Yesterday, I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”
This FEAR-FAITH declaration is not a new one and I’ve heard it many times before. You probably have been taught the same thing … that FAITH and FEAR are diametrically opposite, never to be seen or mentioned together. Well, this is not altogether inaccurate but I’d like to share a different perspective to the relationship with faith and fear. Relationship?! Yes, I have found that these two words do and can co-exist. I discovered this when I re-read one of my favourite verses one day, Hebrews 11:7 …
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Heb 11:7 NKJV
It never occurred to me before but that day, I read the verse again and realised that both faith and fear were mentioned together in the same verse! Because I had been taught that the two words don’t go together, I completely missed the significance of this verse. In my mind, each time faith is mentioned, fear cannot be present; and vice versa. As a result, I had conditioned myself to dislike the word ‘fear’ and developed an automatic blotting out of that word whenever it appeared; and especially when faith is mentioned. I didn’t realise that by adopting that posture, I also conveniently erased every understanding of fear, including that of godly fear or the fear of the Lord!
Noah was a man of faith. And it was his faith in the Lord – what he believed in and of God – that produced a holy, reverent or godly fear which in turn moved him to obey every instruction and warning that came from God. When God said that He would judge mankind, He meant it! When God said that He would bring a flood, He meant it! When God told Noah to build an ark, Noah readily obeyed because his faith brought about a holy fear that God meant what God said! And if Noah didn’t proceed to work on the vessel for the next 120 years, he too would have been swept away by the waters, whether or not he repeated his salvation prayer or not!
We see the same example in our Lord Jesus Christ “who, in the days of his flesh, when He offered prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb 5:7-8 NKJV) If anyone had 100% faith, Jesus did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He had complete faith in the Father whether the cup was removed or not. And yet, filled and led by the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2), Jesus submitted to the Father’s will for “His delight [was] in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3). Like Noah, by faith, Jesus, moved with godly fear, obeyed and went all the way to the cross. Once again, the corresponding result of faith was fear, godly fear; and out of that, obedience.
My point? Simply this: Without realising it, our minds have been shaped by one-liners like “Fear and faith cannot co-exist.” or “Fear looks. Faith leaps.” As such, subconsciously, we have learnt to detest the word ‘fear’, even if it is godly or holy. Even when teaching about the fear of the Lord, we tend to qualify that as ‘reverence’ or ‘awe’, all too quickly and apologetically even. Clearly, we fear the word ‘fear’ and as far as possible, we’d rather not have it. Consequently, Christians today have little understanding of what it truly means to fear the Lord. We may say that we reverence Him or worship Him or hold Him in awe, but somehow, it just isn’t the same! We may lift our hands in darkened auditoriums and shed tears when we feel the tingles but as long as we don’t respond in obedience, we just do not fear the Lord! And that’s the problem with faith as we know it today. We have been told that faith and fear simply do not go together. And so, our faith in our God is just that. We talk so much about faith but few are ever moved, as Noah and Jesus were, by godly fear that results in sacrificial obedience.
So yesterday, when I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”, I couldn’t help but respond with the comment: “Not unless it is godly fear.”