What does it mean to walk in the fear of the Lord in a modern context?
What does it mean to fear God? A lot of people might use this phrase to talk tough, but what does the Bible actually say it means? According to the book of Acts, the earliest Christians almost 2,000 years ago walked “in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31 Acts 9:31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
American King James Version×). How can we walk this way in the modern day?
The fear of God should be a constant force permeating every aspect of your life.
Reverence, Not Terror
How would you define the fear of God? Should we be paralyzed with terror in God’s existence? Our English versions of the Bible do not convey the full meaning of the original languages. Fearing God means living in constant awe, respect and reverence of Him, knowing that He, the Eternal Creator, sees our every action and hears our every thought. It isn’t fear as we use it today, such as being afraid of heights, snakes or spiders. It’s not a phobia—it’s a relationship founded on incredible respect.
God wants you to walk in the fear of Him. This implies continual action, not a passive sense of intrigue or some emotional burst of wonder. The fear of God should be a constant force permeating every aspect of your life. So what real-life actions can you and I take to learn the fear of the Lord?
1. Reflect On Creation
I had the opportunity to travel to Wisconsin this past winter, and I made a memory there that reminded me of this same point. I was hiking with a pastor in the cool, December woods. We had ventured down a hill and came to a half-frozen lake that stretched its arms all around us. The pastel winter landscape was more real than any matte painting, and we started to cross the water on a wooden bridge. Before we were even able to reach the other side, a bald eagle launched off a nearby tree and soared in front of us. He glided fearlessly through the crisp air into the frosty woods about a hundred yards away. It was a sight I won’t soon forget.
This event reminded me that God is a wonderful Creator. With His brush He paints the sunsets, and with His permission the seasons change. He is so full of wisdom that He dots the universe with swirling galaxies and populates the tiniest speck of dust with complex cellular life—but the same physical laws He wrote govern them both. Even the most ordinary things have layers of God-fashioned complexity that we can only attempt to understand. Without a doubt, God’s creation is beautiful.
I encourage you to meditate on God’s creation. Even something as mundane as a commute home from work can be transformed by glancing at the majestic clouds in the sky or towering trees that line the highway. If you feel isolated from all this in an urban environment, consider walking around a local park. I also recommend seeking out nature documentaries that explore God’s creation or even a weekend trip to a nearby nature center.
When we reflect on the creation, it’s nearly impossible not to be filled with wonder and humility. King David considered God’s creation, and asked, “What is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalms 8:3-5 Psalms 8:3-5  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
 What is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him?
 For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor.
American King James Version×). By realizing God’s dominion and our smallness, we start to grow in the fear of the Lord.
2. Examine God’s Word
When a builder sets out to construct a home, he needs his tools. In the same way, if we want to build on our foundation of fearing God, our most valuable tool is the Bible.
In ancient times, God described His expectations for Israel’s rulers. One such expectation is stated in Deuteronomy 17:18 Deuteronomy 17:18And it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
American King James Version×, “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law [the first five books of the Bible] in a book.” In those days, such an extensive and studious task would have to be done by hand.
Why would God ask this of an Israelite king? It was so “that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20 Deuteronomy 17:19-20  And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
 That his heart be not lifted up above his brothers, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the middle of Israel.
American King James Version×). God wanted these men to grow in their fear of Him by reading His Word.
God wants this from us still today. In doing so, we grow in the infinite wisdom that God has—the same wisdom that created the galaxies, bacteria and you and I. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,” and the Proverbs are an excellent source of practical wisdom (Proverbs 15:33 Proverbs 15:33The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.
American King James Version×). A great, quick start down this road is to read the book of Proverbs. If you read one chapter every day, you’ll finish the book in a month. By regularly examining God’s Word, we walk in the fear of Him.
3. Put It Into Action Through Obedience
Imagine someone who wants to be better at basketball. They get a guidebook to help them learn the ropes. They read, study and take notes in this guidebook for weeks preparing for someone to ask them to play. Then, out of nowhere, some friends invite him to play a game, but he declines. All of the reading in the world means nothing unless we act on it, which is why point number three is to obey God.
The fear of God can motivate us to act. Noah was “moved with godly fear” when he ignored the society around him and built an ark as God instructed (Hebrews 11:7 Hebrews 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
American King James Version×). Noah didn’t just read or hear about what God said to do, he lived it.
Of course, Noah faced opposition and dissent, and you should expect no different. There will be trials and hardships even if you do the right thing. However: “The testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4  My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×). If you refuse to heed what those around you want you to do and instead follow God, you will grow in your fear of Him to the point where you “lack nothing.”
God wants our utmost respect, awe, and reverence; He wants us to fear Him. We don’t do this by cowering in the corner away from Him, but by drawing closer to Him and building a stronger relationship. Meditating on His handiwork leaves us filled with wonder and humility. His Word is a tool we use to get to know Him and learn what He expects of us. Our actions are proof that we fear Him enough to do what He says. Whether it’s your first step or your 500th, let’s all take a step forward and walk in the fear of God.