8 Reasons Why the Fear of Man Is a Snare

by | Mar 28, 2022 | Spiritual Warfare

First, the fear of man will cause you to focus on everything but God. You say to yourself: “What will people say?” “What will my friends say?” “What will my enemy say?” This is one of the reasons why Paul said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

The fear of man is a signal to pray. And be thankful. To focus on God. To seek Him.

“I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:1-3).

Remember to pray “with thanksgiving.” When Jacob was scared to death he prayed, remember that he referred to God’s “steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant” (Gen. 32:10).

“We are told to set our affection on things above not on things of the earth” (Col. 3:2).

“We are to keep our eyes on Jesus” (Heb.12:2).

Second, the fear of man is a snare because we overestimate the value and benefit of what people can do for us.

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear, What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:6-9).

Who might “princes” be if you are not in touch with the royal family? Answer: those with money. People who are well connected. People you trust and admire. Authority figures. Or those whose connection with important people might advance you. Those whose recommendation you need.

If God raises up such people, fine. But make sure He does it!

It isn’t always easy. But one must focus on God and keep trusting Him. He will answer. He is never too late, never too early but always just on time.

Third, the fear of man may cause you to overestimate the harm people might do to you. Third, the fear of man may cause you to overestimate the harm people might do to you. Louise and I endured several crises during our 25 years at Westminster Chapel. What made them so serious is that I feared I would lose my position as the minister of Westminster Chapel. I feared that the people would not want me any longer. That public opinion would send us packing. What had happened convinced me that I was finished; that I had no future. It was when I was betrayed and decided to share my agony with my old friend Josif Tson. Assuming he would put his arm around me and say, “Get things out of your system,” he said: “R. T., you must totally forgive them or you will be in chains.”

What I thought to be the worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me! So too with every succeeding crisis. In each case I feared that the church would vote me out. Instead, they voted out my opposition. Some of these crises were satanic attacks. It is when I saw first-hand how the devil always overreaches himself. Satanic attacks, as we will see further below, always result in the devil being defeated and openly shamed.

The devil tried to make focus on those who opposed me and tried to make me think that my destiny was in their hands. Wrong! My destiny is in God’s hands. God put me in Westminster Chapel without my raising a little finger. The principle of Galatians 3:3—what the Spirit begins the Spirit will accomplish—was at stake. God wasn’t finished with me yet!

Fourth, the fear of man will make you take yourself too seriously. We saw how Abraham instructed his wife Sarai to tell the Egyptians that she was his sister. Abraham took himself very seriously indeed. He said to her, “Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you” (Gen.12:13, emphasis added.). Abraham took himself seriously. He should have known better. He had been given one of the greatest promises in the entire Bible:

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (Gen. 12:2-3).

Fifth, the fear of man will cause you to be less teachable and less open to criticism. The fear of man can make us defensive. Some people live defensively day and night. This means no freedom. But where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). The result can be that we never learn anything anymore. It is as though we know everything and don’t want to admit it when we are ignorant in some area.

Sixth, it will keep you from being at home with yourself as you are. “Be yourself plus God” I used to hear people say. Why be yourself? Because that is the way God made you. He used your heredity and environment to make you as you are. You are “wired” in such a way that nobody is like you. God wants you to like yourself. If you say, “I hate myself”, you slapped your Creator in the face. He likes it when you like yourself. It is also true of course that he or she who tries to please God will not please everybody! But it is the best way to live. It is when you are truly true to yourself.

Seventh, the fear of man will keep you from being true to yourself. “To thine own self be true,” said William Shakespeare (1564-1616). That is not a biblical verse but it certainly parallels Romans 14:19: “let us pursue what makes for peace.” This includes inner peace. What you feel in your heart of hearts.

As I said above, when you are true to God you will be true to yourself. God will never lead you to violate your conscience. The peace with God that comes from faith in Jesus’ blood not our works (Rom. 5:1) leads to the peace of God which passes knowledge and understanding (Phil. 4:7).

Consider asking yourself, “Am I being true to myself?” when you are with certain people. When you adopt a certain set of beliefs. When you accept or refuse a particular invitation. When go to a particular place. When you say what you say and do what you do. In other words, how do you feel? Our instincts are not put there for nothing. It is true that some—because of disobedience to God—develop a seared conscience. But that will never happen to the person who walks in the light of God (1 John 1:7).

Eighth, the fear of man could keep you from fulfilling the will of God in your life. This is the bottom line why we should not be governed by the fear of man. As Paul said to Timothy, God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim.1:7). This fear is the devil’s tool to scare you into doing what is against God’s will.

I think Jacob got out of God’s will for a while. This was evidenced in the way he reacted to his sons who took vengeance on the people who had defiled Dinah: “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household” (Gen. 34:30).

Jacob’s reaction was out of the fear of man—what would now happen to him. But God stepped in and said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (Gen. 35:1).

This was a pivotal moment in the life of Jacob. He got his sense of authority back. He said to his family, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Gen. 35:2-3).

The family did this. Lo and behold, as they journeyed, “a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (Gen. 35:5).

This is what will happen when the church gets right with God! A fear of God will return.

Perhaps you need to go back to Bethel?

God has a will for your life. Satan will work overtime to get you to miss God’s will. He will make things look “providential”. He will use a person you admire but who could sometimes be an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). A person who has been generally wise could get it wrong—and cause you to miss what God is up to.

The opposite of the fear of God is the fear of man. Strangely it is the fear of man that is responsible for keeping us from choosing the fear of God. The greatest competition in the entire universe might be said to be choosing the fear of man over the fear of God.

Yes, choosing. You must make a conscious choice. It is an act of the will. Don’t wait for God to knock you down! When you see the evidence right before your eyes, proceed. If you don’t have the evidence, do nothing.

Because people did not “choose the fear of the Lord”, calamity followed. It does not need to happen. It does not need to happen to you. {eoa}

The preceding is an excerpt from R.T. Kendall’s book, Fear (Charisma House 2022). For more information or to order the book, please visit mycharismashop.com. R. T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) and Oxford University (DPhil). Kendall is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, More of God, Word and Spirit, and We’ve Never Been This Way Before.

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