It’s popular now to pick a theme word for each new year instead of crafting a list of resolutions. As a lover of words, this idea appeals to me. And yet, the word I feel most drawn to for this year is far from the ordinary ones—joy and kindness, for instance. Instead, my theme word for 2023 is fear.
Choosing to focus on fear is far from popular in our anxiety-avoidant culture. Certainly, even scripture commands us to exchange our worries for trust in the Lord. However, I do not mean to live in fear as in to worry or fret more. Instead, I intend to live as though I wholeheartedly fear God. I believe in a just, holy, omnipotent God, and I want to prove my belief by honoring Him in every decision, word, and action. In the end, I expect that this lifestyle will, paradoxically, lead to greater fearlessness—after all, God promises confidence and protection to those who fear Him (Proverbs 14:26).
Scripture is clear that those who fear the Lord will grow in the following:
- Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7)
- Humility and justice (Proverbs 8:13)
- Life on earth and in eternity (Proverbs 10:27, Proverbs 14:27)
- Confidence and protection (Proverbs 14:26)
- Self-control (Proverbs 16:6)
- Rest and satisfaction (Proverbs 19:23)
- Contentment (Proverbs 23:17)
- Delight and discernment (Isaiah 11:3)
- Stability (Isaiah 33:6)
“Fear” may not sound like the most encouraging theme word, but this list reveals that righteous fear gives rise to a great deal of the more common ones! By the end of this year, I hope to be a more joyful, kind, patient, and self-controlled person because I have more fully embraced the fear of the Lord.
We are used to hearing that the solution to anxiety is love, and this is partly true. However, it also seems that the fear of God—which leads us to know and love Him more deeply—grants a tranquil confidence that is often overlooked. In fact, by rejecting the fear of God, we cheapen the love of God…but that is a post for another day.
Put simply: God loves those who fear Him; if we truly fear God, we need not fear anything else.
For years, I have started and stopped devotional plans. I’ve found that I am much better at studying the Bible when I pick a subject I’m interested in and do a deep dive. Throughout 2022, I explored the fruit of the Spirit throughout the New Testament, and this gave me a deeper understanding than all my years of attempting to follow devotional outlines combined. For 2023, I will be studying passages that address the fear of the Lord. There are many, so this may prove a fearful undertaking in itself!
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