Benefits of Fearing the True God
“I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.”—ISAIAH 48:17.
1. What calamities could have been averted by godly fear?
IF Adam had cultivated godly fear, it could have restrained him from the sin that led to his own eternal death and to thousands of years of grief for his offspring. If the ancient nation of Israel had heeded Jehovah’s counsel to fear him and to love him, that nation would not have been taken captive to Babylon, nor would they have spurned God’s Son and become guilty of shedding his blood. If the world today feared God, there would be no corruption in government or in business, no crime, no war.—Proverbs 3:7.
2. In spite of conditions in the world around us, why should we cultivate fear of Jehovah?
2 Regardless of what the world around us does, however, we as individuals, as families, and as congregations of Jehovah’s servants can benefit from cultivating fear of the true God. This is in harmony with the reminder that Moses gave to the nation of Israel: “What is Jehovah your God asking of you but to fear Jehovah your God, so as to walk in all his ways and to love him and to serve Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul; to keep the commandments of Jehovah . . . for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) What are some of the benefits that come to us when we fear Jehovah, the true God?
Wisdom—More Precious Than Gold
3. (a) What is the foremost benefit that we can receive? (b) What is the meaning of Psalm 111:10?
3 The foremost benefit is true wisdom. Psalm 111:10 declares: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” What does that mean? Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge successfully to solve problems, ward off danger, and attain certain goals. It involves sound judgment. The beginning, the first part, the foundation of such wisdom, is the fear of Jehovah. Why? Because all creation is the work of his hands. It is dependent on him. He endowed humankind with free will but not with the ability to direct their own steps successfully apart from his guidance. (Joshua 24:15; Jeremiah 10:23) Only if we appreciate those fundamental facts about life and live in harmony with them can we have lasting success. If our knowledge of Jehovah gives us unshakable conviction that God’s will is certain of success and that his promise and ability to reward faithfulness are sure, then godly fear is going to motivate us to act wisely.—Proverbs 3:21-26; Hebrews 11:6.
4, 5. (a) Why did a young man’s university education leave him without true wisdom? (b) How did this man and his wife later acquire real wisdom, and in what way did this change their lives?
4 Consider an example. Some decades ago, a young man was attending the University of Saskatchewan, in Canada. Included in the curriculum was biology, and he was taught evolution. After graduation, he specialized in atomic physics, receiving a scholarship to continue his studies at the University of Toronto. As he studied, he saw marvelous evidence of order and design in atomic structures. But no answers were given to the questions: Who designed all of this? When? And why? Without those answers, could he possibly use his knowledge wisely in a world that was then at war? What would guide him? Nationalism? A desire for materialistic rewards? Really, had he acquired true wisdom?
5 Not long after his graduation, that young man and his wife began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. From God’s own Word, they began to get the answers that they had been missing before. They came to know the Creator, Jehovah God. As they studied about Moses at the Red Sea and about Daniel and his companions in Babylon, they learned the importance of fearing not men but God. (Exodus 14:10-31; Daniel 3:8-30) Such godly fear coupled with real love for Jehovah began to motivate them. Soon the entire course of their lives changed. The young man at last knew the One whose handiwork he had studied in biology. He began to understand the purpose of the One whose wisdom he had seen reflected in his study of physics. Instead of using his knowledge to produce instruments that would destroy his fellowman, he as well as his wife wanted to help others to love God and to love their neighbor. They enrolled in full-time service as proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Later, they attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and were sent out as missionaries.
6. If we have wisdom that is rooted in the fear of Jehovah, what shortsighted pursuits will we avoid, and what will we be doing instead?
6 Of course, not everyone can be a missionary. But all of us can enjoy the wisdom that is rooted in fear of Jehovah. If we cultivate that wisdom, we will not be eagerly absorbing the philosophies of men who really are only guessing at what life is all about. We will be applying ourselves to the study of the Bible, inspired by the Source of life, Jehovah God, the one who can give us eternal life. (Psalm 36:9; Colossians 2:8) Instead of becoming slaves of a commercial system that is itself tottering on the brink of ruin, we will heed Jehovah’s counsel to be content with food and covering, while making our relationship with God the foremost thing in life. (1 Timothy 6:8-12) Rather than act as if our future depended on getting well-situated in this world, we will believe Jehovah’s Word when it tells us that the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he who does the will of God remains forever.—1 John 2:17.
