Fear God

“When we approach God – the only accurate and healthy option is fear.”
The neighborhood I grew up in was on a hill. My best friend, Chris, lived at the top, I lived on the bottom. I would often go to Chris’s house after school – we’d watch MTV – pretend to do homework – play video games and eat whatever was in sight. Hey Michelle, if you ever read this – I owe you dinner.

Anyway – it was very typical for me, when I went to Chris’s house, to take my skateboard with me and when I went home I’d ride. In those days all of us traveled by skateboard. The ride from Chris’s house to mine was about a quarter of a mile – most of it straight downhill. You could really get flying on the way by crouching real low on your board – thus decreasing your drag and rocket downhill – watching the asphalt rush by you like a river below your feet. The danger of falling was always very real but that is what made it exciting.

One day – we were at Chris’s house and we all decided to ride down the hill to my house – Chris was out of food. 🙂 So we all grabbed our boards and headed out. But before we left Chris told us that he had been thinking of doing an experiment. He was a math whiz – computer and science genius, but after this day I learned even though you may have a high IQ it doesn’t mean you’re smart. Chris had been calculating and planning. He believed he could ride down this hill balancing on his skateboard with his knees. He was going to ride the hill kneeling!

We told him we thought this was a stupid idea. We called him names and said it would never work. Chris calmly argued using his reason and calculations he had made. He truly believed by properly apportioning his weight he could make up for the increase of speed and bumpiness in the ride. He also told us he would employ a technique of holding his arms out to his side using them like a balancing pole. He had it all figured out. There would be no swaying him from his mission. So we let it go.

We set off down the hill. There was Jeff, Chris and I. Jeff used the “crouching tiger” technique and blasted downhill at hair raising speed. I used a very casual slow weave technique pretending I was surfing a lazy wave. Both Jeff and I got to the bottom of the hill before Chris. We stopped and looked uphill. He had gotten about a quarter of the way down. His arms were straight like arrows pointed horizontally, mimicking the balancing pole. He was in his kneeling position; facing forward on his board with his lower legs and feet splayed behind him; resting on the backside of the board. He was going straight down the hill at a slower pace. Everything seemed to be going well until he started to gain speed.

He couldn’t weave to make his board slow down – or kick his board’s nose up to make the tail drag. He couldn’t put a foot down because he was on his knees. All he could do was submit to the fact the board was speeding up and he could do nothing to stop it. He would later tell me he wasn’t afraid of this because he knew it would happen and he would make proper adjustments . . . But what Chris did not account for was something the speed would do to his balance. As he went faster – the board began to wobble and weave below his knees. Normally, when you are standing you can adjust to this by bending your knees and using your legs like shock absorbers, but since Chris was only using the legs above his knees – he began to sway in his hips – which knocked off his balance.

Jeff and I stood at the bottom of the hill and watched as my friend’s experiment went terribly wrong. In a brief instant his board slightly snagged on something in the road and because it was already bobbing and weaving the wheel’s edge caught too much and sent the board twirling sideways from beneath his knees. Chris kept going however; inertia kicked in and he was propelled forward; knees down into the hard asphalt. We watched my friend bounce on his knees; then fly up and crash down again on those knees before he would roll into the curb. As the good friends we were – we raced to his rescue, and I’d like to say I didn’t laugh but approached him with concern and sympathy, but that would be a lie. I laughed the whole way there. I laughed for weeks afterwards. I’m still smiling today.

What was Chris’s mistake? He didn’t respect the hill. He didn’t respect the speed and what it would do to his balance. He didn’t respect and he paid dearly for it. Chris would ride that hill again. For him to never ride it would be an improper fear. Chris rode that hill on his feet. He rode it with respect because he now knew what could happen if he didn’t. After that day – Chris found that the only option he had when approaching the hill with his board – was fear and respect. With God it is the same way. We saw how the Israelites were encountering God and there was no option for them but fear. There was either the improper fear which leads to mistrust and distance from God – or there was proper fear which led to them not sinning; them living in respect and obedience. The hard part for us is that we Christians often forget that there is no option for us when we approach God. We may play games with God – don’t take Him seriously; offer Him part of our lives but not the whole; play “Good Christian” when others are watching and yet behind the scenes live with compromised integrity. We treat God like that hill – playing games – trusting our own intuition all the while heading for a crash – destructive consequences. We can get sucked into this idea that the way we live doesn’t matter to God now that we have Jesus and yet it seems nothing can be further from the truth.

To be sure – we are loved and forgiven because of Jesus and nothing will really take that away – and yet we are saved for a purpose. We are called to become more and more like Jesus and this movement involves obedience; and submission to God. This movement involves respect – reverence – fear. Here’s the question I want to leave you with to ponder this week:

What does your fear of God look like? Is it an improper fear that mistrusts God – fears Him and even looks at Him as a harsh father who seeks to hurt His children? Or is your fear a proper fear? Is it more about reverence, respect; obedience; and submission? This is a proper fear; knowing you owe everything to Him and He is absolutely worthy of your praise and obedience. Or perhaps you fall in the third category – where you don’t fear at all. In many ways you live as if God has redeemed you then lost interest. So now you can live for whatever you wish to live for. This may be a category that is more fraught with peril than the other two because we really don’t take into account whom we are messing with. Please don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying God is going to strike you down with a heart attack if you sin and are disobedient to Him – but He can. He is that powerful and wise. I think we go against His counsel and design to our own peril and yet we choose this path quite often. What fear do you have of God: improper; proper; or absent? Let this be a matter of discussion for you and the Lord this week.

May you be blessed in the Grace of God!
Pastor Ryan