How to Cultivate a (Healthy) Fear of the Lord

Photo 201592275 / Trailhead © Mkopka |

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Psalm 111:10 NIV

If wisdom is the summit of Pikes Peak, then the fear of the Lord is the trailhead. The starting point. The beginning.

Most of my kids enjoy hiking now, but as children, family hikes required lots of snacks, water, and the company of the family dog to overcome their initial reluctance. How much more of a challenge is it to cultivate a reverent, yielded, and humble heart for God amidst a culture that thrives on disrespect, independence, and pride?

How do we guide our kids to the spiritual trailhead?

God leads the way through His word.

1. God establishes His authority and His might. God’s conversation with Job brings a proper perspective (Job 38-41). Here’s a taste. Job 38:4-5 reads, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”

Job offers a great reminder of who’s in charge—and it’s not us. Every believer needs to understand this. Just as we check our speed when we see a policeman parked on the side of the road, we need to acknowledge God’s sovereign authority.

2. God establishes His holiness. In Revelation 4:8 we catch a glimpse of the activity around God’s throne, “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” His holiness inspires our holiness.

In Exodus 20:20, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Belief affects behavior for kids and adults alike. Let’s examine our behaviors and those of our kids. Do we tuck holiness into our packs for the hike or have we left it on the floor at home?

3. God established holidays and the Sabbath. Holy days and the Sabbath help us remember His might, His miracles, and His mercy. For the Jews, feasts like Passover and Hanukkah. For Gentiles, Christmas and Easter. A sharp focus on the Godhead during the holidays helps our children keep the main thing the main thing. Sunday reminds us weekly to stop, rest, and worship. Exodus 12:26 reads, “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them . . .”

4. God connects actions with consequences. If we heed God’s call to note His holiness, then we also need to note God’s perspective on sin—and that’s something He takes very seriously. Look at Genesis 2:17, “. . . but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The last several times my husband and I hiked, we’ve seen a snake and some poison ivy. If our grandkids had been with us, we would have kept them at a distance, described the danger (what to look for, how to recognize it), and warned them of the consequences of contact (snakebite or an itchy rash). 

Do we practice such due diligence when it comes to sin? For example, taking God’s name in vain is common. OMG pops up on texts as much as LOL. Yet, this one made the Ten Commandments, etched by God Himself on Moses’ tablets of stone.  

5. A healthy fear of God conquers all other fears. Do other fears edge out a fear of God? Fear of what others think has tripped me more than once.

In Luke 12:5, Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Gulp. A healthy love and reverence for God eliminates my list of fears. He overcomes them all.

Meet you at the trailhead.


1. Write God’s resume.

2. Record your personal history with God in a journal. If you already have one, review it. 

3. Make a list of things that are pure (without spot) and holy (set apart). How do they compare with God’s holiness? Do they give us a good picture or do they fall short, showing how great His holiness is in comparison?

4. List your fears. How do they interfere with your obedience?

5. List any sins which just aren’t a big deal to you. White lies. Gluttony. Slothfulness. Ask God for His perspective on them and how they hinder you specifically. 

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You to Have

The Top 10 Fears God Never Intended You To Have

Here’s a list of the top ten fears, courtesy of ABC News:

  1. Social phobias
  2. Open spaces
  3. Heights
  4. Flying
  5. Enclosed spaces
  6. Insects
  7. Snakes
  8. Dogs
  9. Storms
  10. Needles

Psalm 19:9 (NIV) reads, “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” The fear of the LORD is designed to:

Proverbs 29:25 tells us that the fear of man is a snare. Look at the Top Ten list. Number 1? Social phobias: fear of man.

All ten can create emotional paralysis.

Yet according to 1 John 4:16-18, the fear of the LORD isn’t really fear at all. It’s love at its purest level, a love that drives out fear.

Fear of the LORD acknowledges God’s omnis: omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.

It recognizes who He is and who we are.

It inspires deep gratitude for His mercy and our salvation.

It opens our eyes to the truth.

And calls us to walk in it.

Workout for the Week: Fear of the LORD

Memory Verse: Psalm 19:9 (NIV) “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.”

Meditation Passage: 1 John 4:16-18

Just Do It: Cultivate a fear of the LORD.

Hit and Miss: Having a Fear of God

Hit and Miss

“Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, ‘What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?’ When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid.” (1 Samuel 4:6-7a NIV)

It’s sad when unbelievers show a fear of God greater than that of His own people. In the scenario above, God had allowed the Philistines to oppress Israel because Israel had turned away from Him. After an initial defeat, Israel decides to bring in the big gun—the Ark of the Covenant. Like target practice, this scene is filled with hits and misses.

Miss #1: Israel’s Unconfessed Sin

Judges 21:25 tells us, “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” God’s Law had been tossed aside. Idol worship was the rage. Israel traded the real thing for cheap imitations. The result? The enemy invaded. We open the door to invasion too when we lose a holy fear of God and trade Him for the temporal.

Miss #2: Lucky Charms

God became a good luck charm. A rabbit’s foot. A blessing machine. Just haul the ark to battle, and winning is a sure thing because God is with us, right? Relationship was abandoned for ritual. Then, even ritual was dropped. No fear, no respect.

Miss #3: No Turning Back

Warnings and initial discipline had no effect. Israel skipped repentance to the tune of defeat that day. Thirty thousand men died, and the ark was captured. Disobedience has consequences. Israel missed early opportunities to return to God.

The Philistines, however, knew how to treat a deity.

Hit #1: Recognition

Scripture tells us, when the Philistines learned the ark had entered the Israelite camp, they were afraid. They understood a power was present beyond their human ability to combat. The God of the Hebrews was to be taken seriously. We should take Him seriously too.

Hit #2: Reputation

The Philistines knew God’s reputation. “They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert.” (1 Samuel 4:8) Though their knowledge of God was incomplete and a bit shaky as well, they knew of His past and expected more of the same. We should too.

Hit #3: Respect

“We’re in trouble.” (1 Samuel 4:7) The Philistines had it right even though God chose to use Philistia to discipline and judge His own people. However, their fears were not unfounded. Though the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark, they experienced God in a unique way for the next seven months. 1 Samuel 5-6 gives a comical account of God’s presence and power among the pagan Philistines. Don’t miss it. It’s a fun read.

So, how’s our target practice? Hits or misses? Let’s check our fear of God and stay on target.


When you think of God, do you think OT or NT?

Has God changed?

Do you expect mighty things from Him?

What kind of relationship are you cultivating?

Have you put Him in a box? Ready to grab Him if you need Him?

Family Application:

What qualities did the Philistines show that we as believers should have?

How does this look?

How can we avoid Israel’s mistakes?


We open the door to invasion when we lose a holy fear of God and trade Him for the temporal. Click to tweet.

The Philistines knew to take the Hebrew God seriously. We should take Him seriously too. Click to tweet.

The Philistines knew of God’s past and expected more of the same. We should too. Click to tweet.