We Worship what we Fear

This post started as a talk I gave for my Theology of Worship class. It was requested by a few to get posted online. I pray it sheds light to any darkness in your life and helps you move towards freedom. It was inspired by a sermon I heard by Erwin McManes. You can listen to it here. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/mosaic-erwin-raphael-mcmanus/id74403741?mt=2&i=365028554

I want to talk about something very common that not a lot of people think about, yet it consumes our mind. It hides and lays dormant. Masking itself by other names and creeping up when you’re not paying attention. And that is Fear. Fear, like Love, has a way of attaching itself deep within us. In ways we don’t think about. Like a lot of words in our English language “Fear” can be easily misinterpreted. It is very subjective and brings up different thoughts and images to each person. Most of us think of terror or anything that brings about death. Things we are afraid of, worry about, and/or bring up anxiety. The online Dictionary defines fear as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

Notice how it says “an emotion… of something real or imagined.” I could go on about our emotions and how we let them control us but right now I want to focus on one theme. I want to present a different way to think of fear. To redefine it. I believe a new perspective of fear will break down barriers and beliefs that have held us captive. Maybe ones you’ve never considered.

If you’ve ever read through the prophetic books, the wisdom books, or the Psalms that compose much of the Old Testament, there is a chance you’ve come across this line: “Fear the Lord.”

“Serve the LORD with Fear and rejoice with trembling” Psalm 2:11

Or in Isaiah-8:12

“The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,

he is the one you are to fear”

Without any context or background these statements can be somewhat frightening.

What does it really mean to fear the Lord?

What is God telling us?

Should we be driven by fear?

What does fear have to do with worship?

Fear doesn’t sound too inviting. Fear is something more to avoid.

So many questions from this one small statement.

I just applied it to my (then) current definition of fear. God is a scary powerful omniscient being, and if you don’t do what he commands you better watch out. Kind of like when you are out of line and you better watch out because dad is coming at you with he belt. I’ve known some people who’ve turned away from God because the idea of “Fearing God” didn’t sit well. They were associating this fear to a unhealthy relationship with an authority figure.

But when I read verses like

the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Psalm 111:10


God does not give us the spirit of fear but the spirit of love….” 2 Timothy 1:7

My definition of fear wasn’t holding up too well. Where did my definition even come from? The God I was reading in scripture, who I was beginning to grow closer in relationship too, didn’t appear to be a “SCARY” power hungry authoritative figure. He came across more as a loving Father. One who was desperately trying to restore his relationship with His people and set them up for a win. At times a good father needs to correct/discipline his children because he knows what’s best for them. Discipline doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them/us. No, it takes a deep love to correct someone’s ways. Because you can see what their actions are doing to them and where it’s leading.

I needed to redefine what I thought I knew about fear. My definition had grown from TV, movies, news, scary stories, ect. Like most of our definitions, It was assumed. Not researched and reflected on.

So what is fear then? I know fear can be used to describe something magnificent and to hold in reverent awe. Imagine standing at the top of Half-Dome in Yosemite. Being in the midst of something much bigger than yourself can be pretty fearful. But I felt like there was more to it.

I’ve come to know fear as this.

Fear is an emotion. Like all emotions, they are there for a reason. Fear is a reaction to your environment, or your perceived environment. It’s a safety mechanism, like when a tiger is stalking you. It has a way of triggering something in your brain. Kind of like how pain tells you something is wrong, fear tells you something is missing or something is there. The way healthy stress tells you need to get something done. A healthy fear makes you more aware.

Think about it. If you had a fear of spiders and there was a spider in the room I guarantee you won’t be thinking of anything else other than WHERE IS THAT SPIDER AND WHAT IS HE DOING! You won’t be thinking of how fat you are, how much money you don’t have, what’s for lunch, where and what will I be doing next year. Your only concern is that spider.

Fear is our attention.

Fear is our focus.

What we fear is what we are subject to. It defines our Master.

Fear drives us and establishes our boundaries.

Consider this:

If you are afraid of heights, you stay low.

If you are afraid of water, you stay on land.

If you are afraid of the dark, you stay in the light.

If you are afraid of people, you stay alone.

When our fears master us they begin to limit our life and make it smaller.

