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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: What Do You Do With Your Burdens?

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: What Do You Do With Your Fears?

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What Do You Do With Your Fears?

…Who is made without fear. (Job 41:33)

“Who is made without fear” is a relative clause in the Book of Job (41:33), but we can turn it very nicely into an interrogative clause and ask the question, “Who is made without fear?” Fears are feelings that we all share to varying and differing degrees, and there are different kinds of fears. We sometimes smile at the old bromide that women are afraid of mice. But the bravest man would be mortally afraid if he knew he were going to give birth to a baby! Actually, there have been hundreds of babies born just in the first few hours of this very day, and the mothers certainly have had no band or fanfare to make the announcement that they have given birth.

Psychology lists fear, along with love and anger, as one of the strong and complex emotions of the human species. The TV, the theater, and the novels take these three emotions and mix them up like a Betty Crocker recipe. However, they don’t always come out with the success that Betty Crocker seems to have with hers.

It is doubtful whether any member of the human family anywhere is devoid of fear. If he is, he’s an abnormal individual. Fear is as much a part of our human makeup as eyes and nose and mouth.

The psalmist said that he belonged to the fraternity of fear, and he wrote, “I am a companion of all those who fear thee …” (Psalm 119:63). By the way, he said that the fraternity of fear was a secret fraternity — he said: “The secret of the LORD is with those who fear him …” (Psalm 25:14). David belonged to a secret fraternity of those who fear the Lord.

Fear was the first outward evidence and manifestation of the effect of the disobedience of Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was the first symptom of sin. For the very first thing that Adam did — and he confessed it — was to show fear. “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked …” (Genesis 3:10).

The first thing that this man confessed was that he was afraid. From that day, fear entered into the very web and woof of mankind. Man went out of the Garden of Eden and was told that by the sweat of his brow he would earn his bread. Driven by hunger and thirst and fear, the human family spread over this earth.

The bravest of men have feared. Moses is a man that no one could call a coward. Moses stood before Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh before whom he stood was no petty ruler. The man was a world ruler, and it took a brave man to deliver God’s message to him. Also Moses stood before God yonder on Mount Sinai. It took a brave man to do that. In addition, for forty years he stood before the rebellious Israelites. It took a brave man to do that. And yet this man Moses, in the second chapter of Exodus, wrote of himself, “And Moses feared,” which is the reason he left the land of Egypt at that time.

David is a man who is noted for his bravery. But if you read the Psalms, you will find that one of the emotions he mentions is fear. David, probably more often than anyone else, describes the gamut of emotions that sweep across the human soul. He plays upon the soul, as God does, as if it were a three-stringed instrument — actually one with 126 strings, for he describes the many emotions that sweep through the human heart. He was very frank when he mentioned fear. He said: “When I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56:3). He admitted that he was a man of fear, yet here is a man who is known for his bravery.

Elijah was a brave man. Elijah stood before the prophets of Baal, and he stood before King Ahab. I don’t know what happened to him, but I do know this: there was a great breakdown in his life when word came from Jezebel that she would have him killed. Elijah turned and ran! He took off for Beersheba, wouldn’t stop there, but went as far into the desert as he could and crawled underneath a juniper tree. He does not say he is afraid, but his actions speak louder than any words he could give us.

May I say to you that you will find that the bravest of men have been those who have been afraid. May I also say that all of us experience something that fills our hearts with fear.

Fear, down through the history of the race, has been looked upon as a weakness of mankind. It has been looked upon as a detriment. Men have always been applauded for their bravery; they have been ridiculed for their fears. “Only cowards fear” is an accepted cliché even today, and we are ashamed of our fears.

It was Shakespeare who wrote, “Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed.” Even Emerson, the Unitarian whom many delight in quoting, gives this false statement: “Fear always springs from ignorance!” The most popular books following World War II were books that dealt with the subject of fear, with the general theme of freedom from fear.

My friend, the Bible has never gone along with the worldly philosophy and popular fallacy of the day. The Bible does not take the position that fear is cowardly. I have examined the many words in both the Old and New Testaments that are translated by the word “fear” and have found that they are divided into three classifications. There is the fear that is base and cowardly, craven, contemptible, and certainly to be shunned. There is another fear that is good and right and helpful, something that is a blessing to mankind. Finally, there is a third class of words that can be translated either good or evil. You have to look at the context to see whether it means good or bad.

