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The Fear of Man

By Luke Hobbs
 

The problem discussed in this article is one of the most sinister sins Satan plants in every Christian. This sin is why Peter denied Jesus, why Pilate put Jesus on the cross, why the disciples fled at Jesus’ arrest, and why we aren’t the effective Christian witnesses God wants us to be. This sin is commonly known as "the fear of man."

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all experienced it, and most of us quite regularly. If we could somehow conquer that fear, we could be the best, most fearless Christian witnesses God has at His disposal. And yet we can’t bring ourselves to witness to our family members, much less the guy down the street. I know. I’ve been there. Well, considering that the problem we have is the fear of man, the question we should ask is: "How do we conquer the fear of man?"

Well, the answer is simple. We don’t. But God does. You see, the fear of man is rooted in pride. We don’t want people to think we’re crazy or weird, so we just sit back and watch them go to hell. Jesus has a word for us. In Matthew 10:28, He said to His disciples, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

In other words, Jesus said, "Guys, don’t worry about people down here. The worst thing they can do is kill you. You ought to be afraid of My Father, because He can not only kill you but throw you into hell." As Justin Martyr so aptly put it to his persecutors, "You can kill us, but you can’t hurt us."

The point is that we should care about what God thinks infinitely more than we care about what other people think. If we could ever get to the point where we didn’t care what people thought of us, that would be the point where God could use us mightily in His work. Think of it: witnessing at every street corner, in a booth at the restaurant, in line at Wal-Mart.

You may say, "But can’t we witness with our changed lives rather than our words?" Sure. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, "Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words." And Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." However, in our day and age (or in any day and age, for that matter), I believe God calls us to an audible witness. Paul and Peter and the other apostles didn’t sit back and try to convert people through their changed lives. They went on the offensive. They converted thousands to Christ through their bold, fearless preaching of the Word. Great preachers of the Great Awakening such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley could’ve have decided to just try to change people without actually witnessing to them, but instead they let God use them as the most powerful preachers of the Great Awakening, one of the greatest revivals in history.

Now, I’m not telling you to go out and preach a sermon at your workplace, your school, your supermarket, but I am saying this: God can and does send people our way who want to talk with us about Christ after seeing our faith; however, we have no guarantee that He will. The only way to reach the vast majority of Americans is to get out and witness to them.

I believe the best way to conquer our natural fear of man is to ask God to give you the grace to not care what anyone will think. Ask yourself: "What do I care about more: what other people think of me, or what my Heavenly Father thinks of me?" Hopefully, we’ll all choose the latter.

I’m not saying it’s easy, by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, it’s a very difficult decision to put yourself in God’s hands and trust Him rather than fearing man. I struggle with it everyday. Then again, it’s what He loves for us to do. When we step out on faith in Him, He can use us to rock our respective worlds.

The song "Jesus Freak," by dc Talk, sums it up nicely: "What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak? What will people do when they find that it’s true? I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak. There ain’t no disguising the truth."

Let’s have that kind of attitude, and watch as God works in our lives. "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe" (Proverbs 29:25).