The world in which we live is full of countless things that make us afraid. Some fear spiders, others snakes, others heights, others highways, and some even fear tight spaces.
As a boy in the third grade, I went on a field trip to a state park to explore caves. In a single file line, we entered a small cave and I remember feeling very anxious about the tight quarters. I also had a fear of the dark and the cave was very dark in some areas. However, when the teacher asked if any of us had a problem with entering the cave, I did not want anyone to think I was scared or intimidated, especially not the girls in line. My fear of other people's negative perception was stronger than my fear of the cave.
There are three types of fear: a Holy Fear, a Healthy Fear, and a Harmful Fear. What is a Holy Fear? This is the fear of the Lord. It does not mean to be afraid of the Lord, but to be in awe of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is an awesome reverence, and altogether respect for the greatness, goodness, and the glorious nature of God.
What is a Healthy Fear? It is the fear of doing something that may be dangerous or life threatening. A young child learns to avoid playing too close to the road, or not to jump out of a tree (a fear that some parents are only able to teach their children after a trip to the emergency room). These types of fear do not hinder us, but help us, by setting up safeguards in our life.
What is a Harmful Fear? Paul speaks about this type of fear to his understudy, Timothy, when he wrote, "God has not given you the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Timothy was struggling with fears that were actually hindering him. He was fighting against fears that if he did not overcome them, would potentially undermine his ministry for the Lord.
Harmful fears are the consequence of the fall of man, recorded in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord and their God consciousness was replaced with a self consciousness that made them perceive themselves as naked and vulnerable.
However, the fear that should trump all fears is our reverence and awe of the Lord. This fear accomplishes two things: A longing to be near to the Lord and a love for what is dear to Him. Just as that young boy stood before a cave, this grown man stands before a life to which God has called him. It is when the fear of the Lord is greater than my fear of failure, inadequacy, rejection, inferiority, etc., that God is able to mold and make me into the man He desires me to be, and to empower me to accomplish what would have been impossible for me to achieve alone.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).