By permission, this article is an edited version of a message by Del Fehsenfeld, Jr.,“Fear of Man” and is taken from the video/dvd of the same name. The rights to the video/dvd are owned by Life Action Ministries www.lifeaction.org
Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. founded “Life Action Ministries” in 1971. “Life Action” is a revival ministry that God has used in great ways across our nation in churches since its beginning. The message, “The Fear of Man”, was preached several months before Del died of brain cancer in 1989, at the age of 42.
The entire message can be viewed at: www.lifeaction.org.
Several years ago our Life Action Revival Ministries executive staff got together for our semi-annual evaluation time. We had devotions and prayer scheduled and then we were going to get on with our business but at 2:00 that afternoon we were still in devotions.
One of our staff members had the nerve to bring up a subject from God’s Word that all of us around that table, the movers and the shakers of our organization, discovered was their problem. And when you have an executive staff around the table and they all find out they’ve got a problem, devotions don’t end in fifteen minutes.
We were amazed, as we went around the table, to do discover that everybody else had the same problem. We thought, “Surely, these capable, qualified men, in positions of leadership in this organization, don’t have this problem”. The devotional that morning was on insecurity and that began a new pilgrimage in my own life of spiritual growth.
The only thing that I remember from that staff meeting was the definition of insecurity: that it is the result of placing my confidence and trust in people or things that can be taken away from me.
In our staff meeting that day, we discovered that just about everything and every person on this earth could be taken away from us: our mate, our ministry, our health, sanity, intellect, personality, all of our friends, our charismatic personality, our dynamic ability to be able to proclaim God’s truth, all the material things of life, and every person that we knew. We discovered that most of us were building our lives by placing our confidence and trust in all of those things and in all of those people.
We also discovered that security, unlike insecurity, is placing our faith and confidence and trust in that which cannot be taken away from us and that there are only two things on this earth that cannot be taken away: one is our relationship to the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the other is our relationship to the written Word, the Bible.
Therefore, our conclusion must be that the only way we will ever be secure is in building our relationship with Jesus and His Word.
One year after this staff meeting, God brought Bill McCloud (the pastor of the church in which the great Canadian revivals broke loose in 1971) into an area where Life Action had spent about nine months in revival work. He brought all of churches in that area together and announced his subject on a particular night: he was going to preach on the fear of man (which, by the way, is the scriptural term for insecurity or what produces it).
I sat on the front row and thought to myself, “I don’t have fear of man. I preach anything God asks me to preach. If it costs me the meeting, I don’t compromise and I would stand for truth”. And so, I started praying for all those people in the meeting that night, “God, You know that fear of man has held these people back from obeying You”.
I’m not sure anybody else in that auditorium got anything that night except me. By the time God was through pointing His finger at my, he had chopped me up in pieces, stomped all over me, and then put me back together again.
So, how does fear of man, insecurity, affect us? Proverbs 29:25 teaches that the fear of man brings a snare. It imprisons.
For example, some people cannot open their mouths and share the gospel with someone because they are choked by fear of what that person might think of them. They are consumed with fear of man.
There are some parents who can’t discipline their children properly. Because of fear of man, parents can't be firm and loving as well as consistent because they are desperate for their children’s approval and afraid they will lose their children if they discipline God’s way.
There are some who cannot disagree with another person or cannot stand it when someone disagrees with them because of fear of man. Some are totally intimidated and threatened when somebody loves them enough to point out something in their lives that is unscriptural.
There are those who are consumed with fear of man and believe that they are the ultimate spiritual authority. That is close to blasphemy.
Fear of man results in a person keeping everybody at a distance and making sure they are the “tough guy” when dealing with other people.
Some who have fear of man can’t stand it when their children act up. It’s not because they are really concerned about their character and their behavior, and how they have hurt the heart of God and disobeyed Scripture; no, it is because they fear how their children’s behavior makes them look in front of other people.
