In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he cautions them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling before God. The matter of working out one’s salvation relates to understanding and knowing who God is and serving him with reverence. Our fear of God is not a dreadful fear as we are his children. God is loving, gracious, kind and forgiving. He can also be a dreadful God and a God of judgement. God expects us to listen and obey when he speaks to us and for us to take heed to the Holy Spirit’s instructions. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
Paul understood as a leader that he was called by God to shepherd the church. Like many believers, some people adjust their attitudes depending on who they are talking to. Many Christians have a reverential fear and respect for ministers and those in spiritual authority. What about our fear of God who is always present with us and sees everything that we do? The Holy Spirit who lives in us hears even our deep thoughts, motives and intentions. Is it not wise to be more fearful of God than we are or men? “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Most parents discipline their children because they want the best for them. Parents understand that in order for their children to develop discipline and become positive members of society, that they need correction. In the same way, God will at times discipline us not because he does not love us. He wants to ensure that we accomplish our assignment on earth and have our place with him in eternity. God knows the things that gives the enemy a place in our lives and gives him legal rights to afflict us. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Samuel once scolded Saul when he disobeyed a direct instruction from God and said, ‘to obey is better than sacrifice.’ At the time he was making reference specifically to the act of sacrificing an animal to God. Saul went against what God said in order to please the people. The consequence of Saul’s disobedience was costly for his entire family. We often cannot see the end from the beginning but we serve a God who knows how all situations will end. God knows the outcome and it takes faith for us to trust that he knows best. The will of God can be the hardest thing to do at times but our obedience will yield fruits of righteousness.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).