Fear in the wrong hands can be manipulative. Every powerful leader knows this and they have used it. The sad thing is some churches use this same tactic.

So What does fear have to do with worship? If I fear God won’t I just keep clear of Him? Well yes, but thats if you still are projecting your negative definition of fear onto Him. We’ll come back to that idea. Lets look at worship for minute first.

One definition of worship is: who or what you give all your attention to. What ever you give worth to. Your time, your energy, your focus. You become what you worship, You serve what you adore (give all your attention to)

Psalm 115:8 (talking about idols)

“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”

You become or get whatever you focus on. It could be that new car, job, shoes, status, or girl/guy. Whatever you give your full attention to you will make happen. (Whether it’s right or wrong)

When I first started flying helicopters I had to learn how to hold a hover. They instructed me to focus on something far in front of the helicopter, like the horizon, or something big and stationary, for a reference point. This was so that I could hold the same spot and not drift. Whenever I would look down or to something to the side, I would drift towards it, or sink, and/or bounce off the ground. I didn’t want to drift to the right or attempt to break a $500,000 machine, but it would appear I was trying too. When I was beginning to snowboard I didn’t intend on hitting any trees. But one day I was working my way down the mountain and behold there was a tree near my path. The more I focused on the tree and told myself “don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree!” Guess what I did, I hit the tree. Not because I wanted to, but because it was what I was focusing on.

Whatever we focus on, we feel — whether it’s true or not.

Have you had an experience where somebody did something, or you thought somebody did something, to hurt or take advantage of you? And as you focused on that you got angry, sad or hurt? Then later on you found out you were dead wrong, they never did it, it wasn’t true, or their intent. Did you fell bad you assumed something that wasn’t true? Maybe even embarrassed. Why’s that? It’s because we feel whatever we focus on.[1]

Let that idea translate to your everyday life.

What are you focusing on? What people are thinking of you? How much you don’t have? Why is everything always going wrong? Will I live alone forever? Will I ever be enough?

People get depressed, angry, sad because they are focusing on the wrong things. Fear is tricky like that. It hides itself not wanting to be revealed. It’s the stress because you’re late for work. It’s the anxiety about going to the dinner party. It’s the anger behind the guy who cut you off.

But if you reveal what you fear you reveal your master.

If you dig deep enough you will uncover them. Its uncomfortable and confrontational but when you start to take control of your fears, instead of letting them control you, you can recognize the boundaries you set on yourself. You can open yourself up to a new sense of freedom by overcoming them by giving them to God. Healthy fear allows us to fully acknowledge who God is and all of his attributes. God is the source of life. When we let the source of life be our master it breaks down these walls we’ve created. We may have a lot of baggage we put between us and God but that doesn’t stop Him from loving us. We may project our unhealthy fears onto Him instead of letting Him take the burdens of them from us.

How does that work?

I believe our root fears along with our core beliefs steal our freedom and our worship from God. Here are some examples of some major root fears in our lives.

Fear of failure: Root fear of worthlessness

When you are stressed it could be because you are afraid of failure. If you fail where does that leave you? Do you fear becoming worthless and not needed? The fear of worthlessness hides itself in tasks, relationships, or ownership of “stuff”. You need to find value by what you do or who are with. Your status says everything about you. You need this job in order to make your mark and be known. Jobs become priority, people become less important. They are only there if they help you fill a void or get what you need. You focus on what you are supposed to be doing to be validated instead of what God’s already done to prove you already are.

You worship your ability instead of God’s ability

I speak of this from experience. I held my importance by what I thought others thought of me. I assumed since I had a cool important job that I could draw meaning from that single source. That didn’t last too long. I felt empty. It wasn’t the job that was killing me, it was the core belief about what I thought about myself. I thought if I wasn’t busy doing “stuff” I was worthless. That led to depression. I couldn’t enjoy anything I was doing. No matter what I accomplished it felt empty and meaningless. Once I dug and found the root cause of my fear, the fear of being worthless, I was able to start healing. Now, I know my worth comes from God.

Romans 8:14–15 says “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.”(emphasis mine)

We don’t have to strive and work for acceptance. Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Any one struggling with depression I would encourage you to think about what your root fear is.