7. (a) How does Proverbs 16:16 help us to have a balanced sense of values? (b) What rewards come from making God’s will the focal point of our lives?
7 Proverbs 16:16 encourages us by stating truthfully: “The getting of wisdom [the wisdom that starts with fear of Jehovah] is O how much better than gold! And the getting of understanding is to be chosen more than silver.” Such wisdom and understanding are going to move us to make the doing of God’s will the focal point of our lives. And what is the work that God has entrusted to his Witnesses for this period in human history? Preaching about his Kingdom and helping honesthearted ones to become genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) This is work that yields rewards of true satisfaction and much happiness. With good reason, then, the Bible says: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom.”—Proverbs 3:13.
Safeguard Against Wrongdoing
8. (a) Name a second benefit that comes from fearing God. (b) What is the bad against which we are safeguarded? (c) How does godly fear become a powerful motivating force?
8 A second benefit from fearing God is that we are thus safeguarded against doing what is bad. Those who deeply respect God do not decide for themselves what is good and what is bad. They do not view as bad what God says is good, nor do they consider things that God says are bad to be good. (Psalm 37:1, 27; Isaiah 5:20, 21) Furthermore, a person who is motivated by godly fear does not stop at simply knowing what Jehovah says is good and what he says is bad. Such a person loves what Jehovah loves and hates what Jehovah hates. As a result, he acts in harmony with God’s standards. Thus, as stated at Proverbs 16:6, “in the fear of Jehovah one turns away from bad.” Such godly fear becomes a powerful motivating force to achieve what a person may not be able to do in his own strength.
9. How did a strong desire not to displease God influence the decision of a woman in Mexico, and with what outcome?
9 Even if godly fear is only beginning to develop in a person, it may fortify him to avoid doing something that he could regret for the rest of his life. For example, a pregnant woman in Mexico asked one of Jehovah’s Witnesses about abortion. The Witness read several scriptures to the woman and then reasoned: “To the Creator, life is very important, even the life of those who have not yet been born.” (Exodus 21:22, 23; Psalm 139:13-16) Clinical examination had suggested that her baby might be abnormal. But now, motivated by what she had seen in God’s Word, the woman decided to have her baby. Her doctor refused to see her again, and her husband threatened to leave her, but she was firm. In time, she gave birth to a girl—normal, healthy, and beautiful. Moved with gratitude, she sought out the Witnesses, and they began to study God’s Word with her. Within a year she and her husband were baptized. At a district convention a few years later, they were delighted to meet the first Witness again and introduce her to their lovely four-year-old daughter. Proper respect for God and a strong desire not to displease him certainly exercise powerful influences in one’s life.
10. Godly fear can fortify people to break free from what forms of wrongdoing?
10 Godly fear fortifies us against a broad range of wrongdoing. (2 Corinthians 7:1) When properly cultivated, it can help a person to put a stop to secret sins, known only to himself and Jehovah. It can help him to break free from slavery to alcohol abuse or drug abuse. A former drug addict in South Africa explained: “As I took in knowledge of God, I also developed a fear of hurting or displeasing him. I knew he was watching, and I had a longing to be approved in his sight. It moved me to destroy the drugs that were in my possession by flushing them down the toilet.” Godly fear has helped thousands more in similar ways.—Proverbs 5:21; 15:3.
Protection Against Trembling at Men
11. Against what common snare can wholesome fear of Jehovah safeguard us?
11 Wholesome fear of God also safeguards us against fear of man. Most people are afflicted by fear of man to a greater or lesser degree. Even the apostles of Jesus Christ abandoned him and fled when he was seized by soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane. Later, in the courtyard of the high priest, thrown off balance and in the grip of fear, Peter denied that he was one of Jesus’ disciples and that he even knew him. (Mark 14:48-50, 66-72; John 18:15-27) But the apostles were helped to regain spiritual balance. On the other hand, in the days of King Jehoiakim, Urijah the son of Shemaiah was so overcome with fear that he abandoned his service as a prophet of Jehovah and fled the country, only to be seized and killed anyway.—Jeremiah 26:20-23.
12. (a) To what protection against fear of man does Proverbs 29:25 point? (b) How is trust in God developed?
