The Pride of Being Afraid

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By John Piper About Pride
Part of the series Taste & See

The Lord has used some unusual texts in my life to help me begin to overcome the fear of men. One of those texts is Isaiah 51:12 where God says, “I, I am he that comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass?” Doesn’t that strike you as strange when he says, “Who are you that you are afraid?” The meaning is that God regards fear of men as a manifestation of pride. When we say “Who do you think you are, barging in here like that,” we mean, “You are presumptuous and arrogant to barge in here.” So when God says, “Who are you that you fear mere men,” he means, “You are presumptuous and arrogant to be afraid of men.” 

Now I had never thought of my being afraid to witness, or my being afraid to risk some kind of embarrassment, as a sign of pride. It felt like a weakness, and who is proud of weaknesses? But now this text has helped me see my fears in a new light.

Fear of men really is a mark of pride. It is presumptuous. It presumes to take over a responsibility for our comfort which God has said he wants to handle. Fear gets up on the throne and shouts: “Don’t do that; you will get egg on your face. You’ll be humiliated.” So fear takes over the role of protector and guide and comforter. But these are roles that belong to God. The Lord says very emphatically, “I, I am he that comforts you!” So when we allow ourselves to fear the displeasure of man we are acting arrogantly. We are presuming to set our wisdom above God’s promise.

God promises to be our comforter and protector, but we deny the credibility of God’s word and allow fear to set the limits of our obedience. Every time we let fear hinder us in an opportunity to share the gospel we are proudly regarding our emotions as a more trustworthy portent of the future than the promises of God are. So it makes very good sense that God should say, “I, I am he that comforts you; who are you that you should be afraid of man who dies?”

This has helped me a great deal. It is not just a command: Fear not! It combines two powerful motives: 1) it stresses that God loves to help us in our scary times (“I am he that comforts you”), and 2) it stresses that God is very offended and indignant when we do not believe this promise. I love to think that God is my constant help and comfort, and I hate to think of offending God by the pride of unbelief. Therefore, Isaiah 51:12 has been a great help in overcoming fear in my life. I hope God will use it and others (like Luke 12:4-7) to help you too.

Pastor John

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