How do you put joyful and fear together? Well the word fear doesn’t mean things like terror, fright, alarm or apprehension. The word fear is more of an awe of who God is and what God can do. In other words, how joyful am I, in awe of the Lord, as I follow His ways! That would be Awe with a capital A. It’s still difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that the creator of all of the galaxies, planets and universe wants a relationship with me. He created the heavens and the earth.
And let me pause right here and say, I have joined the ranks of believers of the big bang. Now hear me out for a moment. When God SPOKE the world into existence, He created something from nothing! Can you imagine the sound it must have made when it appeared? I believe that would have been a really BIG Bang!
So as we look at the Old Testament, nobody was able to be in God’s presence except Moses. When he came down from
Mount Sinai, he had a glow from God’s glow-ry. But the rest of the time God hid himself in a cloud, in a burning bush and wasn’t able to be seen. In the New Testament, when Paul was knocked down by a bright light and blinded, it was the presence of the Resurrected Christ. Talk about AWE! Yet He invites us into His presence anytime anywhere through prayer. So that is the Awe I’m talking about.
By the way joyful does not always equal happy either. You can be joyful and in awe of God, but not feel very happy.
As I tumbled to the bottom after losing my family and my job, it took a while, but my heart and my mind became aware and in complete awe of God. And though I was joyful that I had finally succumbed to His desire for my life, I was not in a happy place. I was relieved that I had started the process of being broken of my patterns. But during my darkest days of brokenness the word happy wasn’t really a part of my vocabulary.
It was only after my complete brokenness and spiritual awakening that joyfulness and awe of the Lord materialized in my life. The second part of verse 1 says, “all who follow His ways!” Once I was on my way to the bottom, that’s when the duh factor kicked in and I knew I needed to follow His ways. Does that mean living a performance based life for God? The answer to that is an emphatic no! Living a performance based life just sets you up for failure. Because neither you nor I will ever be able to live up to the standards set before us. As I tried, in the flesh, I failed. And when I failed I became disappointed in myself. And when I was disappointed in myself I didn’t like myself, let alone love myself.
In Luke chapter 10 an expert in religious law had asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. Jesus then asked the man what the Law of Moses said and in verse 27; The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
So what does that look like? Well if I couldn’t love myself, how is it possible to love God, my wife, my family or my neighbor? It was, and is impossible. Loving the Lord my God with all of me is the awakening I’m talking about. A spiritual awareness that He is alive, loving me, living in me and we are walking and talking all the time. Then I can love myself, and my neighbor. We should definitely be concerned about how we live our life. But if that’s the only thing you focus on, you will be miserable. And I was miserable. Miserable for keeping the secrets that I kept, miserable for failing my marriage vows, miserable for letting down my heavenly Father, my family and my friends, all while hiding behind a mask that everything was okay or FINE. I was at a conference on relationship addiction and the acronym of fine was given as; Fearful Insecure Neurotic Evasive. I’ve heard others too but that really spoke to me! Because I was all of the above.
If you live a performance based life, you are living under the law and you will be miserable. Christ came to fulfill the law so that we now live under Grace. So if you do love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, He will be on your mind all the time and your heart will be filled with the desire to hang around with Him. You will love Him with a love that surpasses any earthly love you can think of. After all, as a follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you and everywhere you go, He goes. Everything you do, He does. For many, that’s a very scary thought. It is actually horrifying to me to think of some of the things that I put the Holy Spirit through in the ways I lived my life before hitting bottom.
Not a day goes by that I don’t praise the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness of my past. Here is the most incredible part of that. When He forgave me of the past, the very first time I confessed and repented, He forgot about it. He cast it as far as the east is from the west. So when I come to Him and praise Him for forgiving my past, He just says, “I have no idea what you are talking about, but you are welcome. I love you my child!” God loves with a reckless kind of love we can’t even imagine with our finite minds and hearts. His reckless love alone should give us an incredible amount of joy and put an awe or fear of the Lord in our hearts so that we will have the strongest desire to follow His ways.