written by Sam Fong
It’s been encouraging to read this blog! So when I was asked to write one, I knew it was a great opportunity to encourage. I’ve been procrastinating on writing this, though. My excuses sound something like, “I’ll write this when I have more time.” But it wasn’t really that I needed more time. One reason I was avoiding it was because I was worried about how my blog post would be received. Kind of embarrassing for me to admit, but underneath this is an issue in my heart that God has graciously been revealing to me throughout my christian walk and I’d like to share how God has been teaching me through it.
During my freshman year, I heard a sermon at GOC titled, “Fear of Man.” I remember learning that fearing man more than fearing God dishonored Him because He alone is worthy of all our obedience, love, and worship. I remember learning that fighting this involved gaining a greater understanding of God and thereby, cultivating a greater awe and reverence for Him alone. Then, in my sophomore year, my small group leader recommended the book Pleasing People by Lou Priolo to me. This book pointed out areas in my life where I was more prone to fearing people than God. Since then, God has allowed me to wrestle with this sin and see that it strongly motivates many of my actions, or lack thereof. Here are a couple areas where I’ve seen this in my life and how God has been faithful to point me back to Him:
Academics/Career: I recently applied to grad school for physical therapy programs. Not only did I fear getting rejection letters, but also feared being seen as a failure. My pride of working hard in school would be hurt. And getting accepted into graduate schools meant that interviewers had to like me on paper and in person. I felt more concerned about the world’s measure or standard than God’s. My thought life was consumed by anxiety. My initial instinct was to remember to trust in God. But was I really trusting that God would accomplish His purposes and be glorified through my life? Or was I more concerned about me being glorified? Through these thoughts, God reminded me of my thankfulness in my salvation and gave me peace in striving to be faithful to Him, first and foremost.
Spiritual disciplines: I found and saw that it was easier for me to have my quiet times more regularly when I was at UCLA rather than when I was at home (which is a positive in regards to the accountability of the GOC body!). Unfortunately, one sinful motive was to be seen as more “godly” or “disciplined.” I take pride in appearing a certain way, just like the Pharisees did (Matthew 6:1). This awareness helps me remember that my devotion to God needs to constantly be checked for a genuine desire to know and obey God. Spending time communing with our Heavenly Father is not only necessary and sweet, but results in praise towards Him.
Small Group leading: Sometimes I also struggle in my heart when I’m preparing for small group, too. I’ll procrastinate on planning a lesson because I’m worried it won’t live up to expectations. Or I let my desire for man’s approval guide my speech to refrain from talking about the harder things that are what will really bless others in helping to sharpen them. When these thoughts arise, I am led to pray and ask that God’s grace and the richness of His truth would overwhelm and guide my intentions in small group leading, so that His thoughts are placed first!
Physical disciplines: For those of you who know me, I also tend to enjoy eating healthy and exercising (usually)! My heart, however, is tempted to sometimes idolize a healthful lifestyle in order to appear a certain way. Whether it’s body image or appearing “disciplined,” God reminds me that my physical body is given to me by Him and for His purposes. I’m learning to be thankful for food and physical activity! Because through them, God may be glorified and praised.
Evangelism: Oftentimes my fear of man is really a hindrance in sharing the Gospel with others. For example, the possibility of rejection tempts me to avoid certain conversations. God reminds me that I should expect that some will reject God’s Word. Other times I am more concerned about maintaining good feelings and comfort rather than truly caring for a person’s soul and God’s command for us to proclaim Him. A fear of God would be unashamed to share the gospel because it is Christ’s power for salvation, not my power. He doesn’t need us to save people, yet He allows us the blessing of being an instrument for His glory to be known.
This is not to say that fearing God doesn’t mean we completely disregard man’s thoughts. A true fear of God involves a genuine respect for what God says in His word. And He does tell us to consider our character before others: to do what is “honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17), to “please our neighbors for his good” (Romans 15:1-2), and to be good witnesses to the world (1 Peter 2:12). The difference, however, is that in the end, our living would magnify Christ and that others are pointed to Christ, so that He may receive all the glory.
While my motives often seek after my own glory, God has shown more of his love and grace in allowing me to be more sensitive to my fear of man. But when I find myself discouraged, I think about the song lyrics, “Upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin.” I hope that for anyone reading this who resonates with fearing man more than God, you’ll be encouraged to look to Christ and grow in the knowledge of God’s character, which will result in a true fear of Him. God is worthy of all our highest praise. And it’s a comfort to know that there will be a day when we will perfectly fear the One to whom all praise is due!