When I was ten, we had a bully named Billy in our neighborhood who threatened to do physical damage to anybody who would cross his path the wrong way.
Billy stood a foot taller than most of the other boys and was twice as bulky. Billy seemed to be in a bad attitude most of the time and was always seen pounding his fist into his other hand in the standard bully fashion. No one doubted his threats. Of course, it was his definition of that "crossing in the wrong way" that created the fear that most of the kids in the neighborhood experienced.
As time passed and circumstances would have it, I had gotten on Billy's bad side, which was massively larger than his good side, and had become the recipient of a direct threat to my existence. The sentence was pronounced and punishment was scheduled to occur after school. So, I spent all day trying to envision ways of escape and, if that failed, how long it would take to recover.
The final bell rang louder than usual to announce the end of the school day. I walked slowly out the building, reminiscing on all the good days that I had spent in my short life. I was not very far along the way to home when the path darkened and doom arrived.
One of my teachers frequently quoted the statement, "What does not kill me makes me stronger." She was impressed by the positive attitude that she saw in this statement and tried to instill that attitude in her students. Her only flaw in this proposal was that the guy who gave her this inspiring quote was dead.
I was contemplating this phrase as Billy moved within striking range. I gritted my teeth, stiffened my body and silently prayed as I awaited that first blow. Then, to my amazement, I heard a question.
"Are you going to run?" asked Billy. I was too afraid to answer. Billy was impressed by the fact that I was not running away in terror. He had always relied on that response when he threatened others. My lack of action had been interpreted as an example of fortitude in Billy's eyes. In reality, I was just too scared to move.
My reaction to Billy's threat and his surprise towards that reaction started a conversation that eventually became a friendship. We continued to be good friends throughout high school.
Fear can be an element of good in your life. Fear will help us avoid harmful situations. It can enable us to make better decisions, while also helping us develop respect. Understanding the fears that we have can clarify our view of the challenges that we confront and lead to a more mature outlook.
Proverbs 1:7 starts with the phrase, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," which is understood to be speaking of the respect that we should have for God. He does not want us to live our lives in dread towards Him as we did with Billy. Instead, God wants us to have reverence for His words, His ways, His instruction and the principles that He establishes.
God wants us to live an abundant life. His way is a way of learning the knowledge of a lifestyle which is completely opposite a state of doom or dread. God's way introduces us to a better relationship with our fellow man and God.
If we fail to focus on God in awe and follow in His way, we show ourselves to be rebellious, unproductive, unyielding, and self-centered in His eyes. All these traits are completely opposite to the loving, knowledgeable life that God wants for us. And living a way that is opposite of God seems to me to be very scary!
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