Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Living in the Fear of God

By Dennis Pollock


King David is firmly established in history as one of the greatest kings and national leaders who ever lived. David was many things: a poet, a writer, a king, and a warrior. His introduction to leadership began at an early age. After killing the giant, Goliath, King Saul made him a commander over a substantial part of his army. David was so effective as a military leader that the women of Israel began to sing: "Saul has killed his thousands and David, his tens of thousands," which didn't make Saul feel very good about his new lieutenant.


After fleeing from Saul, when the king's jealousy began to threaten David's life, David found men coming to him, seeking him to lead them. He soon had a group of around 400 men, which increased quickly to 600. After Saul was killed in battle David was made king of the southern part of Israel, where his tribe, the people of Judah lived. Within a few years after that he became king over all Israel and led the nation to the end of his days.


Although his reign was fraught with battles and struggles, David had a terrific track record. Israel grew stronger and stronger under his reign, while their archenemies, the Philistines, grew weaker and weaker. By the time David passed off the scene, David's leadership and his tremendous military victories made it possible for his son, Solomon, to reign in his father's place in relative peace and calm for many decades.


Counsel to Leaders


If anyone knew a thing or two about leadership, it was surely David. And near the end of his life, as he was feeling reflective, he sat down and wrote his feelings about what makes one a good leader. He acknowledged that his gifts and great victories had come from God, and introduced himself in this way:


Thus says David the son of Jesse;

Thus says the man raised up on high,

The anointed of the God of Jacob,

And the sweet psalmist of Israel… (2 Samuel 23:1)


David was anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God's calling on his life, and he knew this full well. His victories, his successes, and his effective leadership had come from more than his own skills and talents. They had come from the Holy Spirit. Then David gives what he considers a major requirement for those who desired leadership, writing:


The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me:

‘He who rules over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God.'


"Fear of God" is for All


In this study I want to look at the phrase: "the fear of God." It is a common phrase in the Bible, appearing in both the Old and New Testaments. But for many people today, it seems to fit more with the Old than the New Testament. After all, in the Old Testament we have God thundering from Mount Sinai, striking down enemy armies, and threatening Israel with judgments and misery through His servants, the prophets. We shudder and feel ourselves blessed to live in the New Testament era, where Jesus tells us that we have a generous Father in heaven who loves us and provides for us. Surely we no longer need to fear God these days; He is our loving "Abba," our kind Father who inspires only love and security, and never fear.


I know that sounds right, but the truth is, the fear of God is not limited to the Old Testament. We have ample New Testament verses and exhortations that refer to our need today, as born-again, blood-washed, forgiven, and justified believers in Jesus Christ to fear the Lord. Paul writes:


Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)


Those who have put their faith in Jesus are exhorted by Paul the apostle (and he ought to know) that they are to live holy lives, and they are to "perfect holiness," that is, to grow into greater holiness as the days and years go by. And Paul tells us that a major aspect of this happening in our lives is the fear of God. No one can live a careful, godly, upright life who has no fear of God. Fearing God is an indispensable aspect of holiness.


Fear & Comfort


In the Book of Acts, we are told that the fear of the Lord in first-generation followers of Christ was a major part of their walk. We read these words:


And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied (Acts 9:31).


Many Christians today would like the idea of the comfort of the Holy Spirit but would not be too keen on this business of walking in the fear of the Lord. But we are told in the inspired Scriptures that both were the case. The early followers of Jesus walked in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Fear and comfort were working simultaneously in their lives and in the church. And as a result of this combination fear/comfort experience with God, the churches grew and multiplied.


In Peter's first epistle, the apostle gives a short burst of exhortations to believers, saying: "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17).


So what exactly is this fear of God that is supposed to be a part of our experience with Him? Perhaps we can gain some insight by going to one of Moses' exhortations to the Israelites, relating to how they are to treat the weak and handicapped:


"You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:14)


One might ask, "Why would anyone curse a deaf person who cannot even hear him?" Or "Why would someone put a block in front of a blind person, just to watch him trip and fall?" And the answer, of course, is that the only people who would do this would be mocking, cruel people who enjoyed making fun of and taking advantage of a weaker person's handicap. God, knowing how cruel people can be, has Moses tell His people, "Don't you do this. You'd better fear Me and behave yourself around the weak and handicapped."


Healthy Respect


It would seem that to fear God is not to have a terrible, constant fear that leads to paralysis, but it is to have a respect for God, knowing that He who controls your every step and your every breath, can easily make your own life pretty miserable if He finds you misbehaving. After King Belshazzar had a drunken party, drinking from captured Israeli temple cups while he and his guests praised their idol gods, the prophet Daniel chided the king:


You have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified (Daniel 5:23).