Fear of man will determine who a person associates with, the clothes and hairstyles they wear and even the neighborhoods they live in.
The fear of man ensnares, imprisons, and holds a person captive. Some, enslaved by fear of man, are chained to their sin habits and the only reason they haven’t received deliverance is because they would have to shame themselves and go to another believer and confess their sin and make themselves accountable. Their fear of being “found out” and what someone might think of them keeps them in the “muck and mire” of secret sin habits in their lives.
In my own pilgrimage, I found myself begging God to forgive me for drive that I found in my life, a drive for approval. I wanted to be approved by other people. I thought to myself, “how self-serving, how self-centered, how selfish, and how wrong”. I kept confessing the sin to God but I never found freedom of forgiveness like I had with other sins I had confessed.
Under the tutorship of the Holy Spirit, I discovered that the drive for approval is not a sin but it is God-created. When Jesus was baptized, the windows of heaven opened and the Father spoke and said, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (approve of).
There’s nothing wrong with the drive for approval. Created in us by God, we must understand that the drive for approval was given in order to drive us to Him-that we would “study to show ourselves approved unto God”. (Second Timothy 2:15a).
The A.U.G. degree (Approved Unto God) is one degree that is needed in the life every believer more than any other degree. But it is a degree that is not conferred by any Christian school or university. It is a degree conferred only by God. I believe the day has come that we need to ask God for a godly contempt for the approval of man and ask Him for an insatiable appetite for the approval of God. Until we seek the approval of God instead of the approval of man (of which I was guilty of), we will never know the joy of true freedom from fear of man.
In trying to understand my approval drive, I discovered that what I had done was substituted relationships, people, position, status, and things, for God. I did this by seeking acceptance, status, and increasing my work productivity.
Some may seek the approval of man by making an attempt to be accepted by as many people as possible. Sometimes a believer will compromise, or lower, his or her standards, in order to be accepted.
Others may seek the approval of man by attempting to achieve a level of status to impress others. People who drive the fanciest cars and move in to more expensive homes, sometimes do so because of fear of man, seeking man’s approval. Others just cannot live without name brand clothes and the finest jewelry substituting status for approval instead of the approval of God.
And then there are others, like myself, that use increased work productivity in an attempt to meet the approval drive. It was so bad with me in the earlier years of our ministry that when we booked a crusade in Des Moines, Iowa, the pastor called me and said, “Del, would you do me a favor and this time stay in town?” I said, “What do your mean”? He said, “Ten years ago when you were with me over in the Buffalo, New York area, if I remember right, you were on seventeen flights and preached six of the seven services in that crusade and all of the other time you were on the phone”.
I would preach Sunday through Friday, we would drive all night to the next crusade, the team would get out of the van exhausted having slept through the night, sit down in a truck stop for breakfast and I’d be on the phone. I would overhear some on our team say, “I’m telling you, that guy is the hardest worker I have ever seen in my life”.
What do you think that did for me? It fulfilled my approval drive apart from God. I would kill myself to be approved through productivity.
Proverbs 29:25-“The fear of man brings a snare”. It puts us in prison. It makes us captive of what everybody else thinks of us. “But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe”. Proverbs 14:26 states, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence”. That’s security. When you place your trust in the Lord and you live “in the fear of the Lord”, you don’t care what anybody thinks of you. It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve been set free, you are like a bird that’s been set free from the fowler’s snare. You begin to understand the reality of soaring with the power of Christ’s resurrection life in your life. (By the way, I was so insecure that when I watched a football game and the players got in a huddle, I thought they were talking about me!)
I remember preaching in the early years of my ministry, coming off of the platform and standing down front with the hope that at least a few people would come forward and tell me how great the message was. When God started dealing with the fear of man in my life, every time I preached He would have me come down off of the platform and, before anybody could speak to me, I would have to go to my knees on the front pew and say, “God, was that okay with You? It really doesn’t matter whether this church likes me or keeps me. The only thing that matters is-was it okay with You.”
