Fear of the Lord (Quotes from "When People are Big and God is Small)

In "When People are Big and God is Small" Welch emphasizes two ways of overcoming the fear of man throughout the book. First, we need to grow in the fear of the Lord. Second, we must need people less and love them more. In other words, we must grow in selfless love.

The fear of the Lord he is suggesting is not the terror-fear that causes us to want to hide from God. It is the "reverent submission that leads to obedience, and it is interchangeable with 'worship,' 'rely on,' 'trust' and 'hope in.' Like terror, it includes a knowledge of our sinfulness and God's moral purity, and it includes a clear-eyed knowledge of God's justice and his anger against sin. But this worship-fear also knows God's great forgiveness, mercy and love. It knows that because of God's eternal plan, Jesus humbled himself by dying on a cross to redeem his enemies from slavery and death. It knows that, in our relationship with God, he always says 'I love you' first. This knowledge draws us closer to God rather than causing us to flee. It causes us to submit gladly to his lordship and delight in obedience. This kind of robust fear is the pinnacle of our response to God."

Welch also writes about God's holiness, that "God is exalted above his people. He lives in a high and lofty place (Isa. 57:15). His judgment and mercy are above us, they are ultimately incomprehensible." And then "to make the holiness of God even more awesome, the transcendent God has come close to us."

"...our God is also the Immanent One who has revealed himself and become like us...He is near us. He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He is so close he calls us 'friends' (John 15:14). He is so close, the Scripture talks about Christ in you. Given his nature, this is virtually impossible for us to grasp. But, by God's grace, we can grow in knowing his holiness, and this knowledge will both expel the people-idols from our lives and leave us less prone to being consumed with ourselves."

"Scripture speaks of unimaginable love alongside holy anger. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, but he also does not leave the guilty unpunished; 'he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation' (Ex. 34:6, 7). Therefore, we cannot rightly say, 'My God is not a God of judgment and anger; my God is a God of love.' Such thinking makes it almost impossible to grow in the fear of the Lord. It suggests that sin only saddens God rather than offends him. Both justice and love are expressions of his holiness, and we must know both to learn the fear of the Lord. If we look only at God's love, we will not need him, and there will be no urgency in the message of the cross. If we focus narrowly on God's justice, we will want to avoid him, and we will live in terror-fear, always feeling guilty and waiting for punishment."

Welch then goes on to elaborate on the beauty of God's creation and emphasize all of creation as God's servant, created to do his will. "With all the created beauty around us, beauty that certainly exceeds our own in many ways, God chose people to be the crown of his creation."

Welch explains that he has two basic responses to this truth. "Neither of them really pumps up my self-esteem. First, I am simply amazed. I am filled with questions...Certainly I am grateful, but it is hard to believe that God would place us over his creation.

My second response is that I am humbled. Both the Grand Canyon and the oceans are a good bit more beautiful than I am. This, instead of bolstering self-esteem, ruins it. I am not living beautifully. My heart is too often compromised with concerns about my glory rather than God's. The hurt from this humbling, however, is exactly what I need. It feels a lot better than any temporary puffing up of my ego."

Welch writes much more about the fear of the Lord being the remedy for the fear of people. A verse from Proverbs and the following statement spoke directly to my heart.

"If you have ever walked among giant redwoods, you will never be overwhelmed by the size of a dogwood tree. Or if you have been through a hurricane, a spring rain is nothing to fear. If you have been in the presence of the almighty God, everything that once controlled you suddenly has less power."

Those who fear the Lord will fear nothing else.
(Prov. 19:23)