Insight Into Our Fear
27 August 2017
A study on the proper fear of God by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Insight Into Our Fear
God knows that His people have a problem with fearing other people. He has given us His promises so that we can be confident that He will protect and comfort us. He has preserved for us examples of how He has always been faithful to keep those promises. In Isaiah 51:12-13, before God calls His people to stop fearing other people, He reminds them of those truths—that He has given His promises and He has proved to be faithful.
In spite of God’s promises and the examples of His faithfulness, we still fear other people. So it will be helpful to better understand our fear. This is important because our fear of people stands in the way of our fearing God. Let’s review some reasons why we fear other people: we are afraid that they might hurt us; we are afraid of what they think about us; we hold them in awe, we are controlled by them because we fear what they think; we worship them; we put our trust in them; or we believe that we need them or their approval (Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small, p. 14).
I want us to look at Ps 55 this morning because in it David describes his full-on experience of fear. We’re going to trace three themes throughout the psalm. As we learn what he went through, it can help us apply that to our own experiences of fear. We’ll look at the recipe for fear that he faced, how he responded to that by fearing people, and then how he regulated his fear with faith.
I. Recipe for fear
First, I want us to look at how other people provide the ingredients for us to fear them. But before we launch into that, keep in mind that other people do not cause us to fear them. Fear is our response. Their sin does not cause us to fear them. We need to realize that we have a choice. There IS hope for us. Second, I want to point out that we’re talking here about sinful fear, not natural fear. If someone pulls a knife on you, you should experience fear. Your fear becomes sinful when you do not regulate it by faith. If your fear of dying is greater than your fear of God, it becomes sinful.
There are several ingredients for fear in Psalm 55:3. People say things that hurt, make threats, insinuate things about David. They exert pressure on him as they seek to get their way. The trouble they bring down on him is pictured as something they’ve tipped over so that it comes crashing down on him (MacArthur). If David stands in the way of something they want, they will bring trouble upon him. If they don’t get their way, they remain angry and bear a grudge against him.
Look now at Psalm 55:9-11. Once again, there are things people say. There is also violence, strife, sin, mischief, destruction, oppression. They constantly stir things up by being deceitful, tricky.
So far, it might seem that David is talking about an enemy outside of Israel or outside of his circle of family and friends. But that isn’t what we find. Look at Psalm 55:12-14.
We often think of enemies as wicked people outside of church and family, but that is not what we find often in Scripture. Such incorrect thinking prevents us from facing conflicts honestly and from receiving biblical help. While those in conflict with us are sometimes openly wicked people, it is more common to experience conflict with those within our church family, our family or others in our religious circle. Some people think David may have written this in response to the treachery of his own son Absalom or his trusted advisor Ahithophel. See 2 Sam 15-18.
It isn’t really “us vs. them” but rather “us vs. us”. Think about it. If the world (media, liberals, evolutionists, atheists) think badly about us, we take that as a badge of honor. But if someone close to us talks badly about us, it hurts far more! Fear is more likely to come from the way people close to us treat us or think about us. We can feel the need for their acceptance or approval.
What are more ingredients that make for a recipe to fear people? Look at Psalm 55:18-21. Other people cause turmoil, seem to always be battling him, upset his peaceful living, they stir up others against him and gather other people to their side. David prays some pretty hard things against them. How can he justify that? In this situation, he came to realize that these people are opposed to change and opposed to repentance. How does he know that? Their behavior demonstrates that they “do not fear God”. They don’t obey God, they do not live according to God’s word, they don’t repent.
They upset the peace in relationships. Their speech is destructive. They manipulate with words, flatter people, draw people to their side, gossip, tear others down, promote themselves. When David said that their “heart was war…his words…were drawn swords” and that they are men of bloodshed (V23), we might be tempted to think this only applies if someone is trying to kill us.
But what did Jesus do with this in the Sermon on the Mount? In Mt 5:21-22, He said that sinful anger is murder within the heart. They use angry words to hurt and that can tempt you to fear.
II. Responding in fear
How might we respond to these ingredients and fear people? How might we take the bait? In Psalm 55:1-2, while it is good that David calls out to the Lord, there seems to be some fear that God might not answer him. He experiences inner turmoil, causing him to be restless and to mourn. Look at Psalm 55:4-5.
Did you notice the five fear terms David used? Try to picture him paralyzed with the fear of man. He is in anguish, terror, fear, trembling and horror. He is a wreck on the inside and is shuddering on the outside. He describes these as happening to him. Like us, he seems to view the fear of people as something that is caused by others as if he has no choice but to respond this way. Look at Psalm 55:6-8.
Here, David desires to escape his troubles. Now, the desire to get away isn’t always bad. A respite from trouble can be OK. It depends on whether it is motivated by fear of men or not. But here, it’s probably not good. Look at Psalm 55:9-12]. Do you sense his hopeless perspective? His situation seems impossible to handle. In Psalm 55:18 he mentions that many are against him. Again, hopelessness.
III. Regulating fear by faith
Psalm writers often present us with both their struggle and the help they eventually found. David does that here. We’ve seen how he recognized the ingredients that made for a recipe to fear people and he responded initially in fear so profound that he was left paralyzed and trembling. But our God doesn’t leave us there. By His Spirit we are brought around to remembering the help He provides in His word and help in applying it to our situation. So what did David remember and apply?
First, he turned to God and sought God’s help (Psalm 55:1-2). Don’t pretend that there isn’t a problem.
And don’t be dismayed when your initial prayer to God is cluttered with bits of unbelief, discontentment or complaining. Turn to God. You need His help with these things too. In fact, these things may be the very reason why God has brought these circumstances. He may not deliver you out of the circumstances but He will deliver from sinful responses to those circumstances.
Be committed to praying regularly for His help and to lay out your situation to Him (Psalm 55:16-17). Remind yourself that God will hear you, help you and deal with the other person (Psalm 55:17b-19a, 23).
Second, be open and honest in your requests to God (Psalm 55:3-21). Be honest about the state of your own soul and the help you need with your faith and your response. Be honest about the trouble that has come upon you. It can help you think through the details of your situation openly before the Lord and help to steer your perspective. Also be open about the nature of the relationship issues involved (Psalm 55: 12-14). Be assured that you can pray for God to thwart those who threaten you (Psalm 55:9).
Third, lead your soul to confident rest in God’s character. Look at Psalm 55:22. How do you do this?
Work to assure yourself that God is the one who has led you into this valley. Literally, the word for “burden” here is “that which He has given to you”. It refers to your circumstances, your lot in life. That which you have been given to bear, has been given to you by God. So, David calls on believers to cast upon Yahweh that which Yahweh has placed upon them. Our God has given these circumstances to us as an occasion for us to respond to them in faith and in confident trust. But He doesn’t expect us to see to the outcome. That is His job, not ours. It’s way above our pay grade to see to the outcome. So David calls us to cast the outcome of our circumstances upon Yahweh.
Rest in God’s character. He uses God’s personal name here because it stands for God’s character. He is our faithful, covenant-keeping God who is good, wise and sovereign. And that is where our rest comes from. Rest comes from our trust Psalm 55:23) in what we know to be true about our God.
Regulate your fear. Respond to a recipe for fear by regulating your fear. Regulate fear by applying an active faith that trusts confidently in God and His character. Say to yourself, “God brought these circumstances upon me. He is wise and knows what He’s doing. He is good in doing this. He is in sovereign control of these circumstances. And He will be faithful to fulfill His promises to me.”
Regulating our fear results in a confident rest in God amidst turbulent circumstances. With fear regulated, we can rest securely even though we are surrounded by sinners just like us and the troubles we bring each other.