Is fear a bad thing?

One of the most striking things about our current political and media climate is the “politics of fear.”  Many political leaders today appeal so much to people’s fear of economic turmoil, terrorism, ecological disaster, etc, that we rarely hear our national leaders actually propose a vision for our society.  Fear has become a powerful tool in the hands of would-be leaders.

However, fear plays a more insidious role in the life of a leader.  If leaders are honest and transparent they will acknowledge that fear can often play a significant motivating factor in the life of a leader – fear of failure, fear of the “hard road,” fear of those who might bring them undone, fear of the unknown, etc. 

But fear is not part of God’s plan for leaders of His people.

It is often noted that the phrase, “fear not” appears 365 times in the Bible – one for every day of the year.  But what is often not said is that this phrase is commonly said to leaders, such as:

  • To Abram in Genesis 15:1
  • To Isaac in Genesis 26:24
  • To Moses in Numbers 21:34
  • To Joshua in Joshua 8:1
  • To King Ahaz in Isaiah 7:4

Now, at this point, let me make 2 important points about not fearing:

  • This does not exclude the fear of God.  God is clear that we should fear Him.  Indeed, Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10 tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  As leaders of Christ’s Church, we should be acutely aware that we are responsible to Almighty God and that we will give an account to Him one day (Hebrews 13:17).  However, this fear of God is not debilitating.  Fear of God is actually inspiring because we know that the same One whom we fear also equips us for the task.
  • This also does not exclude being aware of dangers and pitfalls.  Nehemiah was acutely aware of the dangers that faced the Israelites as they built the wall and he took steps to address those threats (Nehemiah 4:10-14).  A good leader will be aware of the threats to the team.  But the godly leader will not be fearful.

The fear which the Christian leader needs to avoid is that which often debilitates leaders and it is one that is often nestled deep within.  Indeed, the truly dangerous fear is the one that masks itself as something positive.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • There are some leaders who appear to be motivated to do great things and they often succeed.  But what is actually motivating them is a fear of failure.  So, they do what it takes to be “great” in the eyes of others.
  • There are some leaders who seem great at growing consensus and keeping peace.  However, what may actually be happening is that they are fearful of losing their position.  So, they keep the peace at all costs.  The result is that unresolved issues get swept under the carpet and end up tripping the next person.
  • There are some leaders who work hard and long.  They seem to have a great work ethic and extraordinary longevity.  However, some of those people are actually fearful of not being a leader anymore.  They are fearful of not being the “key man” anymore. 

Obviously these are extreme examples and not everyone who does great things or is a good peace-keeper or has amazing longevity will be motivated by fear.  But they are examples of how we can often “sanctify” something that is not God-glorifying.

So, as FLBC leaders, how can we ensure we are not motivated by fear but motivated by the love of God and the mission of the Gospel?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Pray and ask God to reveal to you any area of your leadership or life where fear is at work.
  • Have good people around you who can speak into your life and keep you accountable.
  • Spend time in God’s Word rejoicing in the promises and assurances of God.
  • Remember those times when God has been faithful in the past.
  • Take steps of faith trusting upon His Word. 
  • Keep your eye on the vision God has laid on your heart.
  • Don’t make things personal.  Don’t take successes as personal victories or set-backs as personal losses. 
  • Know that God is in control.  Jesus is building the Church and the gate of Hades will not prevail.  Trust Him to do what He has promised He will do.

“Everyone really does win when a leader gets better.” (Bill Hybels)

God said to the Israelites, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)   God’s leaders lead in His strength and power, not in fear.  We have confidence that God is at work and He is faithful.  Therefore, we can take bold steps forward for Him. 

Lord, please drive out fear from our hearts and empower us to lead in your power and for your glory.  In the powerful Name of Jesus.  Amen