Running between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, US Highway 321/441 is just about the prettiest drive in the country… unless you are actually driving on it. The posted speed limit is a robust 35 miles an hour, but don’t worry, Grandma with her roomatizm could walk faster than you can drive. It’s a two-lane parking lot most of the year – packed with hillbilly gawkers and discount mall shoppers. At the north end of Pigeon Forge, a beautiful, four-lane divided boulevard called Teaster Lane splits off to the east carrying hyped-up consumers off to the malls at high capacity. Late one night, my son, Noah, and I exited Hwy 321 onto Teaster. I knew the speed limit on the main highway was 35, but I didn’t see any speed limit posted on Teaster. I made my best guess that 45mph seemed reasonable. That’s when the red lights started flashing in my rear view mirror. More on that after a word from our Sponsor:
“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4-5)
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
A lot of people don’t care for the idea of “fearing” God. Most people who bother to think about God like to think of Him as only kind and benevolent, kind of like Santa, but with more authority and angels instead of elves. Jesus didn’t mind telling us to fear God – He thought that was something important for us to know. In reality, fear is almost exactly like worship. Worship means you give a person or thing the respect it deserves – you recognize its worth. Fearing God doesn’t mean being afraid of Him. It means giving him the respect, deference, and final authority on a matter that He deserves as Creator of the universe. Fear doesn’t mean you run from God when you do the wrong thing; Fear means always desiring to do the right thing.
Now where was I… oh yes, getting busted in Pigeon Forge. Smokey saunters up to my car window. “Sir, I stopped you because you were speeding. Do you have any idea how fast you were going?” My little passenger riding shotgun was all ears wondering how Dad was going to get out of this one. With absolute sincerity and innocence I took a deep breath and said to the officer, “Yes sir, I know exactly how fast I was driving – 45 miles per hour. When I turned off the highway I began looking for a speed limit sign and I have yet to see one. I know that the limit on that two-lane highway is 35, but I thought very carefully about it and since this is a divided, four-lane boulevard, 45 seemed reasonable to me.” The officer looked me right in the eye, tamped down a small smile that was desperately trying to crack through, and said, “Well, it’s just 35. Please drive slower.” And he walked away.
Here’s the deal. Most people start fearing consequences when red lights start flashing. Real fear begins when you start your car. That kind of “fear” recognizes the rules of our society and chooses to live within them. That’s also worship – you acknowledge the value (the worth) of rules and that they are designed to protect life, not spoil your joy ride. God deserves the same worship, the same fear. We can live recklessly and then worry about how mad God is going to get when He finds out OR we can wake up in the morning with an attitude of seeking what pleases God. We are all frail humans who are going to make mistakes. We also have access to wisdom (scripture, Holy Spirit guidance, wise counsel) that guides us away from mistakes and toward seeking to please God in all areas of our lives.
Followers of Jesus know how precious “the fear of God” is. Followers of Jesus worship God the way Jesus did – completely.
Clark H Smith