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The Fear of God (4)

Pope Shenouda III | 16 September 2009

Many are the benefits of The fear of God 
 
1. Fear of God leads to repentance and compliance with God's Commandments.
It prevents us from sinning, but if we sin, we will be terrified of the results of sin and of God's punishment. So, fear of God leads us to repentance and to return to God.
2. Fear of God is the beginning of the way and a shield of the spiritual life protecting from stumbling or deviating.
If we fear God we will feel His presence, as Joseph the Righteous said, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39: 9). Whoever fears God will be afraid of His justice, for He has set the principle: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom 6: 23), and will be afraid of God's omniscience, for He says, "I know your works" (Rev 3: 1, 15), and will be afraid of God's warnings and punishments. All this will prevent a person from sinning and make him comply with the commandments. God's fear will be a fortress protecting him from falling.
3. Who fears God will obey him, but who has no obedience will be a witness against himself that he has not the fear of God.
Whoever fears God will obey Him and do what conforms with His divine will, for the Lord said, "They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever … I will put My fear in their hearts." (Jer 32: 38- 40)
4. God's fear teaches us to be cautious and precise.
Who fears God will be precise and cautious about what he does or intends to do for fear of falling and causing God's anger. The apostle therefore warns us, saying, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall," (1 Cor 10: 12) "Do not be haughty, but fear." (Rom 11: 20) Believe me although fear is tiresome to some people, it is spiritually useful. It makes them cautious and prudent when facing a stumbling block, and they exert all effort so as not to fall. But if there is no fear of God in the heart, a person will not feel ashamed to do whatever he wants!
5. Many of those who lost fear became reckless.
Those turned into indifference, thinking that love needs not caution or precision in the spiritual life. Most of them become haughty and hard-hearted, and they lose the love they pretend to have as well!
6. Who trains himself in the fear of God will also have decency when speaking to God.
Those who claim that they love God though they have no fear often indecently blame God in their prayers, and under the pretext of familiarity they sin without fear!
See how our father Abraham, in spite of the great familiarity he had with God, when interceding for Sodom, says, "I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord." (Gen 18: 27)
God Himself says, "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?" (Mal 1: 6)
7. God's fear leads a person to earnestness in spiritual life.
Some people in the name of love lay no restrains on their life, and have no seriousness, caution, or concern about anything. They do not comply with the commandment, thinking that it is a kind of submission to the old Law which they are freed from!
On the contrary, a spiritual person who fears God is always committed, serious and faithful in the little. God's fear is always before his eyes, unlike a person having no fear of God. Regrettably among the ministers such a type may be found! A minister of this type when invited to an important youths meeting for instance may promise to be present but not fulfill his promise and apologizes very late! If he had fear of God he would be precise and say to himself: 'God will condemn me for the souls I neglected in that meeting!' In this way he will be precise, cautious, faithful in his ministry, and committed, so long as he puts God's fear before his eyes.
8. God's fear leads to humbleness and heart contrition.
In humbleness one should say, 'Who am I the dust to challenge God and break His commandments!' Even when praying, one would say, 'Who am I to stand in God's presence and speak to Him!' We have the example of the Pharisee and the tax-collector: The tax collector went up to the temple, and standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' So he went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee who stood praying and boasting of his fasting and giving of the tithes, and judging the tax collector and saying, 'I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers.' (Lk 18: 10- 14)
9. Fear yields awe, and awe yields tears.
A person who fears God will pray and worship in awe. God's fear in his heart gives him fervency, and his prayer may be accompanied with tears out of a contrite heart. In this way our holy fathers in spite of their high spirituality lived always in fear of God, contrition of heart, awe, and tears.
We have many models in the biographies of saints:
• The Great Saint Arsanius, at the time of his departure, was terrified and afraid. His disciples said to him, 'Even you father are afraid of that hour?!' But the Great Saint said to them, 'As far as I could I obeyed the commandments, but the judgment of the people is different from God's judgment.' Moreover, it is said that at the hour of his departure he was pleading for an opportunity to repent!! What ought WE to do?!
