Culture

When Fear Is Strong

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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

The Fallacy of Common Sense

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The teachings of a wise person are a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death.

Good sense brings favor,

but the way of treacherous people is always the same.

Any sensible person acts with knowledge,

but a fool displays stupidity. (Proverbs 13:14-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:14-25 GW)


Whatever happened to common sense? If it's so common, why isn't there more of it? It turns out... common sense isn't so common after all.

If you haven't said it, you've probably heard something like—"Use some common sense!"—as an admonition to use good judgment, act wisely, or think wisely before making a decision.

Sadly, common sense or good sense seems in short supply. The idea of good judgment that follows logical, rational thought just isn't so common or ordinary.

There's no question that it's valued but it doesn't appear to be common for the general population. Why not? What seems to be the hindrance?

Common sense, in order to be good, sound judgment, needs to have a sound basis or origin. Is there really such a thing as common sense? Yes, but at present, it's suppressed in our culture by what's popular, trendy, or whatever is most appealing at any given time.

For common sense to be sound, it needs to have a frame of reference and a reliable point of origin. Also, consistency and continuity are required for something to be common or accessible for everyone.

When something is uncommon, it's in contrast or at least significantly different than what is common. In other words, for something to be an exception to the rule, there needs to be a rule—a standard.

In a way, common sense gets pushed aside with a new common. The new standard is relativism and individual preference. These have become a new frame of reference for truth, morality, fulfillment, and even spiritual truth or spirituality.

Consider how flexible and accommodating companies and the service industry have become. Menus with "no substitutions or changes" are going by the wayside. Most of the time, you can have it your way for a small up-charge.

The consumer public wants their personal preference to prevail. We don't want what everybody else has unless it's customized to suit us. This demand for accommodation and individuality permeates our present-day culture in so many ways.

Even the truth is affected, or should I say, infected with this expectation for individualistic expression. Individualized interpretation of the truth results in confusion and a lack of understanding when it comes to theology and spirituality in general.

When everyone has their own interpretation of the truth or what truth is, there's no reliable standard to base truth on, which also affects what is considered sound judgment.

When you or I go to buy something at a store or fill the car with fuel, it matters what the cost is based on. What taxes are added to the cost? When it comes to measuring things, is it metric or American standards? When traveling abroad, what currency is used and what is the exchange rate based on?

Common sense needs a common point of reference as its basis, its standard. Otherwise, it has no lasting value. When it comes to navigating life and our relationships, we also need consistent and reliable values.

So, what is the standard for your life values? What truth are you relying on?

When you rely on your own interpretations of the Bible and its truth, you'll run into the same troubles others have who choose to go their own way and common sense will elude you.

If the truth of God written in the Scriptures isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth. This is the message of the wise writings throughout Proverbs.

Good sense brings favor

Reflection—

Do you think you have common sense and good judgment? What truth are you relying on? If God's truth isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth and likely lack sound judgment.

Prayer Focus—

Seek the Lord regarding whether or not you have common sense based on His truth. Ask God to give you discernment and confirmation of what good sense is and if you have it and are experiencing His favor.

©Word-Strong_2018


Lifting the Weight of an Anxious Heart

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A person’s anxiety will weigh him down,

but an encouraging word makes him joyful. (Proverbs 12:25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:15-28 GW)


It's an epidemic. Opioid addiction has become a national epidemic in America. But it's not only opioid-based medications that are a problem. A myriad of disorders ranging from depression to behavioral problems has brought a plague of prescription drugs on our nation.

We may be a rich and powerful nation but we're weighed down with worry and can't seem to get out from under this burden without a prescription.

But there is another way to deal with this problem. A surprisingly simple way. It doesn't require a doctor appointment nor a prescription, nor any specialized training.

Anxiety may weigh a person down—

...but an encouraging word makes him joyful.

It may seem too simplistic. Indeed, some psychological disorders may still require treatment and medications but genuine and meaningful encouragement is still helpful in severe cases. I've seen this firsthand.

Words are powerful. They can tear down or build someone up. They're rarely neutral. What we hear is played back in our minds over and over, like a never-ending recording. It's called self-talk.

Destructive words go deep. They penetrate our hearts and embed themselves in our minds.

