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. 

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