Overcome The Fear of Man
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
How many times have you allowed fear to choke your faith? I’ll be the first to admit that it’s so easy to allow the cares of this world, others’ opinions, and life circumstances to shift our gaze off of the Lord, and interrupt our abiding in Him as we walk in His way.
In my personal life, I’ve seen that when I prioritize feeding my faith, fear is starved, and it’s not given room to derail. Fear occurs when we see a threat, and can be a helpful “alarm” when we are in need of a shift in direction. I am more specifically addressing faith choking fear; the kind of fear that can brainwash us of God’s promises, faithfulness, and goodness. This kind of fear can lead us into a downward spiral of poor decisions, disobedience, and pride.
There are many fears we can address, but perhaps the most subtle and enslaving is the fear of man.
Proverbs 29:25- “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
The fear of man can manifest itself in several different ways such as: the need of approval, fear of disapproval, peer pressure, need for recognition, fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of disappointing others, fear of falling behind or the fear of missing out. Just to name a few.
We obey what we fear, which is what makes the fear of man one of the most dangerous snares. If those fears lead rather than the fear of the Lord we can expect to stumble in: disobedience, timidity, discouragement, inactivity, poor self-confidence and instability in our faith. All those things not only choke our faith but they also become roadblocks to serving and glorifying the Lord.
The fear of man sets us on the road to foolishness because it replaces the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of all wisdom (Psalm 111:10). We are called to love and fear God supremely, which is what drives our obedience. Our obedience is interrupted and hindered when others’ opinions and approval become more important. Since fear can severely prevent us from faith-filled obedience and doing God’s will, we can see why the enemy works so hard to bring fear in our lives.
I’ve seen three consequences in my life that can result from the fear of man:
Ineffectiveness. We neglect God’s calling for us when we fear man and are too preoccupied with what others are thinking. We no longer progress spiritually when we are afraid of what people think, what people say or have said, or what people can do to us. Fear can immobilize us spiritually. Fear will also make God’s Word unproductive in our lives. In describing the thorny ground, Matthew 13:22 said, “The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it [the Word], making it unfruitful.” God’s Word can’t bear fruit in us when we are actively walking in worry and fear.
Idolatry. John Piper puts it this way, “Idolatry starts in the heart: craving, wanting, enjoying, being satisfied by anything that you treasure more than God.” Idolatry is present anytime we want anything more than Jesus and love anything more than Jesus.
Decision Paralysis: We cannot move forward in the convictions and purpose God gives us when we are living out of fear. This results in delayed obedience or partial obedience, which are both still disobedience. When we are led by the Spirit and by the truth in God’s Word, we make decisions with confidence, faith, and wisdom.
While we fall into a trap when we are led by the fear of man, we are kept safe when we trust in the Lord. Trusting God is safe because He is the real God. That doesn’t mean we will never feel afraid when obeying God. My friend Somer Phoebus' husband once said, “It’s okay to feel fearful as long as you remain faithful.” When we choose to obey even if we feel afraid, we learn to trust God’s promises more than our perceptions and reach the place where we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
But here's the thing, you won't trust the Lord if you don't truly know Him and believe Him. John 17:3 says, "Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
Knowing God on a personal and intimate level is more than head knowledge. It's fully accepting and receiving the promise of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God's Word says that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not by our own efforts or works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The more you know, believe and trust in who God is, who He says you are and His promises, the less you will be swayed by the fear of man.
John Piper puts it this way, "The empty craving for the praise of others signals the absence of faith in God’s future grace. The absence of a restful satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus, the absence of the outward look to God in Christ as our meaning and our identity and our security and our worth and our usefulness. And Jesus himself made the connection between faith in God or faith in Jesus and the opposite; namely, craving for human praise."
Wow. The question I keep meditating on is, "Am I satisfied with all that God is for me in Jesus?"
The truth is, if we are determined to get satisfaction and approval from others' affirmation, we will turn away from Jesus because we can't serve two masters. Yet, when we Jesus is our Source of satisfaction, our supreme treasure and our delight, we are kept safe. How? Because our desires follow our delight.
Psalm 37:4-Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Our delights shape our desires. When we are delighting in the Lord, we will desire Him, His way and doing all things for His glory. I will do a blog post soon on what it means to delight in the Lord and grow in this delight!
Now, if you are battling the fear of man, I want to give you three A’s to help you overcome this snare:
Admit: Confession restores our fellowship with God. When we recognize that anything has become more important than God, including others’ opinions, we must confess it as a sin and repent of it. When we confess, we can be confident of God’s immeasurable grace that picks us up and empowers us to make the next right choice with Him, through Him and for His glory.
Acknowledge: Take a time to consider the root of the fear you have. When we make time to articulate our fears, we can see that they are not bigger than God. We are able to find a promise in God’s Word that disarms the fear and build a prayer around it.
Attack: Now that you’ve admitted (confessed) and acknowledged (assessed) the fear of man, you can attack and confront this giant head on with faith and being fully confident of God's love which casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Exercise your faith (knowledge, belief, trust) in God by disarming the root of the fears with His Word, His promises and His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to increase your delight in the Lord that you may release all other forms of satisfaction.
John 8:31-“...If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus gives us the key that when we know the truth (know it, believe it, trust it and obey it), we are set free from the fears and lies that keep us in chains. Disarm your fears with faith and the Truth in God's Word.
The more faith grows, the less fear chokes. Grow your faith by spending intentional time in God’s Word to enjoy Him, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it. Grow your faith by exercising it through your actions and allowing your deeds and obedience to reflect your love for the Lord, His character and His instruction. Grow your faith by confessing what you believe, not what you feel. Grow your faith by sharing it with others.
When you believe God is who He says He is, and you are who He says you are, you will not fall into the trap that comes from the fear of man. When you know, believe, and trust in His love, you can replace panic with prayer, and make wise, faith-filled (instead of fear-filled) decisions that move you forward in God’s will.
If you’d like an extra challenge, I’d love to invite you to make a list of your top fears on one side of a sheet of paper and on the other disarm the fear with God’s Word! Rooting for you!