Fighting the Fear of ManApril 2, 2007
Following several recommendations, last week I took the opportunity to read Edward Welch’s challenging work “When People are Big and God is Small.” As the title suggests it is an expose of the prevalent problem of people-pleasing and, at the same time, an exhortation to fear the Lord.
The key points that Welch makes have been helpfully summarised by Justin Taylor (who incidentally, admitted to re-reading this book immediately!)
Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.
Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.
Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.
Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.
Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.
Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.
Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.
However, I’d also like to add some other practical suggestions Welch makes in relation to step four: understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. As a practical appendix as to how we might work on this area, Welch proposes the following:
“The key to learning the fear of the Lord is to stay in Scripture. When you are in Scripture, pray that God would teach you that he is the Holy One.
1. Review the creation psalms: Psalms 8; 19; 29; 65; 104.
2. Meditate on the enthronement psalms: eg., Psalm 95-97; 99.
3. Memorize Psalm 139. It states that God’s providence is so extensive it goes into all the details of our lives.
4. Go through a hymn book and highlight songs that express God’s majesty and holiness.
5. Read the book of Habakkuk. It is similar to Job in that God directly addresses a man who had questions about what God was doing. All the questions were resolved when Habakkuk was schooled in the fear of the Lord.
6. Read The Holiness of God, by R.C.Sproul (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1985).
7. Review the New Testament passages on hell. Along with the ones mentioned in this chapter, you could consider 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2 Peter 2:6; and Revelation 14:9-11. Be certain to talk with other people in your church abour your meditations. Bless them with what God is teaching you, and listen to what God is teaching them.
8. Begin a ‘fear of the Lord’ or ‘knowing God’ prayer group.
9. Take time to confess your fear of people and lack of fear of the Lord.
That helpfully leaves space for a tenth recommendation: buy Edward Welch’s book!