The very interesting thing is that modern psychology has confirmed Scripture in this particular division. The fear instinct, they tell us, passes through three stages. There is a stimulating stage which is good. For example, you experience fear if you wake up at night and the house is on fire. Your pituitary gland immediately sends out an alarm to the adrenal gland, and the adrenal gland sends out into the bloodstream some extra energy so that you are able to jump and run and yell like you never did before. And after you get outside the house, you wonder how in the world you ever did it. My friend, that kind of fear is good. And the Scripture speaks of that kind of fear that leads to action, the fear that motivates you.

Then there is the second stage. It is called the arrestive or the inhibitory stage. It can be good, provided a person does not stay in that stage. He might be there for a moment, but if he stays there it is dangerous, for then he moves to the third stage which is the paralyzing stage.

Paralyzing fear is bad because it leads to all sorts of different complexes. You find people today who are afraid of germs. I knew a lady years ago who would not open a door without taking out a handkerchief to put over the doorknob; or, if she did open the door with her hand, she would go and wash her hands — not with common soap, but with soap that would destroy germs! She was off on that particular thing.

Then there are people today who are afraid of open spaces. They will not go across even a vacant lot. There are other people who are afraid of crowds. And then I do believe there is another form. I’ve never seen it listed — it must be common only to Southern California — and that is the fear of rain. I say this facetiously, of course.

As we’ve gone through the Word of God and attempted to make a careful study of the subject of fear, I believe that fear can be divided into two major classifications. The first fear is fear of God, and that is good. That leads to action. Also there is the fear of man, and that kind of fear, my beloved, leads to inaction. It is the kind that leads to paralysis.

It was said of Cromwell that he was the bravest man who ever lived. Someone asked Cromwell one day what was the secret of his bravery and why he was considered such a brave man. His answer was something like this: “I’ve learned from the Word of God that if you fear God you will not have any man to fear.” May I say to you, this is the secret David learned. He wrote:

In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. (Psalm 56:11)

This is so important that when you move over to the New Testament, you find this statement:

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:6)

My beloved, today you either have a fear of God or you have a fear of man. Either you are afraid of those things that are about you and what men say and what men do, or you are afraid of God.

Somebody will object, “I don’t think we ought to be afraid of God.” I believe that this is something today that needs emphasizing as it never has been emphasized before, especially in our fundamental circles where we have assumed a familiarity with God which the Scriptures will not warrant at all. Somehow or other God is regarded as only a great big brother whom we pat on the back in most familiar terms. I say to you today, friend, we do well to fear God. And if we fear Him, we will not have any man to fear.

In this message I would like to identify some common fears. I do not want to be theoretical; I want to be practical and pragmatic. And I want to limit our observations to two fears that are common today. If we fear God, we will be delivered from these fears.

The Fear of Loneliness

The fear of being alone, when it is carried to an exaggerated degree, is a form of psychasthenia. People who are obsessed with this fear can’t stand to be alone. My friend, today only God can deliver you from the fear of loneliness.

A pastor who does any counseling at all encounters many cases of marital problems in which couples are not well mated. He will often ask the question of women, very fine Christian women generally, “Why did you marry this man who is so inferior to you, who is on a much lower level than you are?” The answer women give — I’ve heard it again and again — is this: “Well, I was getting up in years, and I was afraid I might have to go through life alone.” I want to say to you that most of them wish they had gone through alone because loneliness is something they should not have feared at all.

The bunco squad of the police department will tell you today that the confidence men, especially in Southern California, prey on unsuspecting folk, both men and women, who are alone and lonely.

A number of years ago a book came out by a single woman who was the editor of a popular magazine. The title of the book was How to Live Alone and Like It. But when you read her book, you know she was whistling in the dark and singing in the rain. She had not solved her problem at all.

Many young people are afraid to take a stand for Christ because they’ve reached that age where they have herd instinct, and they say, “What would the gang say? I’d lose my friends. I have the feel of the pack, and I want to be with them. If I take a stand for Christ, I will lose my friends, and I will be alone.”

