Are We Afraid of the Wrong Things?

Here at Camp Vision, out in the woods of southern Indiana, we get to see a lot of people’s fears come out into the open. Two common fears we see are the fear of snakes (that’s a big one!) and fear of wasps, of which we have an abundance. When we run camps and conferences, other fears show up as well, such as the fear of praying in public, fear of publicly voicing one’s opinion, and fear of confronting someone who is not following the camp rules.

People are often afraid of things they should not be afraid of, and we spend much time and energy helping people get over their fears so they can be productive Christians. But there is another side to fear that is mostly ignored, and that is learning to be afraid of things we should be afraid of but are not. What might those things be?

Jesus spoke of such misplaced fear in the lives of many people.

Luke 12:4 and 5
(4) “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
(5) But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell [Gehenna]. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

A summary of what Jesus said is that we should not be afraid of what people think of us or what they can do to us, but instead be afraid of the Judgment of God. As Christians, we need not fear being thrown into Gehenna and burned up. [1] Nevertheless, we should be very concerned about our coming Judgment. At the Judgment we will be repaid for how obediently we have lived our lives. If we have lived a life that disregards God and His wishes, then it is natural to fear His Judgment. In fact, we should fear it enough to change our lives and begin doing what He wants us to do.

God created us to do good works (Eph. 2:10). We are not supposed to spend our lives primarily on our interests, and ourselves but we are to seek God’s interests. The Church Epistles address this fact by saying that if any person builds on the foundation of Christ with things that are not permanent, he will suffer loss.

1 Corinthians 3:13b-15
(13) …the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
(14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
(15) If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

No one should want to “suffer loss,” and in fact, we should be afraid of it enough that we change any selfish behaviors we have and build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Many people are taught, “salvation is enough,” and that if “I just get saved, that is the important part.” That phrase is repeated so often one would think it is in the Bible, but it is not. Jesus never said it, nor did any biblical writer. Why? Because God does not want us to “just get saved” but have no rewards. Those who only get saved but do not make any effort to live a godly and obedient life will be ashamed of their behavior when they stand before Christ.

1 John 2:28
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

Are you afraid of Christ being ashamed of you at the Judgment? I am enough afraid of it that it is one of the reasons I give my life for him and do what he says. Preaching the fear of God is not easy, but it is important. Jay Carty, founder of “Yes! Ministries,” says it this way:

You may be saying, “Jay, I want to hear about the love of God. Don’t preach the fear of God to me.” Listen carefully. I spend half my time on the road and there’s been an occasion or two when it’s just been a solid dose of the fear of God that has kept my nose clean. I have even gotten to the point of being willing to disobey God, but I was afraid of the consequences. [2]

The love of God is important, but it is only one side of the coin. Each of us will get what we deserve, even in Paradise.

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

This is not an isolated verse. There are many such Scriptures. God does not want us to be surprised at the time of Judgment. He loves us and wants us to have “…a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11b). That’s why He tells us ahead of time that we will eventually “get paid” for what we do, and even tells us what to do to get those rewards.

It is true that some of the things God asks us to do are challenging and even scary. But hey, that is why He gives us rewards for doing them. We are Christ’s ambassadors for God on earth (2 Cor. 5:20), so it is important that we push through our fears and learn to represent Him. Is it scary and unsettling to share the Christian faith with a stranger or someone you do not know that well? Surely. But it is important. We should love people enough to offer them salvation and the truth. Unfortunately, most Christians are more afraid of the person (and how he or she may react) than they are of God, who created them and asks them to share the Good News. That was exactly what Jesus was teaching in Luke 12 (quoted above) when he said that we should be more afraid of God than men.

Many Christians do not seem to have any fear of what Jesus will say to them about the fact that they did not do what he asks. Many believers hardly ever pray, read their Bible, fellowship with others in a Christian setting, share their faith, or give money to a Christian cause, yet they live with no fear of the Judgment. Sometimes we are afraid of the wrong things.


[1] Once a person becomes a Christian, his salvation is secure. For more on this, see our books The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul, Appendix C, “The Permanence of Christian Salvation,” and The Gift of Holy Spirit: The Power to Be Like Christ, Appendix A, “The Administration of the Sacred Secret.”
[2] Carty, Jay. Counter Attack: Taking Back Ground Lost to Sin. Multnomah Press, Portland, OR, 1988, p. 114.

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