The prophet is saying, "King, you have really blown it. You should have shown more respect for this God who controls every aspect of your life, and even every breath you take." This respect for God should mark the lives of all who relate to God through His Son Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we are terrified of our Heavenly Father, but it does mean that we know full well that He can and will discipline us if we get too far out of line.


Fear of the Teacher

In the late 1980's I secured a teaching position in an elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas. I was assigned a group of about 30 second grade students. In the neighboring class was another group of second graders, taught by a young lady. This teacher was quite good with the children, and combined friendliness, firmness, and solid instruction as she taught her little charges reading, writing, and arithmetic. But near the middle of the school year, she got married and moved with her husband to another city. The school hired a substitute teacher to take over the class while they searched for a permanent replacement. This new lady was, to be honest, a terrible teacher. She had no control over the class at all, and soon her students were acting out in ways they never would have done for their former teacher.


These students became loud, unruly, and rebellious to the max. I had known these students throughout that year, and I could hardly believe how different they became. Some of these same students who had been respectful and orderly were now acting like little monsters. It was hard to believe they were the same students, but they were. They had simply lost their fear of their teacher, and wildness and chaos were the order of the day. This lasted for perhaps a month or so. Finally, the school found a replacement, and the substitute teacher went home (where she belonged). The new teacher was also a young lady in her twenties, and like the original teacher, was excellent. She was a good teacher and she was not afraid of disciplining her students. She did not scream at them, but in her quiet way, those children understood she meant business.


And the students calmed down immediately. They became orderly and polite once again. It was amazing to me to see the difference. In under a year those seven and eight-year-old children had morphed from polite and well behaved into rude, disrespectful little monsters, and then morphed again back into polite and well-behaved students. I thought to myself, "Wow – what a difference the teacher makes!"


God of Discipline


That was the "fear of the teacher." But in the Bible we are instructed to walk in "the fear of the Lord." We are to show respect for the God who loves us, who provides for us, who encourages us and heals us – but who can and will discipline us if we get out of line. In Hebrews we read:


If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons (Hebrews 12:7-8).


Getting back to King David, we are reminded that if we are to rule over men and women, if we are to exercise leadership in the body of Christ, or even in the world at large, we should rule in the fear of God. We must recognize that those over which we have authority are precious to God, and we had better be careful not to be too harsh with them.


Of course, most of us will never become kings, presidents, or prime ministers, but nearly all of us "rule" or exercise leadership over someone. Parents rule over their children, bosses rule over their employees, coaches rule over their players, and pastors exercise leadership over their congregations. And David is giving solemn warning, telling us that if God has placed you in any leadership position, you had better exercise your leadership "in the fear of God."


There is something about leadership that has the tendency to make us haughty and sometimes a bit rude and demanding. But we had better be careful. The same God who made you a leader can get tough with you, if you are being too harsh with those under you.


Jesus our Leader


Jesus Christ is the ultimate Leader – He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And yet he washed the feet of His disciples, bore with their foolishness, and at the end of His life He died on the cross on their (and our) behalf. Talk about servant-leadership! He has risen from the dead and now He empowers us to minister in His name, and sometimes He will place us in great positions of authority and leadership. We thank God that he "counts us faithful, putting us into the ministry." But as we exercise that ministry, we will do well to remember King David's exhortation: "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God."


And even if we have no position of leadership at all, still, as with every believer, God calls us to "perfect holiness in the fear of God." We must allow a healthy respect for God's discipline to keep us walking in a way pleasing to our loving heavenly Father, and demonstrating compassion and mercy toward those over whom we have authority.





For a full listing of all articles, written and audio, go to our Devo Catalog Page.



        For inspirational devos, bios of Christian leaders, free downloads, and the latest SOGM news:
Sign up to receive E-newsletter

Your donations are needed and greatly appreciated!



Just for you!

Missions Outreach

A major part of Spirit of Grace Ministries is our ministry in the great continent of Africa. There is a tremendous harvest going on in the world these days, and we are privileged to be a part of it. Above is a brief music video featuring video clips and pics from our recent mission in Nigeria in Oct/Nov, 2019.

Audio Devo: "Why is there suffering?"

People have debated this question for millennia. And we cannot speak concerning specific individual questions of suffering, but the Bible clearly speaks as to why suffering has always been a part of the human experience.