T. PIERCE BROWN
First, we need to recognize that not all fear is bad. Perhaps the verse known most widely which commands fear is Eccl.12:13, “Fear God and keep His commandments.” Like almost all words, “fear” has more than one meaning. It may mean “reverence and awe,” or it may mean a sort of terror. Perhaps we need two articles; one on “Cultivating Fear” and one on “Overcoming Fear.” At any rate, at this time we want to emphasize the kinds of fears that are enervating, frustrating and debilitating and how to overcome some of them.
Of course we need to understand also that there are rational and proper fears and irrational and improper ones in reference to all sorts of things. For example, one may properly fear to step off a curb at a busy intersection for fear of what a car might do to him. But if he lets his fear of a car prevent his riding in it, being around it, or enjoying its use, it is improper. To fear to disobey God is not the same as “fearing God,” and fearing God with a feeling of terror is not the same as fearing God with a feeling of reverence and awe.
But lest this article grow unduly long, there are only two kinds of fear with which we want to deal today. It is our hope that understanding some of the PRINCIPLES we may mention will help in overcoming other kinds of improper fears. First, there is a fear of failure.
There is no way to measure the amount of good that could have been accomplished for God and man if this fear could be destroyed. This must have been the problem of the man in Mt. 25:25 who said, “I was afraid and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” His punishment is recorded in verse 30, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” This must be what John meant in Revelation 21:8 when he lets us know that “The fearful, and unbelieving — shall have their part in the lake that burned with fire and brimstone.” That is enough to make a person afraid, isn’t it?
Second, and closely connected with the fear of failure is the fear of ridicule. There is a slight difference in them, for one may fear ridicule even if he succeeds in doing what he wants to do. But almost always if he fears to fail, he will fear ridicule as a result of his failure.
So the fear of failure is not merely the fear that we will not succeed, but usually involves assumptions of all sorts, such as, “They (?) will laugh at me if I fail,” “I will be held up to ridicule,” “The shame and disgrace of failure are greater than the reward of success.” “Even God will punish me if I fail.” If one is able to pull out his hidden assumptions and examine them honestly, he may be able to see the irrationality of some of his fears and overcome them.