Likewise there are multitudes of older men and women today who could take a stand for Jesus Christ, but they are saying, “What would my friends say? What would my business associates think? What would my social cronies think of me if I took a stand for Christ?”

Let me say to you carefully that multitudes are going into a lost eternity because they are afraid of man. They ought to be afraid of God.

There’s no reason to be afraid of loneliness. God’s men have always been lonely men. They have lived alone and liked it. Noah was not invited out to all the social functions of his day. Noah stood alone for God. Abraham may have been the most popular man in Ur of the Chaldees. It was a city with a high civilization. Archaeology tells us that life in Ur of the Chaldees was pleasant in Abraham’s day. Undoubtedly he had many friends and was successful in business. One day God called him. And, my friend, it meant loneliness for that man for the rest of his life.

Daniel was in a foreign court, which was bad enough, but this man took a stand for God. Probably no man has ever lived a more lonely life than did Daniel.

Saul of Tarsus may have been the most popular Pharisee in Jerusalem. But Saul of Tarsus one day met Jesus Christ, and that man walked alone during the rest of his life.

Martin Luther had a great many things to take into consideration when the truth of justification by faith broke over his soul. When he looked about him, he saw that all of his friends were on the opposite side. One day that man took a stand for God, and it paid. He made this statement later on, “One with God is a majority.”

My friend, to the man or the woman who will take a stand for Jesus Christ and will face the fear of mankind, God says,

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:2)

Let your manner of life be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)

The Lord Jesus said to His own when He was leaving them and they were to face difficult days,

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

The word comfortless is the Greek word orphanos. We get our word orphans from that. Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans — I will come to you.” Then He said to them before He left,

… lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

My friend, to be a man-pleaser for fear of loneliness is to deny yourself fellowship with God who will never forsake you and never leave you lonely. Paul, near the end of his life, could write,

At my first defense no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (2 Timothy 4:16, 17)

Multitudes down through the ages have overcome this awful fear, this fear of loneliness, by taking a stand for Jesus Christ.

The Fear of Death and Judgment

The fear of death and judgment is the final fear that I’d like to mention to you. I know that at the present hour the fact of judgment after death is called a superstition, that it is considered a hangover from the Dark Ages, or that we can dismiss it as psychological vestigial remains from the Paleozoic period.

My friend, today death and judgment are an awful reality. You may have your brain washed by modern thinking, but you never get rid of death and judgment.

I heard a whimsical story of a man who went to the psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist asked, “What’s your trouble?” the patient said, “I owe a man $5,000 and I can’t pay it. It has preyed on my mind so much that I actually think I’m losing my mind. I can’t even sleep at night.”

“Have you signed a note?”


“Was anybody a witness to it?”


“Well, the thing for you to do is to forget it. Since it has been bothering you, the solution is to get it out of your mind. Now I’m going to rub it out of your mind so you’ll actually forget it.”

The psychiatrist did such a wonderful job that the fellow got up off the couch and said, “I don’t even remember the name of the man that I owe money to.” He started to leave.

The psychiatrist said, “Just a minute. You owe me $50.00 for that treatment.”

The man asked, “What treatment?”

My friend, you may not be brainwashed like that, but multitudes of people in this society in which we live are brainwashed. And you can’t dismiss death and judgment with a wave of the hand. We do well today to fear death and judgment. The Scripture says,

He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

Paul went in before Felix, the Roman governor, not to defend himself but to present to him the claims of Christ. The record in Acts 24 says that he reasoned with Felix concerning righteousness, the righteousness of Christ; self-control, how Christ could control a man; and then the third thing, judgment to come. In other words, if Felix turned his back on Jesus Christ, he was going before a holy God, and it would be a frightful eternity ahead of him. Hearing that, Felix trembled with fear and dismissed Paul because he did not want to hear any more about it at all (see Acts 24:25).

The Scripture says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom …” (Proverbs 9:10). Fear of the Lord is a reverential fear. It is not a fear which is base or craven. Rather, it is a fear of God that comes through reverence, knowing that our God is a high and holy God and that He must punish sin.

