Saturday, October 29, 2011

When People are Big and God is Small

According to Scripture the fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom (Prov. 1:7) and conversely having no fear of God before our eyes is a manifestation of unbelief (Rom. 3:18). When the fear of God is lacking, the fear of man quickly takes its place.

Recently I finished reading a book entitled “When People are Big and God is Small” (ISBN 0-87552-600-4) by Dr. Edward Welch. Dr. Welch is the director of counseling and academic dean at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), as well as professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The book is 239 pages divided into 13 chapters, with all but the last one containing helpful questions designed to stimulate further thought and application of the concepts covered in each chapter.

The book is so helpful because in it Dr. Welch examines in practical terms the symptoms and cures for the fear of man. He notes that the symptoms of this often debilitating sin can masquerade by many different names such as “peer pressure,” “over-commitment,” “self-esteem,” the “need to feel loved or wanted,” or “anxiety and panic attacks” to name a few.

Dr. Welch also identifies three basic reasons why we fear people (pg. 23):

1) We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us.

2) We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or despise us.

3) We fear people because they can attack, oppress, or threaten us.

All these fears share the same basic root cause of idolatry, self-worship, and an underestimation of our sovereign and loving God.

What is the solution to these fears? Simply put, it is to learn to properly fear the LORD because it is the fear of the LORD that drives away all other fears (Prov. 19:23). We grow in our fear of the LORD as we grow in our knowledge of Him through His word, and we begin to emulate His holy character by loving and serving others – particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ (chapter 12).

As one who has from time to time struggled with the fear of man I recommend this book as biblical, readable, and insightful. I have profited from it and I believe that you will too.