Five Reasons to Fear God and Not Man
THE young man was pleasantly surprised. What had just happened was totally unexpected. His discussion with two of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been an eye-opener. The question of why God permits suffering had bothered him for years, but now it had been clearly answered from the Bible. He had no idea that the Bible contains so much valuable and heartwarming information.
A few minutes after the visitors left, his landlady stormed into his room and asked angrily, “Who were those people?”
Taken by surprise, the young man could offer no answer.
“I know who they are,” she yelled, “and if you receive them again, you can move out and look for a room elsewhere!”
She slammed the door and left.
Christ’s True Followers Expect Opposition
What this young man experienced is not unusual. God’s Word, the Bible, explains: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) True Christians generally are not popular and never have been. Why not? The apostle John told his fellow Christians: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” Satan the Devil is also portrayed as “a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 John 5:19; 1 Peter 5:8) Fear of man is one of Satan’s most effective weapons.
Even Jesus Christ, who did so much good and committed no sin, was ridiculed and persecuted. He observed: “They hated me without cause.” (John 15:25) On the night before his death, he prepared his followers with these words: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
On this account, many hesitated to take a stand for true worship. Of those who were looking for Jesus on one occasion, the Bible says: “No one, of course, would speak about him publicly because of the fear of the Jews.” (John 7:13; 12:42) The religious leaders of the day threatened to ostracize any who put faith in Christ. Thus, fear of man prevented many from becoming Christians.
Later, after Christianity had been established, we read of “great persecution” against the congregation in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1) In fact, throughout the Roman Empire, the Christians faced adversity. Prominent men in Rome told the apostle Paul: “As regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Yes, genuine Christians were widely opposed.
Even today, Satan still uses the fear of man as a weapon to hinder many from becoming Christ’s genuine followers. Sincere people who are studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses face opposition or ridicule in school, at work, in the neighborhood, or in social circles. They may fear losing respect, friends, or material support. In some rural areas, farmers fear that neighbors might refuse to help with the harvest or to protect their livestock. Despite such fears, however, millions have resolved to trust in God and to live according to God’s Word, in imitation of Jesus Christ. Jehovah has blessed them for doing so.
Why Fear God, Not Man
The Bible urges us to fear God, not man. It says: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) This fear is, not a morbid dread, but a healthy concern over displeasing our Life-Giver. It is a term that is closely related to love. Why, though, should we fear God and not man? Let us consider five reasons.
1 Jehovah is the Supreme One. Jehovah is far more powerful than any human. By fearing God, we take a stand on the side of the Almighty, to whom “the nations are as a drop from a bucket.” (Isaiah 40:15) Because God is almighty, he has the power to defeat “any weapon whatever that will be formed against” those who are loyal to him. (Isaiah 54:17) And since he will determine who is worthy to receive everlasting life, we are wise to let nothing stop us from learning about him and doing his will.
2 God will help and protect us. “Trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected,” says the Bible at Proverbs 29:25. The fear of man is a snare because it can cause us to shrink back from professing faith in God. God assures us of his saving power: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.”
3 God loves those who draw close to him. The apostle Paul wrote these touching words: “I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) If we learn to trust in and obey God, we can enjoy the unbreakable love of the Universal Sovereign. What a privilege!
4 We appreciate all that God has done for us. Jehovah is our Creator, the one who has made life possible. In addition, he has provided not just the necessities of life but also the things that make life enjoyable and interesting. Indeed, he is the Source of every good gift. (James 1:17) David, a faithful man who appreciated God’s loving-kindness, wrote: “Many things you yourself have done, O Jehovah my God, even your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us . . . They have become more numerous than I can recount.”
5 Some who oppose us may change. You can help those who oppose you by not compromising but holding fast to your fear of God and love for him. Consider Jesus’ relatives. At first, they did not put faith in him, but they said: “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21; John 7:5) Later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, many of them became believers. Jesus’ half brothers James and Jude even shared in the writing of the Scriptures. There was also the fanatic persecutor Saul, who became the apostle Paul. Some who now cause us trouble may come to see that we have the truth from the Bible because of our courageous stand.
For example, Aberash, a woman in Africa, had been praying to find the truth. After she began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, she faced fierce opposition from her family members and religious leaders. Some of her relatives, who had also begun studying, gave in to the fear of man. But she implored God for strength and courage and was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The result? Eight of her relatives took courage, resumed their Bible studies, and are making good spiritual progress.
You Can Conquer the Fear of Man
To avoid falling prey to the fear of man, do all you can to strengthen your love for God. You can do this by studying the Bible and meditating on such texts as Hebrews 13:6, which says: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Do not forget the reasons why fearing God rather than man is the right and wise thing to do.
Keep in mind, too, the many blessings that result from applying what you learn from the Bible. You can find satisfying answers to life’s important questions. You can gain practical wisdom to deal with life’s challenges. You can enjoy a wonderful hope despite today’s perplexing conditions. And you can approach the almighty God at any time in prayer.
The apostle John wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Now is the time to stand firm and walk in the fear of God. Rather than caving in to the fear of man, you can choose to respond to God’s exhortation: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) What a grand privilege that is!
Remember, no human can give you what God will give to those who fear him: “The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”
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Because of her courage, eight of Aberash’s relatives continue to enjoy personal Bible studies