The Scriptures give a beatitude to those who fear the Lord: “… Blessed is the man who feareth the LORD … (Psalm 112:1). This week I discovered a verse that I don’t remember noticing before:

Happy is the man that feareth always, but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. (Proverbs 28:14)

It is amazing how up to date that verse is. There’s the stimulating stage of fear — “Happy is the man that feareth always,” stimulated by fear and brought to a high and holy God through Christ. “But he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” is the paralyzing stage, my beloved. One of the things that is said of the apostates in the last days is that they feed themselves without fear:

These are spots in your love feasts, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about by winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. (Jude 12)

Today God has put fear in your heart. That fear, my beloved, can be your salvation, or it can be your undoing. Fear is not something that is always base or craven. If it’s a fear of God, it is good. However, if you are fearing men today and living to please them, it is a terrible thing.

I never shall forget the night that word came on the radio that the New London School in East Texas had exploded and that over three hundred boys and girls had been killed. I was speaking the next morning on a radio program in Dallas, Texas, and on that broadcast I directed everything I had to say to the parents and loved ones of those boys and girls. We had cards and letters from New England, from Cuba, from Mexico — from all over the country. A friend of mine, a former schoolmate, was a pastor in the East Texas oil fields at the time of the explosion. He told me this story:

“In the parish in which I was the pastor, there lived a man who had become suddenly rich. He was a Texan who had become oil rich, even had put up a small refinery and had already made several millions of dollars. He had built a lovely home. He had a wife and two fine boys. The wife and two boys were Christians, but the man was the worst blasphemer I have ever met in my life. I’ve never heard a man talk as that man would talk. He would blaspheme God and curse God. His wife was so concerned about him that she asked me to go see him. I went to see him, and I had never been treated like that in my life — he cursed me from the time I opened my mouth until I got out of earshot. He called me everything that was in the book and some things I didn’t know were in the book. He was vile. His wife and one of his little boys took sick during the flu epidemic, and both died at the same time. I went over that night to see him again.

“There sat the father and his one remaining little son. When I went over and sat down beside them and began to talk, he began to abuse me again, and curse — I’ve never heard anything like it! It was vile beyond description. He repeatedly blasphemed God’s name. There was nothing left for me to do but get up and walk out of there, which I did. When I conducted the funeral, the man would not even speak to me. After that experience he became more vile, but all of the love that he had had for his family (and that seemed to be the only thing about the man that was a redeeming feature) was now turned to his little boy who was left.

“Well, that little boy was in the New London School when the explosion occurred. When the man heard of the explosion, he went out to that school and searched through the rubble like a madman until he found the torn and twisted and broken body of his little boy. He took it in his arms and walked up and down that schoolyard like a maniac until someone actually had to take it away from him and take it to the funeral home. You know, I felt it was my duty to go and talk with him, so that night I went over to that big home. I went in, and there was that little white casket, and there he sat in the same place he had sat before. I just steeled myself for the cursing that I was to get. I was afraid to say anything. I just sat down. Then that great big hulk of a fellow looked up — and he hadn’t cried before — but now there were tears in his eyes. Instead of cursing me, he said, ‘God has been after me all the time. He’s tried to speak to me all my life, and I turned my back on Him. He took my wife and my other little boy, and I knew He was talking to me. But I was afraid of what people might say — those I worked with and was associated with. Oh, what a coward I’ve been! And now God had to take this one. Well, God can have me now.‘ And that man got down on his knees and took Christ as his Savior.”

The last time I saw that pastor friend of mine he told me that the oil man was still serving God.

Friend, today you do well to fear God. But if you trust Him, have committed your life to Him, have taken Him as Savior, then you can say with David,

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…. (Psalm 23:1, 4)

And it’s only then that you can experience the truth of the Scripture that says, “… Perfect love casteth out fear …” (1 John 4:18).

Maybe you have never trusted Christ; or if you have, you have been afraid to take a stand for Him. Has fear filled your heart—fear of men or fear of something else? My friend, bring your fears to God and fear Him. When you fear Him, you will have no one else to fear.

What Do You Do With Your Burdens? ← Prior Section
What Do You Do With Your Past? Next Section →
What Can Believers Do in Days of Apostasy? ← Prior Book
What is Christmas Without the Resurrection? Next Book →
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