When a person thinks he has love, he immediately behaves in familiarity with God, and may become indifferent and lose the spirit of contrition which leads to God. Afterwards sin to him will be like water which he drinks all the time, and he will cover his fall by saying that God knows the weakness of our nature and He is merciful and forgiving!
On the contrary, a person who walks in God's fear always has his sins before his eyes, and his eyes are always filled with tears and his heart with awe!
   10. Who lives in God's fear always examines himself.
He examines himself not only with respect to his works, but even with respect to the thoughts and intentions, and for not growing and for every little thing, as if he stands before a recorder recording his feelings, emotions, thoughts, intentions, tongue faults, and faults of the senses. All the things recorded will be declared on the Last Day, before the angels and the multitude. But be sure, if you have fear and repent, God will wipe them out from the recorder and will no more impute them against you, as the Scripture says, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Rom 4: 7, 8; Ps 32: 1, 2)
11. God's fear does not only lead to self-examining, but also to self-reproach, regret, and repentance.
Considering the words of St. Macarius the Great, 'Judge yourself, brother, before they judge you,' a person will rebuke himself for everything done or intended, and for every evil thought, as St. Bachomius the Great said, 'God's fear burns evil thoughts and removes away every vice from man.' God's fear leads to the purity of the heart:
12. God's fear urges man to struggle and labor for God's sake, to please Him.
A student who has a long syllabus of which he studied only very little, of course will feel afraid, but this fear will make him work harder to study the rest however troublesome that may be. In the same way our spiritual program is the holiness without which no one can see the Lord, for He says, "Be holy, for I am holy." Our spiritual program is perfection, for the Lord says, "You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Mt 5: 48)
Ought you not to fear then since the way is long between us and holiness and perfection?
Fear will lead us to struggling and labor, and to watching for our salvation, "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." (Mk 13: 36) The farther we go on the way and find perfection still far, the more we will follow the advice of St. Paul the Apostle, "Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things." (1 Cor 9: 24, 25) And the more we fear God, the more we will struggle and run without ceasing.
13. God's fear leads to spiritual growth.
Who fears God will grow everyday, because, seeing that the way of perfection is too long, he fears lest he die before attaining its end.
A monk once read the book of John Climacus (of the ladder) in which thirty steps of virtues are mentioned, the first of which is estrangement and death to the world, so he wrote on a plate 'it is too long still before me!' And he started struggling to go up those spiritual steps. On the other hand who has not the fear of God may go down and worse all the time.  
14. God's fear will make a person interested not only in attaining his own salvation, but in the salvation of the others, so he seeks to spread the Kingdom of God.
He is concerned about the salvation of everybody he knows as Job the Righteous was concerned about his sons and offered burnt offerings on their behalf (Job 1: 5). This will make him struggle in ministering to the others, and grows in ministry and in the love of the Kingdom, as St. Paul said, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh." (Rom 9: 3)
15. God's fear therefore will lead to praying.
When a person struggles and feels that his struggle is not enough, he will pray continually pleading for God's help and grace for himself and the others, because the Lord says, "Without Me you can do nothing."(Jn 15: 5). Fear leads him towards God, like Peter who walked on the water, but when he feared he was about to sink. He cried out to the Lord and the Lord stretched His hand and caught him (Mt 14: 30, 31) Fear makes you cautious and makes you plead to the Lord to support and save you.
16.  God's fear also leads one to acquire knowledge through reading and seeking counsel lest one fall due to ignorance.
One will reiterate in God's words day and night that one may be enlightened with His commandments. And in case one needs guidance one will seek the spiritual fathers as the Scripture says, "Lean not on your own understanding." (Prov 3: 5)
17. God's fear calls upon you to treat the others well.
Fear God's words, "Whoever says to his brother, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Mt 5: 22) Who fears God will not hurt the feelings of anyone, nor judge anyone, fearing to be judged with the same judgment (Mt 7: 2). He will have mercy upon everybody that he may deserve the same, as the Lord says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Mt 5: 7)
Now I shall stop here for there is no more space, and to another article on the same topic, God willing.

 

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