Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Courage of Faith (Central Things, Part 2)

"...neither fear their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Is. 8:12-13

There are many people who do not like the "fear of the Lord." Either their cream puff marshmallow version of God cannot allow anyone to fear Him, or the idea of "fearing" God conjures up images of frightfully bowing down before a great and furious despot. Either God is cruel and we are weak or vice versa, neither or which is an attractive option. Many often wonder what is this cowardice that God demands from us, but I have had a different thought: what is this impossible bravery that He has called us to?

Think about it: all of His commands to fear Him are qualified to say that we should only fear Him and nothing else. Others may be offended that God would call us to be weak cowards before His face; I marvel that He would call us to such insane courage in the face of everything else. Fear only God; everything else is not worth your terror. It seems that implicit in our humbling ourselves before God is also a call to reckless confidence (one could almost say braggadocio) before this world with devil's filled. And the grounds of this confidence is not in ourselves but in the knowledge that God is not only greater than us but also greater than all other terrors.

Of course, the "fear" of the Lord has nothing to do with cowardice. Rather, it is about reverence. As I suggested early, it is a matter of humility, of seeing God as actually greater than all (including and especially yourself). In other words, the "fear of the Lord" is about God being the highest thing in your world, the central fact and assumption that informs every other facet of your life. Simply put, it is about being Christ-like, for God was the highest of all to Christ as well (Matt. 26:39; John 5:30, 6:38). Such a life will not only produce holiness but also courage, courage as a product of holiness.

To "sanctify" God in our hearts, to set Him apart as the highest thing that we will ever know, is a fountainhead of not only sanctification but also bravery. If you believe that the great God of all is for you, then truly who or what can be against you? Fear is swallowed up in victory. Oh fear, where is thy sting? Oh dread, where is your victory? You who are faint of heart: lift your anxious hands and strengthen your feeble knees and fear the Lord who loves you, and let the boldness of your belief drown out every lesser terror in the light of His glory and grace.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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