We have probably all been there. We are driving our car and a red light starts shinning on our dashboard. I do not know how you react to such things, but my first reaction is to think: “O well, those lights are wrong sometimes so it does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong this time. I bet the light is malfunctioning.” Thankfully I have learned to push past that first reaction and attempt to take that warning light seriously because odds are it is telling me something important. You may not have this first thought of denial that I have when it comes to car dashboards, but in our lives we often act in a similar way. God has designed certain things to be warning lights that are designed to warn us about a spiritual problem or expose a deeper issue with our walk with Christ.
There are several reasons why we may not take these warning lights seriously. First, it may be that we are unaware that such and such a thing is a warning light for spiritual troubles in our souls. The solution for this is continued growth in believing knowledge of Scripture. We need to be educated about the warning signs on the dashboard of our souls! Second, we may have developed a habit of second guessing the absolute authority and accuracy of Scripture in our lives. True believers do not explicitly question the absolute authority and accuracy of Scripture in our lives. We do however, implicitly question its absolute authority and accuracy for our lives when we rationalize away the warning signs that it is bringing to light in our walk with Christ. The solution here is to functionally live out the absolute authority and accuracy of Scripture in our daily lives; that is, allowing the clear principles of Scripture to be specifically applied with authority in our daily lives. Third, we may be so in love with what is wrong in our hearts that we are willfully ignoring the issue. The solution for this is obviously to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts a godly sorrow over that sin.
There are many such “warning signs” in the Christian life, but I would like to allow Nehemiah 4:14 to point out a very important one. It has to do with who or what you fear. Using the analogy of a car, a properly running engine must have a healthy level of the fear of God. How do we know when our fear of God is running low? When does the light come on to warn us? The warning light is on display when we fear people rather than God according to Nehemiah 4:14. The returned captives were rebuilding the wall, but they were being ridiculed by their enemies (4:1-8). They said: “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work” (Nehemiah 4:11). In response to these developments Nehemiah “stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows” (4:12-13). But Nehemiah noticed that something was wrong. The warning light was going off on the dashboard of God’s people at that time: “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people” (4:14). The warning light was that the people of God were fearful of the enemies. It was not just that they were fearful of the enemies; it was that their fear of the enemies had replaced their fear of God.
This is how it always works. Fear of God and fear of man or circumstances do not mix. They are like water and oil. If we fear people or circumstances we do not fear God. If we fear God we will not fear people or circumstances. Nehemiah makes this point very clear: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight…” (4:14). In other words, replace your fear of the enemies with the fear of God. Remember who God is. He is great and awesome. To fear people or circumstances is to exalt other people or things above God to the level of great and awesome. In essence, fear of man or circumstances is idolatry. It is giving worship to mere mortals or circumstances rather than the truly great and awesome God.
So let me ask you. How is your dashboard? Do you have any warning signs going off in your life? Do you have any rogue fears that are detracting from the glory of God? How about your boss? Your finances? Your future? Your health? That brother or sister in Christ that you know you need to lovingly confront over sin but will not do it because of fear. Or what about the many lost people around you that you just cannot quite gather up enough strength to give the gospel to because you are fearful of their reaction. These are all warning signs on the dashboard of our walk with Christ. Remember, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). If you are in union with Christ, fear God, not because of future condemnation, but because of who He is. He has saved you completely apart from any works of your own based on the substitutionary death of Jesus in your place. You owe your eternal abode to Him as a gift of grace that you deserved the opposite of. Fear Him and be ready to notice any warning signs that this all important fear is starting to wane.