We should fear and love God

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Lord sat enthroned at the flood. (Psalm 29:10)

When I was a child, Grandpa and Grandma had a plaque in their dining room that read, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10)

Fear God? That's right -- respect! God had whole chorus lines belting it out in heaven long before Aretha Franklin, except she sang, "Just a little bit," and God wants a whole lot.

Reading in Psalm 29:10 that "the Lord sat enthroned at the flood" helps me keep my nose clean. After all, in 40 days God wiped out all of sinning humanity except for eight people. All the drowned corpses of messed-up, misbehaving mankind were under Him, and God was sitting on them as His throne. I get a good sense of who's boss when I read that.

That may not scare you, but it helps scare the sin out of me. I think it scares any of us who have lived awhile and gone through some storms -- especially the scary ones that came out of our own sin. The storm in Noah's day wiped out nearly all of humanity, and I've been through storms when my little humanity looked pretty "iffy." I was deliriously grateful when God pulled me out of the waters that were threatening to wipe me out.

The fact is, storms are pretty much promised to God's people. Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Tribulation, storms, soul-stretching tough times -- they're instruments of change. We raise our kids to be independent. God raises his to be dependent on him. Jesus didn't say, "Be of good cheer, you will overcome the world." He said, "I have overcome it." So we have to trust and cling to him to get through our storms.

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus told his disciples as they were boarding a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, "Let's cross over to the other side." Then he went to sleep. A great storm arose and his disciples panicked and awakened him. Jesus told the storm, "Peace, be still," and it was still. Nobody went down because Jesus stilled the storm, but the disciples gained a greater fear of God. They knew they could have died, but Jesus had saved them.

Notice Jesus' next words, though. "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, "Who can this be that even the wind and the sea obey him!" Their fear changed its focus; they feared and revered the Lord.

Martin Luther begins every one of his explanations of the Ten Commandments with: "We should fear and love God that we may" keep each commandment. Respect for God's authority will keep us obedient to his commands. God loves us into heaven, but he scares the hell out of us.

Besides, God uses storms to produce spiritual stamina. He strengthens us and makes us strong through our struggles. We don't realize Jesus is all we need until he's all we've got.

It's pretty easy to enjoy the smell of roses in our lives until we have to live with the stench of our failures, our sins and our dreams gone down the drain. Hooked on something? Aborted someone? Living with a lie? Failed again? On a "marry"-go-round that's not merry? Made major mistakes? Run out of strength and hope? Joyless and clueless about how to go on? That's when Jesus says, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." In other words, "Have faith in me."

As Martin Luther put it so well, "We should fear and love God" because once we have a healthy fear, respect and appreciation for the power of God, we don't have to fear the power of the storms.

June Seabaugh is a member of Christ Church of the Heartland in Cape Girardeau.

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