From as far back as I can remember, I have struggled with the fear of man.
I had a great Dad, but when it came to baseball, I just could never be as good as he had been. He’d been a catcher and had even tried out for a major league team. So I became the catcher on our little league team (plus no one else wanted to do it).
But I was a lousy catcher. I didn’t have a strong arm; runners stole bases on me like there was no one behind the plate at all. Every game I feared I wouldn’t play well and my Dad wouldn’t be happy. After most games, I felt like a failure and disappointment to my Dad as a baseball player. I was greatly affected by the fear of man.
The Fear of Man Is A Snare
I have struggled with the fear of man in many ways over the years, and still do. But God is helping me and I believe he will help you as well. The Bible says:
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)
I don’t know any believer who doesn’t struggle with the fear man at times. In some places believers’ very lives are in danger for following Christ. I can’t imagine that kind of fear.
We can be tempted to fear what friends, relatives or co-workers think if we obey Jesus or take a stand for him. We can fear that people will leave our churches if we make certain decisions or preach what we believe is right.
If we try to follow what we believe the Lord wants us to do in every situation, we will certainly be tempted at times to fear man.
“The fear of man lays a snare” – it entraps us, hinders us and trips us up from obeying the Lord. In Jesus’ day the fear of man ensnared even many of the Jewish leaders:
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43)
The fear of man ensnares us and hinders us from sharing the gospel – I know this because I often struggle in this way. The fear of man entraps us and stops us from going to brothers and sisters and confronting them in love about sin. It stops believers from seeking reconciliation with each other.
What Is At The Root Of The Fear Of Man?
For most of us, our fear of man is rooted in a craving for the approval of others over the approval of God. The apostle Paul says that he did not seek man’s approval but God’s:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
This is the root of most of our fear of man – we long for man’s approval more than God’s. We are intimidated by men, rather than fearing the Lord. In Deuteronomy God charged those who would be judges:
You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s… (Deuteronomy 1:17)
I can so easily be intimidated by others. I hate conflict. I want everyone to like me. I don’t want anyone to be angry at me. I want everyone to think well of me. In short, I crave the approval of others. But I am grateful, for believers in Jesus can overcome the fear of man.
6 Ways To Conquer The Fear of Man
1. We conquer the fear of man by fearing God above all
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
The worst thing men can do to us is to kill us – take our physical life. Men can hurt us in many other ways – beat us, yell at us, slander us, mock us, hate us, spit on us. We can be tempted to fear these things. But these “fears” are nothing compared to fearing God, who determines our whole eternity.
But the fear of the Lord is not a groveling, trembling fear. It is a healthy respect and remembering that he is Holy and pure and will discipline us in love when we sin. The fear of the Lord is trusting the Lord above all things. The fear of the Lord is worshiping him and desiring to do his will.
2. We conquer the fear of man by looking to God’s Word
Scripture gives us the truth about life. If we look at men, they can look huge and intimidating, like Goliath looked to the Israelites. But when we look at God’s word, we look past the Goliaths in our lives and see that God is infinitely greater, more powerful and more deserving of our fear and love than any human. Scripture tells us the truth about our lives, e.g.:
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)
When we look to God’s word we see that the Lord is on our side, that he is greater than Satan and any man, that no weapon formed against us shall succeed. We must keep looking to God’s word, rather than looking at men.
3. We conquer the fear of man by trusting and obeying the Lord
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. (Psalm 118:8)
Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. (1 Samuel 15:24)
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:1-4)
When we trust in the Lord, we will not be afraid of “flesh” – of men. What can flesh do to us when God is with us and protects us?
4. We conquer the fear of man by bringing all our anxieties to him
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Come to Jesus with your fears. Cast all your cares on him. Say, “Lord I’m anxious about this. Lord Jesus, I’m fearful about this. I need you. Help me!” Jesus isn’t surprised by our fears. Our heavenly Father knows we are weak and takes great joy in helping us. When we turn to the Lord in our fear of man, he will cause his peace to guard our hearts and minds.
5. We conquer the fear of man by remembering that God is for us
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
“I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass… (Isaiah 51:12)
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me. (Psalm 56:9)
Men may be against us; men may try to hurt us or intimidate us. Men may threaten us. But the God who commands the hosts of heaven is with us. The God who sustains the very lives of those who seek to intimidate us is on our side and for us.
6. We conquer the fear of man by remembering God will never leave us
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
So the question is, will we live for the approval of men, or live for God’s glory and remember that we have God’s complete acceptance and love in Christ? Will we fear rejection of men, loss of status, reputation, or money, or remember that in Christ we are heirs of God, rich, have all we need, and are sons and daughters of the King of Kings.
Remember, whether we fear man or fear God depends upon where we are looking. Are we looking at men or at God? Are we looking at our situation or at Scripture and God’s promises? If we fix our gaze on Jesus, we will conquer the fear of man.