Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Fear can be a terrible and tormenting thing. It can also be very liberating. If, that is, we fear the right things. Right fears keep us from other fears. That is the point of our text today. If one fears the God who gives and rules life, one need not fear what life may bring. Such fear brings peace and satisfaction.
When I was a young man, I feared the jeers and rejection of my peers. When one is young and unsure, fear of not fitting in can be a tremendous burden. Fear of certain groups like those I labored to make my friends, soon brought with it pressures to participate in their activities. Activities that were certain not to be approved of by my parents, and in some cases by the police either. In fact, fear of being excluded, laughed at, rejected, etc. even allowed me to overcome fear (in some circumstances) of getting caught and/or punished.
The day came, when yielding to such pressures and fears found me entering into actions that soon brought me face to face with the police and the courts. Even the threat of those things was not as great as the fear of not participating in what I knew was dead wrong. Then, up to my neck in trouble, I finally had to break down and tell my Dad what I had done. He did not respond with rage, or threats or punishments or anything else of the like. But Oh! The hurt and disappointment that filled his eyes that day. I would rather had gone to jail and suffered physical harm than to see what that produced in him. In his crushing, I was crushed. And, I never did the like again. I feared ever to be responsible for doing such a thing to him again.
Time and maturity work together to make us more afraid of things like the law and the dangers we once risked so carelessly in our youth. But The Cross, brings us face to face with the horrors of our betrayal against our holy, perfect, Heavenly Father. Metaphorically, if we could have seen the eyes of God in our fall in Eden, and glimpsed the hurt and disappointment that we His image-bearers brought to Him – I dare say we would fear to ever bring such reproach upon Him once more. And such fear, that fear born of true love, would keep us from a host of evils, culminating in a rest and satisfaction that the world cannot disturb by its parade of worthless enticements.
Proverbs 19:24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
Here is the difference between the merely poor, and the sluggard: The sluggard will not expend any energy to help himself.
The poor may be poor for any number of reasons beyond their control. But the sluggard does not care about reasons, he or she merely wants their desires met and care nothing for seeing them met by any activity of their own.
And the same is true for the spiritual sluggard as well. Many are not as rich in Christ as is possible due to being in a place where the Word of God is not taught or preached with fidelity. They may be in a place where even the Word itself is unavailable due to oppression or other causes. But they long for such things and given the opportunity to secure them, would give themselves to it with joy.
Just recently I saw a video of an underground Church in China opening a case of the first Bibles they were ever allowed to own. The joy. The overwhelming sense of how blessed they now were. They hugged the Bibles and kissed them and wept over them and cherished them.
Then come to a place like the United States where we can buy Bibles anytime and anywhere we want. Where we can read and study them at will. Where the Word of God is preached and taught with fidelity in thousands of places all the time. And yet so much is the spirit of the sluggard present that those Bibles are seldom read, seldom dug into, and hearing the Word of God preached or taught is not a prize sought after to grow in grace, but a low level option to be indulged in when nothing else ‘more important or desirable’ takes precedence at the moment. And then we wonder why the spiritual lives of so many ‘Christians’ barely beat with a living pulse.
Father forgive us. You’ve given us the ‘dish’ of your Word and your Church – and so overcome with our sluggardliness are we – that we won’t even bring our own hand to our mouths anymore. Forgive us Heavenly Father. Restore us. And grant us the Spirit of Christ to desire and overcome what has overtaken us to our own destruction. Revive us!