Many Christians are in bondage to the fear of man. In discussing this very real and widespread problem, let us acknowledge from the beginning that we cannot be God’s spokesperson and be afraid of people. We will find it difficult, if not impossible to faithfully give all the counsel of God when there is a spirit within us that withdraws from people out of fear, timidity, or anxiety.
If there has ever been a time in your life when you bowed down and said, “Lord use me, speak through me, have Your Will through me,” then you can expect that the Lord will immediately begin to deal with you regarding the fear of man. It is a fundamental lesson we must learn in order to be fruitful and faithful with all God commits to us.
Let us get right to the point: we are afraid of others because we love ourselves too much. When you have dealt with self-love, the fear of man will be dealt with at the same time. The fear of man is but a symptom of self-love, and is manifest in three basic areas of our relationships with others. If a servant of God is able to overcome in these three areas, he or she will be free of the fear of man. They are: desire for appreciation, desire for compensation, and desire for promotion. We will look at each one individually.
DESIRE FOR APPRECIATION
Multitudes of saints fall at this point. We want others to understand us. We want them to comprehend the meaning behind our actions. We want them to grasp what we are saying. We cannot bear the thought of being misunderstood. We wish for others to appreciate the truth we speak, the word we bring, the insight we have.
The flesh is clothed in such a desire, and it will be a snare to the one who speaks the Word of God. We cannot be afraid of other people, what they will think, how they react, if we do and say what we are led of the Spirit to do and say. Fear of man will cause us to utter many words in addition to those given to us by God. This must be avoided at all costs.
When Jesus spoke to the multitude, He did not glory in how large the crowd was. He did not congratulate Himself on having such an influential ministry. Instead, He sought to thin the numbers out by sifting them with a difficult word, saying, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood if you wish to be my disciples.” At this saying, the multitude and many of His disciples turned aside and no longer followed Him. Instead of running after them in an effort to make Himself understood and accepted, He watched them go. Then, turning to the Twelve, He said, “Will you also go away?” Here is a Man who is not afraid to be misunderstood because He is not afraid of people, what they will think, or what they will say about Him unjustly.
WE can discern His meaning, but THEY could not. Why did He not explain what He meant? Because He had no love for Himself, no desire to be understood. He only called for those who had ears to hear. He spoke the Word and allowed the hearers to exercise their own judgment and spiritual discernment. He had no desire to be appreciated or accepted. He would not have them accept HIM while rejecting the WORD He brought. If they rejected His Word, they rejected Him.
To overcome the fear of man, we must not only be willing to be misunderstood and unappreciated, we should expect it. Then we will be free to speak what God has given us and will not be troubled should others fail to grasp the significance of it.
DESIRE FOR COMPENSATION
When we are bringing the Word of God to the people who are supporting us materially it represents an inherent conflict of interest. The temptation is to tone down the Word for fear that we will offend those who are taking care of us.
The compensation received may not be limited to financial things. When our friends hold a special place in our heart we are likewise tempted to speak softly to them to keep the friendship intact, whereas an identical word to someone we do not know will not be as soft. If God bids us to speak softly, then let us do so. But we cannot speak softly to those we have a relationship when the word we bring them should be anything but soft.
Again, self-love is the problem. For example, a pastor who is dependent upon his congregation for his salary is going to have a difficult time bringing them the whole counsel of God. Not that he cannot preach, but there is an invisible line he dare not cross for fear that too many will be upset. Invariably if this line is crossed you will find him sweating and fretting over it. Perhaps he will make some calls and offer apologies to the offended ones. He is overcome with the fear of man, because he looks to man for his support. Every utterance and action must be filtered through the question of, “What will our supporters think?”
To overcome the fear of man, we must not look to man for our support, be it financial or emotional. Abram rejected the gifts of the King of Sodom, and afterwards the Lord said to him, “Fear not, for I AM your exceeding great reward.” Since the Lord is our Provider as well as our Provision, we must look to Him alone. We do not look to gain supporters, partners, pledges, tithes, and offerings. If we do not have something it is because we do not need it. For when we need it, God will provide it. Certainly He will USE other people to bless us, but we do not LOOK to people to be blessed. In fact, we should expect that people will not want to support us. Then we can minister to them without fear of man.
DESIRE FOR PROMOTION
We who work for the Lord often wish to be seen and to be heard. We wish the largest audience possible. Naturally we want people to speak well of us and promote us that many more will hear the Word we have from God. Hidden within such a desire for promotion is the fear of man.
I once discovered another ministry had taken a portion of my writing and edited it before forwarding it to their subscribers. In eliminating the more offensive portions of the text they watered-down the message I was communicating. I contacted the ministry and asked them to either publish the entire message or retract it completely. Since they could not bear the whole counsel of God they informed me that they would retract it. Their closing comment was, “Most writers are happy to have even a portion of their works published, as some promotion is better than none at all.”
Our desire for promotion will inevitably lead us to compromise, tone down, whitewash, filter, edit, distort, or make more palatable the message we bring. If we are promoting ourselves, then let us do all we can to push our names to the top and be pleased with any recognition we may receive. But if it is God’s Word we speak, let God see to the promotion of His Word as well as His servant. Better to have a small circle of influence with freedom to speak as we are led to speak than to have a large circle of influence obtained through a message deemed “safe for public consumption”.
In order to rid us of the fear of man, the Lord will prepare a path for us strewn with misunderstanding. Finances will dry up. We will be placed on a shelf for many days, until we no longer look to people as our source. To overcome the fear of man we must be wholly GOD’S and no one else’s. A man or a woman who does not need to be appreciated or understood; who does not desire compensation, material or otherwise; who does not desire a large ministry but a faithful one; this individual is free to be the SERVANT of all without being ENSLAVED to all.
May God quicken this to our hearts that we may fear no man.