Fear of flying, water; heights; anything; Root fear of loosing control.

When you say you are scared of flying, is that what you really mean? Have you stopped and thought about it? Wouldn’t you say you’re more afraid of the plane not flying while you’re on it? Is it the plane not flying or the dying part? Death is a pretty common fear among people andit hides itself well. But lets keep digging. Are you scared of death or the unknown of what lies beyond? The unknown means you don’t have control over where are, what your doing, or where you are going. We humans need control in our lives. Control or certainty is one of our six essential needs[2]. We need to know if the roof over our head is going to hold up, or the car we drive isn’t going to fall apart. A lot of things in life are uncertain. We just choose not to think about it. But when uncertainty slaps you in the face. You are going to be pretty scared. We all have different phobias because we all have different life experiences that form our world-view. If you’ve known someone personally who has died in a plane crash. That fear is very real for you.

Once you’ve unmasked this fear you can battle its attacks with the Truth, The Word of God.

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

I don’t know a lot of things but I know God’s intention for my life is good, even if my current situation is not looking like it. I know there is more going on in this world than I will ever know, but there is a God of infinite wisdom with a plan.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Genesis 50:19–20

“But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”

You worship what you can control. Or what you are certain of.

When you fear the unknown you don’t have trust in God’s promise. That He is with you. It may not go according to your plan but He’s got it.

Worrying and not trusting in God is temporary atheism.

You can’t just trust Him with the things you are certain of. You need to trust Him with everything. True courage isn’t the absence of fear, instead it’s acknowledging your fear and saying “yeah I don’t know but I trust a God who does,” and stepping forward.

Fear of people, public speaking: Root fear of being rejected.

7 out of 10 people have a public speaking anxiety.

Why are we so scared of what people think of us? I’m just like the majority of people. I don’t want to be thought of as an idiot or judged harshly. But if you have the right intentions and are trying to build people up then why does it matter what they think? If you get to the root fear of the issue, you don’t want to be rejected. Another essential need of every person is the “need to feel significant” and “a need for connection/love”[3]. If you are rejected you are cut off from these. When you fear being rejected you put all of your effort into being accepted. You focus on what you’re wearing, who you hang out with, the way you talk, etc. You start ignoring your core values and beliefs to gain acceptance to a certain person or group.

You worship people’s praise instead of God’s praise .

The Apostle Paul, a man who wrote the majority of our New Testament, struggled with this as well.

1 Corinthians 2:1–5 NIV . (emphasis mine)

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul was aware of his fear but stepped out anyway. He knew God would step in.

Proverbs 29:25 (AMP)

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high.


In reality I don’t think we can live without fear. We were born with it for a reason. Just like our other emotions, fear helps us with our survival. When we can become more aware of our fears and there causes, we can begin to master them. Instead of them mastering us. We can step out in faith instead of hiding from fear. I’m a work in progress. But when I started becoming more aware of what I was focusing on and my root fears, I began a journey to freedom. Once plagued with depression, I turned my fears over to God, and a weight was lifted. The haze that was blocking the light began dissipating.

Joy, Hope, Fullness: Root fear of God

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”

When we fear God and God only, we are no longer bound by all of the other fears that would hold us captive. The fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of insignificance, all the fears that know us by name and haunt us in the dark of the night, become powerless when we know the fear of the Lord. And if this is not enough, we discover that perfect love casts out all fear.

When we choose to put all our fears in the Author of Love we won’t fear anything else.[4] . When our full attention is on God what can man do to us? (Psalm 56:11)You begin to understand that God is for you and not against you.

When our focus is to get to know Him we grow in wisdom. (Psalm 111:10)

Out of this one fear comes an abundance of life. Because our focus is life.

When we Fear God we choose life.

[1] Robbins, Anthony. The Edge: The Power To Change Your Life Now. Robbins Research International, 2015. Spotify

[2]Robbins, Anthony. The Edge: The Power To Change Your Life Now. Robbins Research International, 2015. Spotify.

[3] Robbins, Anthony. The Edge: The Power To Change Your Life Now. Robbins Research International, 2015. Spotify.

[4] McManus, Erwin Raphael. The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within. Thomas Nelson, 2005. Pg.101

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