12 What can help a person to conquer fear of man? After warning that “trembling at men is what lays a snare,” Proverbs 29:25 adds: “He that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” Trust in Jehovah is the key. Such trust is based on knowledge and experience. By studying his Word, we see evidence of the rightness of Jehovah’s ways. We become acquainted with events demonstrating his dependability, the surety of his promises (including that of the resurrection), his love and almighty power. Then when we act on that knowledge, doing the things that Jehovah directs and firmly rejecting what he warns against, we begin to experience firsthand his loving care and his dependability. We personally see evidence that his power is brought to bear to accomplish his will. Our confidence in him grows and, with it, our love for him and our earnest desire to avoid displeasing him. Such trust is built on a solid foundation. It serves as a bulwark against fear of man.
13. How can godly fear help us at our secular work, at home, and at school?
13 Our trusting in Jehovah, coupled with godly fear, will make us firm for what is right if an employer threatens us with the loss of our job for refusal to participate in dishonest business practices. (Compare Micah 6:11, 12.) Such godly fear enables many thousands of Christians to persevere in true worship in the face of opposition from unbelieving family members. It also gives youths attending school the courage to identify themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it fortifies them to deal with ridicule from classmates who make light of Bible standards. Thus, a teenage Witness said: “What they think really doesn’t matter. What Jehovah thinks is what counts.”
14. How are Jehovah’s servants able to come off victorious even when their lives are threatened?
14 That same conviction strengthens true Christians to hold firmly to Jehovah’s ways even when their lives are threatened. They know that they must expect persecution from the world. They realize that the apostles were flogged and that Jesus Christ himself was beaten and killed by wicked men. (Mark 14:65; 15:15-39; Acts 5:40; compare Daniel 3:16-18.) But Jehovah’s servants have full confidence that he can strengthen them to endure; that with God’s help they can come off victorious; that without fail Jehovah will reward those who are faithful—if necessary even by resurrection to life in his new world. Their love for God coupled with godly fear powerfully motivates them to avoid doing anything that would displease him.
15. What enabled Jehovah’s Witnesses to maintain their integrity in the Nazi concentration camps?
15 This motivation enabled Jehovah’s Witnesses to stand up to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps during the 1930’s and 1940’s. They took to heart Jesus’ counsel found at Luke 12:4, 5: “I say to you, my friends, Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One.” Thus, Gustav Auschner, a Witness who was in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, later wrote: ‘The SS shot August Dickmann and threatened to shoot the rest of us if we did not sign a paper renouncing our faith. None of us signed. We had more fear of displeasing Jehovah than of their bullets.’ Fear of man leads to compromise, but fear of God makes one firm for what is right.
The Preservation of Life
16. What enabled Noah to maintain a right course decade after decade till the Deluge, and what was the outcome for him and his household?
16 Noah lived through the last days of the antediluvian world. Jehovah had determined to destroy the wicked world of that time because of man’s badness. In the meantime, however, Noah was in that world that was filled with violence, gross immorality, and indifference toward the divine will. Despite Noah’s preaching of righteousness, “they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.” (Matthew 24:39) Yet Noah was not deterred from the work that God set before him. He did “according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Genesis 6:22) What kept Noah on course year after year right down till the Deluge? Hebrews 11:7 answers: “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear.” As a result, he and his wife and his sons and their wives were preserved through the Deluge.
17. (a) Regardless of what other people do, what should we do? (b) Why are those who fear Jehovah the truly happy people?
17 We live in a period similar in many respects to Noah’s day. (Luke 17:26, 27) Again a warning is being sounded. Revelation 14:6, 7 tells of an angel flying in midheaven who urges people of every nation and tribe and tongue to “fear God and give him glory.” Regardless of what the world around you does, heed those words, and then extend the invitation to others. Like Noah, act in faith and show godly fear. Your doing so can lead to the preservation of your life and the lives of many others. As we contemplate the benefits enjoyed by those who fear the true God, we can only agree with the inspired psalmist who sang: “Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight.”—Psalm 112:1.
How Would You Answer?
◻ What are some outstanding benefits from fearing the true God?
◻ How can wisdom that is rooted in godly fear protect us?
◻ Why does godly fear make us turn away from bad?
◻ How does godly fear protect us against fear of man?
◻ What bearing does godly fear have on our future life prospects?
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“Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight.”—Psalm 112:1