of God as a fountain of life is based in relationship with God and a personal response to His sovereignty as Almighty God.

The "strong confidence" comes from a trust in God because of who He is—much like a young child who looks up to and trusts in the strength of a parent. How many times has a child said something like, "My dad is bigger and stronger than your dad!"

Many times in Scripture, the Lord is described as a place of refuge. This is not an actual physical place of security but a sense of safety and rest based on a trusting relationship with God. God is sovereign, He rules over all and is greater than all and He can always be trusted.

How can the fear of God be a "fountain of life?"

God is the Creator and Originator of all life. When a person has a worshipful awe and respect of God, they tap into the One who truly holds our life in His hands, as the children's song goes.

Here is something Jesus said about fearing God and anxious fear—

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 10:28-31 GW)

Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others. So, the fear of God—reverence for God—is a counter to anxious fear.

This is what the apostle John refers to when he says—

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

One last thought on the fear of God as a fountain of life—the book of Proverbs begins with this—

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov 1:7 GW)

The fear of God—or the fear of the Lord—is a loving awe and respect for Him—a perfect love that pushes out anxious fear when we choose to trust in the Lord.

(see below for more on the fear of God)

Reflection—

Which do you choose to rule over your heart and life? Anxious fear or the fear of God? Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others.

Prayer Focus—

If anxious fear seems to have a strong grip in your life, consciously and prayerfully remind yourself of God's greatness, His sovereignty over all, and His perfect love. Look up all the references to the fear of God (fear of the Lord) and consider these truths as you pray and entrust your life to the Lord.

©Word-Strong_2018


Here are some previous posts related to the fear of God—

The Purpose and Value of Proverbs

Honor and Respect

Taste and See

Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

From One Extreme to Another

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of these can be extreme, but most are not. I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the hills and valleys of life. It would get pretty boring and monotonous without these, like an unending treadmill to nowhere.

Still, some people seem to experience triumph to tragedy cycles of mood swings. They seem stuck on a never-ending, emotional rollercoaster. Then there are those who exhibit extreme attitudes and behaviors. All these extremes create tensions that can't be sustained for long.

Life is a lot harder when you go from one extreme to another.

Scripture

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. It is an advantage to everyone who sees the sun. Wisdom protects us just as money protects us, but the advantage of wisdom is that it gives life to those who have it. Consider what God has done! Who can straighten what God has bent? [vss 11-13]

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one time as well as the other so that mortals cannot predict their future. I have seen it all in my pointless life: Righteous people die in spite of being righteous. Wicked people go on living in spite of being wicked. [vss 14-15]

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? Don’t be too wicked, and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time is up? It’s good to hold on to the one and not let go of the other, because the one who fears God will be able to avoid both extremes. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 7:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is as good as an inheritance."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about wisdom? Why is it valuable?

In what way do good and bad experiences keep us from predicting the future?

What are we told about the righteous and wicked? Does this seem unfair to you?

What would help us avoid being too virtuous or too wicked? How does this help?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy are often taken to extremes. In a philosophy class, taking a thought to an extreme point happens a lot. Sometimes this is exercised as if it was an olympic sport.

Religions are filled with radicals—people who take a belief well beyond its original intent. Of course, what's seen as radical or fanatical by one person is acceptable to another. Even Jesus was branded as too radical by the religious leaders of His time on earth.

How can we keep from going to extremes? We need a center point. We need something to ground and guide us. This is the benefit of godly fear.

When we see God for who He is—all-knowing, ever-present, almighty, and eternal—we gain perspective. It keeps us humble and wise (Proverbs 9:10). It will also help keep us from going from one extreme to another.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Does your life seem like a treadmill or rollercoaster? If so, have you discovered why this is so?

How do you handle the ups and downs of life? How much does it bother you when things don't go as planned?

Does it bother you when some people seem to get away with wrong doing, while others who seem innocent and good suffer?

What's your understanding of the fear of God? Does God fill your heart with awe and wonder?