Careless words stab like a sword... (Prov 12:18a GW)

It doesn't matter who utters these piercing words. When spoken by those we're closest to—parents, a spouse, siblings, children, significant others, friends, people at work or school—their wounding words go deep.

So, how can this be countered?

How can you and I deal with worries and wounding words?

We all need to hear encouraging words of truth often and from people we trust. People who are trustworthy and those whom we know genuinely care about us. Likewise, we need to speak encouraging words and be genuine and trustworthy for others.

Here is the counter to the words that "stab like a sword"—

...but the words of wise people bring healing. (Prov 12:18b GW)

Notice it says, "words." Not casual or trite statements like—"Oh, they didn't really mean that..." or, "just ignore what they say." Genuine and encouraging words are needed.

Words of encouragement need to come from people wise enough to know what is needed and what is appropriate for each person. They also need to be words of truth—

The word of truth lasts forever... (Prov 12:19a GW)

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth. 

Where? Church is good place to start but I know too many wounding words are spoken by people in churches.

We need to seek out a community of believers who are accepting and loving in a biblical but non-judgmental way. It could be a church or a small group connected to a church or ministry.

There are no quick fixes with prescriptive words and phrases. Bible quotes are nice but can easily be said in trite ways (see James 2:15-16).

A continuing flow of encouraging truth is the only way healing and restoration go deep enough in our hearts and minds. This will lighten the load of worries and wounds we encounter.

Reflection—

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to help you see encouraging words in His written word, the Bible. If you don't have encouraging people around you, ask the Lord to help you find people you can trust and who are encouraging and for His help to be the same way for them.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Good Roots

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A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness,

and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved.

...but the roots of righteous people produce ⌊fruit⌋.

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability.

Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished. (Proverbs 12:3, 12b, 14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:1-14 GW)


Every hurricane season, trees are uprooted, seashores are eroded, and homes get flooded. Such is life in the Carribean, Florida, and all along the Gulf Coast.

In SE Asia, typhoon season brings similar scenes. Not only are trees uprooted, many homes are completely washed away with storm surge and flash floods. Though not unusual, it's still devastating for families to lose homes, livelihoods, and even, for some, the lives of loved ones.

Whether trees or homes or people's lives, a solid foundation is vital for enduring powerful storms. Roots are the foundation of a plant or tree and provide a network for sustenance essential for life.

These two verses referring to the "roots of the righteous" speak of two outcomes—they "cannot be moved" and they "produce fruit." Stability and life.

What's the key to these "roots of the righteous?" Their roots are in solid ground and soil that's nutrient-rich with sufficient water.

An immediate reference to the truth of God can be drawn from the larger context of Proverbs and the figurative lesson in Psalm 1:1-3.

I see another reference in verse 14—

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability. Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished.

Families and cultures can produce tremendous pressure on a person to conform to what's most likely to lead to a successful future. But many times it's at the cost of a person's identity and integrity—their internal essence—their spirit.

We're all wired differently. We all have different gifts and skills. Many people are not suited for college but do well with practical training in what they do best and countless university degrees never factor into a person's life work.

Each of us needs to stay grounded in who we are as God created us to be.

Some people are good with words, both learning and teaching in an academic environment, or in other ways of expressing thoughts and ideas through words. Others are good with their hands and actions, they build or create things skillfully and are content with doing things well.

How can a person know for sure what they are best suited to do?

When each of us is well-grounded in our relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of our life—the One who knows us best—it's much easier to know what we were created to do best.

The important thing is being rooted in a personal relationship with the Lord and living our life guided by His truth and wisdom.

Reflection—

If you want to know what your purpose in life is—what you were created to do well—then allow the roots of your life to grow deep in a well-grounded relationship with God.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for discernment and wisdom. Ask God to either clarify or give you fresh insight into what He's equipped you to do mentally and physically—according to what fits you best.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

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Thankfulness and Contentment

Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday set aside for remembrance. A time to reflect on God's goodness and be thankful. This was its original purpose as a holiday as designated by Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Aside from the commercialism of our day, it can still be just that. People can wring their hands and lament the degradation of the holiday as a time of gluttony, drunkenness, and consumerism, or simply be thankful and content.

Our nation still affords us the opportunity of free choice and many other freedoms.