by Mike Ratliff
25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25 ESV)
Our enemy is pretty smart. He has been around long enough that he believes he knows us. He knows that lost people are enslaved to him via their sin nature. He knows that the little flock, our Lord’s sheep, may be new creations via the washing of regeneration, but they still have their flesh and a deep, overwhelming need to be fulfilled. Their salvation has changed them so they now have the ability to be fulfilled in God the more they take on Christ’s character. Our enemy, on the other hand, does all he can to neutralize those sheep by attacking them in innumerable ways so that they walk according their flesh instead of according to the Spirit.
Satan has always wanted to be God. He caused a war in Heaven by attempting to usurp God’s throne for himself. Ever since, he has been hard at work attempting to fool people into believing that he is God or at least driving a wedge between people and the Living God by enticing them to be gods unto themselves through their self-will.
Through our enemy’s work of deceit, false teachers and false prophets, who serve “another Jesus” and a “subservient God,” have overrun the Church. When God wakes up His people to what is going on and they follow through by proclaiming the truth against the lies, the apostasy, and the outright heresies of these workers of lawlessness, the backlash can be quite severe. The counter-attacks can take many forms including intimidation, straw-man attacks, ridicule, and any form of deceitful attacks that people are capable of. Interestingly, the usage of God’s Word in these attacks always takes the form of taking passages out of context in an attempt to justify whatever false doctrines they are protecting.
Those who do follow through by standing in the gap, sword drawn, armored up in their total submission to and reliance on God, will experience unbelievable spiritual attacks. Why? Different evil spirits inhabit different lies or strongholds or whatever they are. Some are more protected than others. In any case, the spirits of despair, discouragement, doubt, and fear, among others, will attack to defend their territory. The people they use in these attacks will always try to insinuate that they are the ones doing God’s will and the one being attacked is the “Pharisee” or “hypocrite.” When the evil spirits get involved along with the deceitful attacks from these professing Christians, a sense of fear and foreboding and helplessness and despair can overwhelm the warrior. What are we to do?
We must start by staying immersed in God’s Word as we seek His face at His throne of grace. If we remain content to suffer and sorrow while being assailed by darts and arrows from our enemy and his warriors, we can stand and not fall into despair and discouragement. How? If we trust God we shall be safe, but if we fear man we will fall into the trap our enemy has set for us. We do not have to fall into it. We do not have to run in fear of him or his seed. Our eyes must be on our Saviour, not the enemy, not his seed, and not our circumstances.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)
The proverb I placed at the top of this post is very powerful and we need to take it to heart. Here it is again.
25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25 ESV)
This is a double proverb; each half is true by itself; and, put together, the whole is forcible and full of teaching. He who fears man is in great danger from that very fact; he who trusts in the Lord is in no danger of any sort; trusting in the Lord is the great antidote against the fear of man. Some may bring up martyrs. I have read Foxx’s Book of Martyrs several times. It made me weep as I read of dear saints of God being burned at the stake, beheaded, and exiled by those in power who claimed to be working for God. However, in the fires of physical death, God caused His Church to be built up, not torn asunder as our enemy had planned. Such is the fact that God’s ways are not man’s ways or His thoughts man’s thoughts.
What does it mean that the fear of man proves to be a snare? It leads men into great sins at times, snaring them, and holding them like birds by a fowler. Aaron yielded to popular clamor, tumult, and pressure by making the golden calf. Saul cared more to be honored among the people than to please God. Pilate feared that charge would reach Caesar, and so he delivered up our Lord though he knew it was wrong. Peter denied our Lord Jesus Christ, his Master, for fear of the accusations of servants in the house of the High Priest.
This fear of man keeps many from conversion; their companions would ridicule, their friends would be annoyed, they might be persecuted, and so they are numbered with the “fearful and unbelieving.” It also prevents others from proclaiming or avowing their faith. They try to go to Heaven through the back door. This is a violation of Romans 10:10.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:10 ESV)
Those who fear man also lower their dignity. For example, future King David made himself to resemble a fool when he feared Achish. Abraham feared for his life and denied that Sarah was his wife. They also are hindered in any duty that requires courage like Jonah refusing to go to Nineveh because he may be thought a false prophet if God forgives that wicked city. The book of Galatians in the New Testament was written by Paul to reproach the Galatian preachers who had gone aside to false doctrine to be considered wise. I’m sure you could add many more biblical examples here as well as ones from our own time who have fallen into apostasy in order to please men.
On the other hand, if we stand in the gap, sword drawn and ready to fight the good fight because we trust in the Lord, we are more than safe. Instead of fearing men (taking our eyes off of Christ and putting them on our circumstances and the howling dogs all around us) we put childlike trust in the Lord. In this, we are protected and can run the race set before us, fight the battles against seemingly overwhelming odds, yet not fall into Satan’s snare of defeat. We may take hits. We may be dragged through the mud and have our reputations besmirched. Others who should be fighting alongside us may shun us, but none of that matters because we know the following to be true.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness ‘sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39 ESV)
“The truster is safe from fear of man. God is with us, therefore we are strong, and need not fear. We are determined, and will not fear. We pray, and lose our fear. We prepare for the worst, and fear vanishes.”–C.H. Spurgeon
“After all, what is there to fear? What can man do unto us? God being with us, our safety is perfect, continuous, eternal, even through the whole human race should besiege us.”—C.H. Spurgeon
“The soul that cannot entirely trust God, whether man be pleased or displeased, can never long be true to Him; for while you are eyeing man you are losing God, and stabbing Christianity at the very heart.”—Manton
“Fear of man. Grim idol—bloody-mouthed—many souls he has devoured and trampled down into hell! His eyes are full of hatred to Christ’s disciples. Scoffs and jeers lurk in his face. The laugh of the scorner growls in his throat. Cast down this idol. This keeps some of you from secret prayer, from worshipping God in your family, from going to lay your case before ministers, from openly confessing Christ. You that have felt God’s love and Spirit dash this idol to pieces. Who art thou, that thou should’st be afraid of a man that shall die? Fear not, thou worm, Jacob. What have I to do any more with idols?”—M`Cheyne
“One fire puts out another. Nothing so effectually kills the fear of man as abundance of the fear of God. Faith is an armor to the soul, and clothed with it, men enter the thick of the battle without fear of wounds. Fear of man deadens conscience, distracts meditation, hinders holy activity, stops the mouth of testimony, and paralyzes the Christian’s power. It is a cunning snare which some do not perceive, though they are already taken in it.”—C.H. Spurgeon
What we must do is stop fearing what men say and do. Jesus told us that we will know false teachers by their fruit. (Matthew 7:15-20) Does that mean we simply know that their false and don’t warn others about them? That would be the epitome of fearing men! No! We cannot take that route. That is why the Church has become overrun with these ravenous wolves. No one will call them on their false doctrines because they fear the backlash or fear being open to criticism. My Bible very clearly says that we must not do that. We tell the truth and there is only one truth. There are not multiple versions of it. One of our enemy’s favorite weapons is compromise.
Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, confess our sins, repent, then in the strength of our faith and trust in our Lord, empowered by His joy through His grace, take up our armor, stand in the gap, and enter the battle according to our Lord’s will.
Soli Deo Gloria!