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When rereading The Fear of God by John Bevere, I was reminded of the confusion that can arise concerning the word “fear.”
Several years ago, we were in Australia for my husband’s work. We stayed at an apartment that had maid service. When one of the girls saw John Bevere’s book on my table, she was very adamant that we were not to fear God. Although we both spoke English, I could not adequately explain to her the difference between sacred fear and scared fear. I wonder how many others struggle with this concept.
According to spelling, “sacred fear” and “scared fear” look similar. However, the fears described are different. Both are mentioned in scripture.
Sacred fear is a fear reserved for God who deserves our praise and worship. A person experiences awe and wonder when overcome with reverential fear.
Several Proverbs and a couple of quotes by John Bevere, help clarify the meaning of sacred fear. (or reverential fear)
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge. – Proverbs 1:7aNLT
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. – Proverbs 9:10a NLT
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. – Proverbs 14:27
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning, or the starting place, of an intimate relationship with God.” – John Bevere
“To fear God is to believe God. To believe God is to obey Him.” – John Bevere
Scared fear is a fear of man that causes anxiety and agitation. A person may become worried or panicky when feeling afraid.
The following scriptures reveal that scared fear can be overcome with sacred fear.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. – Proverbs 29:25
The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? – Psalm 118:6 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- discipline. –
II Timothy 1:7 NLT
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1
Sacred fear of the Lord overpowers any scared fear of potential harm by another person. When we place a higher value upon God’s Word than man’s opinion, we turn our hearts to Him with reverential awe.
Hebrews 13:5 NLT says, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” To boldly and confidently declare this statement does not mean that bad things will never happen to us. But, it does give us courage during difficult times.
Scared fear is a force that opposes the spiritual force of sacred fear. While scared fear urges us to believe what is seen and doubt the unseen, sacred fear is the result of faith – believing what is not seen. (see Hebrews 11:1)
God knows we will encounter fear. He also promises to help us overcome our fears. We can cling to Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
In conclusion, we can say that sacred fear reveres the Lord while scared fear dishonors Him.
John Bevere asks, “Are my actions influenced more by God or people?”
My answer is found in Psalm 56:11, “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?”
What is your response?
If you are unsure of your answer, I encourage you to think about Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Sacred fear is full of awe while scared fear is awful.