Fear of God

by Morris Ruddick on September 29, 2014


(c) Morris Ruddick

“Teach me your ways O Lord and I will walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your Name.” Psalm 86:11MARYPRAY

During a recent mission to Benin, West Africa, we attended a traditional African Church wedding. It was a three hour service, unlike any wedding ceremony we have ever experienced in the West. The couple was exhorted on the foundations of their new relationship: in love, humility AND the fear of the Lord.

However, not only did the bride and groom take their vows of marriage, but the parents took vows to uphold the new relationship, in the fear of the Lord. Likewise, an older woman, a widow, considered wise in her ways was assigned to mentor the new wife during the first year of the marriage. There was more, but the thrust was that this new marriage became a responsibility of the community.

I later learned that this community, despite the odds during a major time of change, has not had one divorce in more than three decades.

Facing Times of Change
For four decades, I have wielded a mantle in both business and ministry as a Kingdom marketplace pioneer. Repeatedly, this has involved assignments with those going through a significant time of change. Those I have served have ranged from ministries like CBN and Morris Cerullo to numerous well-known multinationals.

Working with individuals as well as with organizations, when change is underway and something new is being birthed, can take you into uncharted territory. It demands a hard look at what has been the mode of the past, in order to get the fix for the change required to embrace the future. It requires wisdom, flexibility and innovation.

For God’s people, the fear of the Lord and humility are critical to entering times of change. Where leadership is involved, it will also involve honor. These factors are also at the heart of the igniters for those hungering for more of God, to see the consciousness of His presence manifest in genuine revival.

Facing change involves the need to prepare and to be prepared. The fear of the Lord is at the root of this ongoing need to prepare. It’s the core to walking out a call of God. Walking with the Lord is progressive. It will always involve new dimensions.

From the Start
Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Yet, the fear of God is neither a gift nor a fruit of the Spirit, but a continuous choice foundational to our faith and bedrock to spiritual maturity and the knowledge of God.

Too often confused with self-control or a hyper-religious spirit, the fear of God is strengthened by the choices found only in a dimension “beyond ourselves.” Over time, the hard choices become predispositions and a part of who we become in Him.

It was in late 1973, as a relatively young believer, that I left a military career to prepare for ministry at a Christian university. It was during those early days of walking with the Lord, that I first encountered the stiff realities of spiritual warfare with the death of one of our children. It was a shattering jolt. It challenged everything that lay before us in walking out our call of God.

Facing that reality left very little to lean on, other than the fear of the Lord. Friends offered words of comfort, yet very few actually achieved their intent. The only real comfort came from pressing through in prayer and God’s presence.

From that time before the Lord, I sent a note to our closest friends. It expressed our choice, to trust the Lord. The focus of that note was from the response of Job in losing all that he had, including his children. In humility, Job fell on his face before God in repentance and worship.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

Walking out a call of God is a progressive thing. The comforts of this world entice, seduce and divide the mind. God had a higher dimension, something more, for Job.

Job was a man God loved. He did all the right things. Job was successful. He was a leader in the community. He was respected and honored by everyone in the area. Yet, Job fell short. In a day in time, everything changed for him. His losses included the honor that had come from his accomplishments. Job is a story of a dimension in God — that cannot be short-circuited — and the pathway to the protection and honor that only God can supply.

For Job to accomplish his destiny, he needed something more than the results of his own efforts. So it was that he went through a humbling that led to a new revelation of the Lord — and his knowledge of Him. Job learned that it is not what we can do for God. It is what we allow God to do through us.

The subtle difference of this truth is distinguished by the fear of God. When Job received the revelation that brought a much greater depth to his fear of God, not only was everything restored, but it was restored double. That included his receiving the honor that comes only to those who unequivocally fear the Lord.

The Standard
Psalm 15 is short, but pithy. It represents the standard for walking out a call of God. It is the standard for godly leadership and enduring relationships. It is the standard for protection in times of crisis, as well as the standard for revival.

Psalm 15 begins with the question of who is it who can abide and walk with God. It answers that it is the one who walks with integrity and works righteousness. Catch the phrase “WORKS righteousness.” Righteousness here is referring to the Hebrew word “tz’dakah” which more correctly translated means righteous charity, a response to being a part of a community. It is something you do. It reflects being a doer of the Word.

This psalm goes on to describe the one who speaks truth within his own heart. Embracing truth and making it a part of one’s life begins in the heart — the undivided heart. It describes a person who is true to their word and can be trusted. It goes on to say that the one who lives this standard does not slander nor exhibit any evil toward his neighbor.

It continues by noting that worldly success is not the standard. The one who has fallen into the trap of becoming a reprobate — of compromising — is worthy of being despised. However, those who FEAR THE LORD are to be HONORED. It mentions not taking advantage of the less fortunate, by charging interest or accepting a bribe against them. This psalm then concludes by proclaiming that those whose lives reflect these things will never be shaken.

