Fearing God Is Healthy For the Soul

Published: August 5, 2009

Modern thinking has forgotten, or even outright denied, the value of fearing God. To 21st Century ears, even hearing the words "fear of God" evokes images of harshness and cruelty. We would much rather speak of the kindness of God, but the Bible is clear that the "fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge."

In fact, learning to fear God is fundamental to being a Christian.

I still remember the first time that I truly feared God. It was at the moment that I first felt the evil of my own heart. I remember being surprised by the intensity and pervasiveness of my sinfulness. Every decision that I made was somehow tainted by my selfishness. In my deepest motivations, I had discovered that my heart was dark, and so I began to fear God.

Why did I fear God? I feared him because I knew that He was good. He was so good that he could not tolerate the evil of my heart. I knew that God would be angry with my selfishness — and rightly so. I expected his anger. I deserved it. The evil in my soul must be dealt with.

Why did I fear God? I feared Him because I knew that I could not hide from Him. There is no secrecy with Him. He knew every thought, every word, every action, even every motivation. I was an open book to Him. I could not put a nice twist onto my actions such that they did not sound so bad. Other well-intentioned people, tried to give me excuses for my sin, but I knew that those excuses would not hold up before God.

Why did I fear God? I feared God because I did not see how I could change. I had tried to do the right thing at times, but repeatedly I would go back to my default position of selfishness. I loved sin and therefore knew that God must hate me. The Bible is clear that God hates sin, and I was full of it. I knew that I could never fool him into thinking I was good when I was not. I felt my desperate situation.

Why did I fear God? I feared God because He is all-powerful. I knew that God was not someone to be trifled with. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. I don't ever remember my dad having to spank me. He may have when I was too little to remember, but not since the time of my conscious memories. But my dad was not someone to be trifled with, either. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and strong as an ox. When he would raise his voice, you better believe, I jumped. It was not hard for me to conclude that my dad was nothing in comparison to the God of the Universe.

Why did I fear God? I feared God because I believed in hell. Even though I had not thought much about it until this time, I had been taught that hell did exist. I knew that hell was a place of torment reserved for all who were evil. I knew that there was no end to hell. God actually sends people to hell. What scared me most, was that He sends people just like me.

It was my fear of God that drove me to Jesus Christ. I had heard all my life that Jesus died for sinners and that God loved me, but this did not really become personal to my heart until I felt my sin and feared God's anger. Each and every one of my sins were placed upon Jesus while he hung on the cross. God, the Father, was thinking of my evil heart when He was causing His own beloved and perfect Son to suffer. Jesus willingly took God's anger and wrath upon himself such that I could be free from His wrath and from the evil of my own heart. My fears were dissolved in the assurances of my Savior. What joy I felt being wrapped in his loving arms.

I continue to fear God today, but it is in a somewhat different way. You see, I have been relying upon Jesus for a long time. I have come to know and trust His perfect love for me. He has taken my sin upon himself and has given to me his goodness. I am His and He is mine. By His Holy Spirit living in me He progressively conquers the evil which once reigned in me.

Over the years I have continued to see my capacity for being again the man that I once was. This scares me. On the one hand, I know and believe that once God begins a work in someone He is faithful to carry it to completion. But on the other hand, I have seen others fall away from the faith and return back to a life of sinfulness. The hope of eternal life is given to those who persevere in their faith to the end. And so, I do continue to fear God. I will still stand before him one day. He will test the genuineness of my faith.

Rather than drive me from Him, my fear continues to drive me to Him. Each and every day I rise up and ask Him for the grace to continue in the race. What brings me comfort is the knowledge that He loved me at my worst. If He loved me at my worst, then I can continue trusting Him to pour out his love with each new struggle against sin.

We no longer live in a culture that fears God. This is not good. Without the fear of God, you cannot understand the grace of God. There is a lot of talk about God's grace, but it is "fools gold." Have you ever feared God? It is the most healthy medicine for your soul.

Mike Thompson is the pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church. Please contact him with questions or comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .