Exercises on the fear of God
To attain to the fear of God, try to practice the following exercises:
Put God before your eyes always, and remember that all your works are revealed before Him.
He sees and hears whatever you do or say, as St. Macarius the Great says, 'know that whatever we do is bare and revealed to Him, and nothing is hidden from Him.' And St. Isaiah the anchorite says: 'When you wake up every morning remember that you will give an answer about your works. This will keep you from sinning, and the fear of God will abide within you.' Our problem is that we do not put God before our eyes while sinning. It seems as if we drink sin with water, not remembering God at all! Therefore truly David the Prophet said about the sinners, "O God, the proud have risen against me … and have not set You before them." (Ps 86: 14) If we put God before us we will be afraid and will not sin. Therefore Elijah the Prophet said his beautiful words, "As the Lord of hosts live, before whom I stand …" (1 Kgs 18: 15)
To attain the fear of God, you should put before you always God's glory and greatness so that you may be filled with awe and fear of Him.
Remember that He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev 19: 16), God Almighty, Creator and Lord over all, before whom we are but mere dust. How then can we defy Him?! Remember His justice, for He will reward everyone according to his works (Mt 16: 27; Rev 22: 12), and say to yourself: 'where can I flee from God's justice, while I am caught in sins?!' Remember God's goodness and holiness that abhor sin. So if you dare not commit sin before your devout friends, nor even utter an improper word, how much more rather before God who is All Holy you ought to be ashamed!
Remember that sin is addressed against God Himself, and this will make you afraid.
That is why David the Prophet said, "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight." (Ps 51) And Joseph the Righteous likewise said, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39: 9) It is good to repeat this verse whenever you are fought with sin so that the fear of God may be in your heart. Also your feeling that sin hurts the heart of the loving God and grieves His Spirit dwelling in you (Eph 4: 30) as if you refuse communion with Him, this will make you fear.
Rebuke yourself as a temple of God and God dwelling in you.
Say to yourself, 'Is it possible that I continue a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelling in me if I got defiled with sin?!' For the apostle says, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." (1 Cor 3: 17) "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!" (1 Cor 6: 15)
You will attain the fear of God if you lead a life of repentance.
Repentance leads to the fear of God, and the fear of God leads to repentance. Who leads a life of repentance will feel how disgusting sin is, and how it separates one from God and exposes one to the dreadful condemnation. Therefore one who walks in repentance will fear to fall, and if one fell, one will fear to get worse, beginning with the senses, then the mind, the heart and finally action. At this point sin will have become a habit conquering one's will. So, such a person will say to himself, 'If I begin with sin, thinking that I can prevail over it and leave it at any time, time will come when sin will be prevailing over me.'
One can attain the fear of God if one examines oneself regularly and strictly, as the Paradise of Monks says that we should examine ourselves every morning and evening to see what we have done, whether acceptable to God or unacceptable to Him. Then we hurry towards repentance. Such was the life of St. Arsanius.
St. Moses the Black said, 'When you rise up every morning, remember that you will give account for all that you have done that day. This will bring the fear of God into your heart.' Yes. We need to examine ourselves every day that we may have fear. We need to test our hearts to see if there is any indifference or negligence or lack of caution and fear of God. Let us return to the beginning of the way, my brethren, and if we have lost the way, let us return to the fear of God to start with and grow unto love.
Let us be aware of the signs of lack of fear and avoid them.
Who discuss with sin will lose the fear of God, and who has pride, arrogance and cruelty will not have that fear of God. Also who does not put the Day of Judgment before his eyes always and works for the awe of that Day, will be far from the fear of God. And who misuses God's longsuffering to be reckless instead of repenting, will have no fear of God in his heart.
Another easy exercise is to try to fear God in the same way you fear people.
What you fear to do before people, fear to do before God. And the thought you fear that people may know, do not think of it before God because He knows and tests your mind. The hidden sins, which you do in secret and fear to commit before people, be ashamed also to commit before God. Otherwise God will say to you, 'Do you not have any awe for me as you have for people?! Am I not equal in your sight to a human being of dust and ashes?! Do you care about dust and ashes and care not about Me?!
Train yourself to fear God even in your closed room.
If you fear God in the secret, you will be more cautious in the public while amidst people. If a girl, for instance, is very cautious and behave decently in her closed room where nobody sees her, she can hardly behave recklessly outside her home. Since she is cautious while alone putting the fear of God before her, she will be more bashful in front of people. Since she is bashful before the angels and the spirits of the saints, she cannot lose her bashfulness and fear of God while amidst people.
A person who fears God will feel ashamed of any thought even though not seen by anyone.
Such a person will be ashamed of his inner feelings and hidden intents, because he knows well that God sees the hidden things. They are clear and revealed before Him. Therefore, be careful and rebuke yourself for any improper thought; judge yourself more hardly than you judge the others for what you see in them. And when you confess before the father priest, let it not be like telling a story, but do that with regret, sorrow and bashfulness because of your fall. Remember that you are confessing before God Himself in the hearing of the father priest, and as far as you do that with regret and sorrow you will have the fear of God in your heart.
In order to attain the fear of God, let not the world swallow you up.
Let not your involvements take up your whole time leaving you no time to think over your life and your eternity, to the extent that God's name will vanish from your mind and you forget Him and His commandments. In such a case the fear of God will not be in your heart or in your mind. So, try from time to time to withdraw from this vortex and turn your eyes to God whose eyes are always upon you. That is why an elderly father in the Paradise of Monks once said, 'Whatever you do, know that God is always looking at you, and you will have His fear in your heart.'
To attain the fear of God, keep company with those who fear Him.
You will learn from their way of life how to fear God and to be cautious and strict like them. On the other hand beware the company of the reckless lest you lose the fear of God and be encouraged to be indifferent. Moreover, have control over yourself so as not to be affected by the sinful environment that have not the fear of God in them. Avoid the seat of those who have no fear of God.
To attain the fear of God, be careful not to grumble against God.
Do not keep blaming God for everything as if you ascribe to Him whatever failure you experience or hardship you undergo. Such a person will be far away from the fear of God. Some may even go far in grumbling as to blaspheme against God! Some nations went further in grumbling unto atheism! Therefore if you have to blame for some failure, blame yourself, not God, and you will attain the fear of God.
To attain the fear of God, never mention God's name except with all reverence and respect, and never utter it in vain (Ex 20: 7).
Never utter God's name with indifference or at any time whether proper or not, because God's name is Holy. Do not make it easy for your tongue to utter it, not even as a kind of familiarity! For familiarity does not prevent us from revering God. Remember that every time you say the Lord's Prayer, you say, "Holy be Your name". Keeping such respect for God's name will bring His fear in the heart. We have already spoken much about the means leading to the fear of God, but let us move to the relationship between the fear of God and the love of God … This will be next week, God willing