Christians lose freedom every time we fear something more than God. When children are most concerned with the affection of their parents, they become enslaved by that perceived need. When Parents are most concerned with gaining respect from their children, they become enslaved by that perceived need. When a wife is most concerned with receiving love from her husband, she becomes enslaved by that perceived need. While it is not a bad thing to desire affection, respect or love, when we place any other human being as our source of satisfaction we are saying that we fear man more than God.
The Old Testament has countless examples in the lives of patriarchs, judges, priests, prophets and kings where we can see that the fear of man results in disappointment and even tragedy compared to the blessing that comes from fearing God. As an example, just look at the life of King Asa in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa is known as a good king who did right in the eyes of God. He commanded Judah to fear the Lord and he took down the places of worshipping false gods (14:1-4). As a result of this beautiful fear of the Lord, we read, “And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace.”(vs. 5b-6).
The point here is not that when you fear God, you will never have troubles. Asa had his fair share of problems to deal with. He was King of Israel when God’s people were known in national identity. The peace and freedom of this kingdom was noticeable when Israel feared God over the nations. One way we particularly see this is when Ethiopia came against Judah with 1,000,000 men. That’s right, One Million! Judah had a maximum of 580,000 men. They were out-numbered by this impressive army by two to one. Asa feared God. He did not go to the other pagan nations for backing. He did not make treaties to bolster his forces. He sought out the Lord who he feared, and God gave victory. The point is that his fear of God gave Asa confidence that he was already on the winning team. His God was bigger than the nations. Many people would be shivering with fear and enslaved to worry. Asa was confident in his God and free to trust.
If you turn to the end of Asa’s life in 1 Chronicles 16, we find a different king. Asa was threatened by the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead of seeking out the Lord and fearing God, Asa feared man and sought the help of Syria. Asa then received a very profound rebuke. “At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars."(2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Asa spent the remainder of his life enslaved to man-fearing and didn’t even seek the Lord when he was struck with disease. He became an angry man who treated people with cruelty in his final days. Surely Asa could tell us something about the freedom in fearing God compared to being enslaved to our sinful desires in the fear of man.
True freedom comes through living a life where you are not anxious about your reliance on other humans but by having complete satisfaction in God who provides all and generously loves. It comes through knowing that everything we ever need for all eternity is found through the cross of Christ. When we forget God, men and women become bigger in our eyes than they actually are. Freedom is being able to serve God and rely on the concrete hope we have for eternity. It comes when God is the biggest most glorious focus of our life. When that happens we can actually say, “What can mere man do to me.” That is freedom.