Fear Factor

30 09 2009

Have you ever seen the show Fear Factor?  It was a reality show that was really popular a few years ago, hosted by Joe Rogan.  In this show the contestants would go through 3 challenges, facing fears in which the contestants are eliminated one by one until only one is left.

Some of the challenges are based on eating things that we would normally eat – truly disgusting things.  Other challenges are based on endurance, skill at challenges or simple bravery.  The contestants in the game were competing to win a grand prize of $50,000.

Fear is something that usually takes place in our mind.  Sometimes fear can be irrational.  Many people have phobias – some of the strangest things.  – I have an irrational fear of depths – I look at a picture taken under water and I find it disturbing.  I have a fear of night swimming because I can’t see what’s in the water.  It really freaks me out. The few times that Beth has talked me into going have made it slightly less terrifying, but I still don’t feel comfortable doing it.  That underlying fear unsettles me and keeps me from enjoying something that is one of my favourite things to do in the daytime.

Having a fear of something is called a phobia.  Here’s a list of some phobias – some fears that were listed as unusual, funny or weird – my apologies if you have one of these fears.

• Aerophobia- Fear of swallowing air
• Anablephobia- Fear of looking up
• Arithmophobia- Fear of numbers
• Barophobia- Fear of gravity
• Basophobia- Fear of walking
• Cathisophobia- Fear of sitting
• Catoptrophobia- Fear of mirrors
• Chionophobia- Fear of snow
• Chronophobia- Fear of time
• Chronomentrophobia- Fear of clocks
• Cibophobia- Fear of food
• Dendrophobia- Fear of trees
• Eleutherophobia- Fear of freedom
• Geliophobia- Fear of laughter
• Geniophobia- Fear of chins
• Genuphobia- Fear of knees
• Geumaphobia- Fear of taste
• Heliophobia- Fear of the sun
• Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia- Fear of long words
• Homichlophobia- Fear of fog
• Ideophobia- Fear of ideas
• Kainophobia- Fear of anything new
• Kathisophobia- Fear of sitting down
• Lachanophobia- Fear of vegetables
• Linonophobia- Fear of string
• Logophobia- Fear of words
• Melophobia- Fear of music
• Metrophobia- Fear of poetry
• Ommetaphobia- Fear of eyes
• Ophthalmophobia- Fear of opening one’s eyes
• Panophobia- Fear of everything
• Papyrophobia- Fear of paper
• Photophobia- Fear of light
• Phronemophobia- Fear of thinking
• Sitophobia- Fear of food
• Sophophobia- Fear of learning
• Stasibasiphobia- Fear of walking

Most fear is a healthy thing – it keeps us alive.  Fears spring up to help protect us from dangerous things – either doing them or being hurt by them and is usually a rational thing.  Sometimes fear comes simply from perceived danger and there is really nothing to be scared of.  Some of the phobias we just looked at seemed like crazy things to be scared of, but often there’s a reason behind the fears.

The fear of God is a complex thing.  On one hand, fearing God seems like a very rational thing.  Think about the power of God and how mighty he is.  He created the universe, created everything in it, has the power of life and death and can do anything.  Added to that He is holy and perfect – he hates sin and evil.  The Scriptures also give us many examples of God punishing people for sin, so it can be easy to think that this is his entire nature.

If we think about other mythologies also knew that people had their failings and their images of their father-gods have pervaded our thinking.  And so imagine God to be some Zeus-like character sitting on his throne, just waiting for us to step out of line so he can throw a thunderbolt down to wipe us off the map.

Lots of people are scared of God.

But is it possible that fearing God could mean more than just being scared of Him, or perhaps there is more to it than that alone?  What is the fear factor when it comes to God?

In Old Testament times, God gave a special chosen people – the Israelites – his law.  This was to let them know how he wanted his people to live.  No longer would there be any questions as to whether they were going against God, it was all down in black and white – they knew if they were breaking the law.

So now His people had the rules, but the ultimate problem of our nature was still not fixed by doing this.  The law was powerless to change the sinful disposition – the sinful nature –  of humanity.  If just letting us know what God wanted was sufficient then there would be no need for sacrifices, because people would know what to do and no longer do it.

Unfortunately that sin nature is still there and so people didn’t always do what God wanted.  So they would have sacrifices to atone for their sins – kind of like a way of apologizing – it also was a replacement for the death that they deserved. It seems like there was still a lot to fear when it came to God.

This world is full of sin and evil.  And we have sin in us too – it’s in our very nature as people.  Let me restate that – our instinct and our very nature is to do things that are against God.  So our first thought – before we come to know God – is to sin.  Sometimes sin can get us down – we can focus on our failures and shortcomings and it’s depressing.  We feel like continual failures and to hear that it’s common in people only depresses us more, wondering if there’s any hope at all for mankind.

It doesn’t help us that our spirits condemn us.  If we have a sin that we are struggling with and we fall into it again it can be frustrating and make us feel like – well, losers.  We need to be aware that it’s not just our spirit that is bringing us down.  We have an adversary – an enemy – that likes to see us wrapped up in depths of misery.  If he can’t get us to not notice our sin, then he would rather that we be all wrapped up in it and depressed about it.

Satan’s name literally means accuser.  He throws our sins up in our face to make us feel like failures.  He stands before God and accuses us of our sins.  He likes to remind us of our failings and make us feel unworthy of being in the presence of God.  He uses any opportunity to try to drive a wedge between us and God.

And if it were not for God’s spirit living in us, it would be well worth being depressed about.  But then we read Scripture like this from Romans that tells us that there is hope.

…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

No condemnation?  How could God not condemn us?  Should we not be expecting his full wrath for our sin?  Should we not be ready to duck for the lightning bolts?  Is it possible that we no longer need to cower in fear? How could that be?

And the apostle Paul goes on to give us the reason:

…the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death…

As John put it …perfect love casts out fear…

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us.

It’s all because of love.  The love God has for us – He sent His son not only to die on the cross, but also to make it so that we can abide in God – we can live in Him.  We no longer have to fear judgement or condemnation from God because Jesus has already taken all of that upon himself.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  We will still have to give an accounting for the lives that we’ve lived on the day of judgement.  But instead of having to stand there facing an angry God full of wrath, we will face our Father who loves us.  And that should be the inspiration that drives us to give our very best for Him each and every day – love, not fear.

And so as Christians we can live victorious lives – we can be like the winner of Fear Factor, because as Joe would tell the winner each week…

“Evidently fear is not a factor for you.”

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