At the foundation of the fear of the Lord are the components of humility and honor. The fear of God has many counterfeits designed to deceive even the elect. They range from pride, to idols in one’s mind, to self-satisfaction, self-righteousness and self-justification, to the illusions that result from being double-minded. Only through humility and fear of the Lord will come the fullness of one’s destiny in God.
“By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” Prov 22:4

Preparing for New Dimensions
In the opening scripture, the Psalmist reveals something very subtle for the one who seeks to walk in the ways of God. It involves a united heart. That means priority given to time spent with God, time seeking His heart.

Embracing oneness with God’s heart also requires a united heart. That applies to both individuals and the body-corporate. Moreover, to release revival requires a united heart within the community of God’s people.

Twice the book of James taps the observation of the “double-minded.” In the first reference not only does the divided-mind not receive from God, it is described as unstable (James 1:8). In the second case (James 4:8), it lumps the double-minded together with sinners, with the admonition that heart-purification is needed for those whose attitudes and priorities are on both sides of the fence.
“Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8

The purification needed from the snares of double-mindedness, more often than not will call for a strong dose of repentance and humility.
“Lament, mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:9

To the Finish
So, while the fear of the Lord is what lays the foundation for knowing the ways of God, it is also the thread of preparedness and maturity defining a stable and purposeful walk with Him. It is the factor that enables the finish to go well. As was seen with the African community, it is the glue for unity and stability. It establishes the wall of fire, the equalizer and protection for God’s people that has no parallel.

It is the standard for enduring relationships, along with being the crux for God’s criterion for leadership. Even more so, the fear of the Lord is bedrock for times of crisis and the igniter for what we describe as revival.

Carol and I came to faith during the vibrant days of the Jesus Movement. It was a time of great spiritual hunger that crossed the boundaries of sectarianism. It was a time of God’s presence when people gathered together just to pray and seek God.

So it has been with those we work with in the persecuted church. The priority is God. Many of their leaders have had their faith forged in hard-labor prisons. They fear God more than what man can do to them. Their minds are focused and united. The double-minded, the masters of technique bypassing this critical dimension are fast to fall in this spiritual environment. The reality of God is gaining critical mass.
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20

The world is looking for the reality of God being demonstrated — through His people. We’ve entered a time Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 as the “beginning of sorrows.” It is approaching a time noted in Luke 21 when men’s hearts will fail due to fear.

The determining factor for what’s needed will not be a perfect doctrine, eloquent sermons or some super-elite band of hyper-religious. Nothing short of God’s presence and power will suffice. The fear Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 is totally different from the fear of God. It is the response of those whose hearts do not know God and those whose hearts are divided toward him.

Before his ordeal, Job knew God and His ways, in his head. When he emerged, he truly knew God and his ways in his heart. The united heart changes everything.
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6

Critical Mass
God has called those known by His Name to be standard-bearers and agents of change. In today’s chaotic and turbulent world, this task is going to take something more. We are to actuate a new dimension, the spiritual climate that establishes God’s Kingdom rule.

The crucible to release God’s presence and power is us. The antidote for the fear that causes hearts to fail is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the awe, the reverence and total trust in the One who created the world and all who live in it. It is the oneness with Him whose Glory exceeds any dimension this world can offer. It is the humility that accepts the provision of His Truth with the honor due to His Name. It recognizes that, even with our best efforts, we fall short. His ways, His goodness, His wisdom are simply higher than our ways. He is the all-sufficient One.
“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” John 7:18-19

The response, which will evolve into critical mass to be the catalyst, is the fear of the Lord, demonstrated through a people.

So it has been in the history of every revival, every move of God since the first-century church. When the fear of God reaches critical mass among the community of God’s people, amazing, supernatural things start taking place. A genuine fear of God hungers for more of His presence. It produces steadfast prayer. Indefatigable prayer distinguished great revivalists such as John Wesley and Charles Finney, as well as moves of God such as the Moravians. It will be no different in this hour.

The Community Responsibility
Whether the purpose is fostering enduring relationships, establishing the standard for leadership, responding to times of change or crisis, or in serving as a catalyst for revival, the community of God’s people is instrumental.

The responsibility undertaken by the African community to nurture the commitments of their newlyweds represents a significant example for our response to the times. The community of God’s people is ultimately responsible for the infrastructure, preparedness and response needed to take God’s people from one generation to another, in God.
“Keep your soul diligently so that you do not forget the things that your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” Deut 4:9

For three years, Jesus mentored his disciples. He unveiled God’s ways so that they might truly know Him. Declaring that He was the way, the truth and the life, He opened the gates to release Kingdom power through His victory over death. He imparted the priorities of God’s heart.

At the core of preparing this small band of those to whom He would entrust His mantle, was the fear of God. Once that took place, a change took place in His response to them. No longer did He refer to them as servants, but as friends. He had prepared them for change and once they got it, with a united heart and the fear of the Lord, He released them into their destiny.
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” John 15:15

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