Last weekend, my family and I had the opportunity of attending a much-anticipated church retreat at Storybook Lodge. Besides it being one of the most physically demanding (tackle football, Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, softball, kayaking...you get the picture) and sleep-depriving times of the year, it was also a very thought provoking time, as we strove to grow deeper in Christ. Here is just one thing I took away from this year’s retreat.
“'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”
In my previous article, I touched upon the subject of fear, but would like to expound on it now.
When singing Amazing Grace up at Storybook, the second verse stuck out to me when it says “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;” Now at first it seems like this verse is a little bit contradictory- it is good (by grace) that we fear, but also good (by grace) that we are relieved from fear?! But praise God, because He cleared up this confusion for me.
The Bible clearly tells us to fear God. 1 Peter 2:17 says to “fear God.” Proverbs 3:7 urges us to fear the Lord in order that we may depart from evil. Psalms 111:10 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”
Also, Matthew 10:28 tells us “And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
Obviously then, God is to be the only One worthy of our fear. In a way, fear is like faith; it is only as good as the object it is placed in. Just as faith in works for salvation is wrong, so is fear in something other than the Lord.
I believe fear to be something like “respectful dread; awe; reverence.”
Because God clearly tells us to fear Him, whom we fear is very important. Why? Consider the following excerpt by Bill Jack in the book No Retreats No Reserves No Regrets:
“Entire civilizations have built their cultures around fear. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the crocodile. Why? They feared it. The crocodile would crawl up out of the Nile and eat their cattle and their children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the crocodile, they made it into a god. Fear drove their culture. By the time of the demise of the Egyptian civilization, because they rejected the one true God, their religion recognized over 3,000 different gods. On the headrests they used as pillows, the Egyptians had carved inscriptions to protect them from nightmares. These people lay down at night in fear of offending one of a myriad of gods. They were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.
The Mayans, too, had many gods. They made a god out of the jaguar. Why? They feared it. The jaguar would crawl out of the jungle and eat their cattle and children – not necessarily in that order. So, in order to control or to appease the jaguar, they worshipped it. Their fears drove them to conquer and to enslave neighboring peoples. Because they believed the sun-god would not rise every day unless appeased by human sacrifice, each morning four priests would drag a captive victim to the top of a pyramid, stretch him out on an altar while a fifth priest would cut out and hold up to the sun the victim’s still-beating heart. It is reported that on one high, holy day, 20,000 victims were sacrificed. These people rose in fear every morning of offending one of a myriad of gods they feared. They, too, were enslaved to fear, and fear drove their culture to extinction.
Now we moderns make fun of the Egyptians and the Mayans, but we are not that far removed from them. If we fear not having enough money, we make material things our gods. If we fear not having enough friends, we make people into our gods. In other words, what one fears is what one worships. What is it that scares you spitless? Losing your hair? Losing your youth? Losing your job? Whatever it is that you fear the most is what you will worship.”
Because we worship whom we fear, it becomes obvious why God wants our undivided fear. In order to keep God at the center of our lives, and to be in this world, but not of it, it is clear that fearing God is a very important part of being able to do this.
So, going back to the song, it is by God’s amazing grace that He saved us and has taught and continues to teach us to fear Him. Likewise, it is by His grace that He delivered us from the former fears (the things that we used to worship), and delivered us unto Himself.