I remember, during this time of God dealing with the fear of man in my life, leaving my motel in Florida to go preach for a large church. On the way to that church, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Del, if you preach your heart out this morning and there’s no movement, nobody raises a hand, nobody gets saved, nobody gets right with God, nobody moves, there are no tears; is that alright with you if it brings more glory to Me?”
I knew better than to say “yes” to the Lord. I feared Him too much. I knew as sure as I said “yes”, that would be the next test.
Is it acceptable to you if people don’t like you but God does? Is it okay with you if you are ostracized from your friends because you love God so much and you obey His Word and the direction of His Spirit? Or would you cling to those friends and the security of their approval but you wouldn’t have the approval of God?
Here are some of the things that are true of people who have the fear of man and are insecure:
1. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being unable to confront, privately, another person and unable to accept rebuke or correction from another.
2. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being self-consciousness (the fear that others are talking about them or looking at them).
3. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being more concerned about their own reputation than God’s reputation.
4. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being reactionary and defensive because they can’t stand for people to disagree with them.
5. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person having to maintain control and has to be in charge because they are threatened by others.
7. Fear of man and insecurity results in nervous habits-like biting of fingernails, overeating, oversleeping, talking too much and controlling conversations, laughing raucously, exaggerating, and name dropping.
8. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person not being able to be transparent or honest about where they are in their walk with God.
Many years ago, revival occurred in Fort Worth, Texas, because a Certified Public Accountant stood before his church and confessed that he was a liar and a thief. He testified that had he stolen from his employer (a government defense contractor) by manipulating paper work to the amount of millions of dollars. After receiving a promotion with more money and “security”, God gripped his heart and convicted him of his sin and the CPA had to risk it all in order to be honest and transparent and make things right with his company and with the Lord.
When he turned himself in, it took four to five months for the Pentagon to determine what to do with him. He lost his job, his position, and the security of his salary. A few months later, with God still working in his heart, he remembered that, when he was attending the University of Oklahoma, he had stolen $300 worth of books, including a calculator. So, he wrote a check for the amount of money he owed and sent it the university and asked for forgiveness. After the university newspaper printed his story, news wire services all over the world, including USA Today, printed the story.
The fear of man will not allow a person to be this honest and this obedient. But until a person is honest and obedient, he will not meet God.
7. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person rejecting and criticizing others.
8. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being frustrated and discontent with life.
9. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person murmuring and complaining.
10. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being inflexible; everything has to be their way. Nobody else’s way is acceptable.
11. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person having to have the final word, even if they are not asked.
12. Fear of man and insecurity results in a person being unable to make a final decision, especially when the cost is perceived as high.
A pastor was set free from insecurity and fear of man when he stood before his church confessing that he was defensive, always having to tell his side of the story, even to people not involved. He said he had become jealous, fearing that others would be loved for their teaching more than he was loved for his teaching.
This pastor went on to say the he overate to console himself and to fight his inner conflicts. He stated that he found himself constantly angry at God because his church wasn’t what he wanted it to be. He was filled with resentment for being misunderstood and not being fully appreciated. He lived in constant fear of his ministry failing. He stated,
“I was insensitive to other’s who were hurting. I experienced depression. I didn’t feel loved. I felt like I was no good. A hundred people could tell me they loved me but I could only see the five who criticized me. I couldn’t be tender with my wife or share my heart. I was afraid of breaking down and not appearing to be a real man in her presence. I couldn’t even say to her that I loved her. I couldn’t sit down and talk with my children or my parents. I couldn’t express my needs. I had to appear like I had everything under control and what God showed me in my life was that the root of all of this was pride”.
For seven years I (Del) had been on this pilgrimage. I had many of my staff praying that God would set me free from insecurity (fear of man). One day during our staff revival, one of our guest preachers addressed the problem of insecurity and he had the nerve to say that insecurity was rooted in pride. I reacted and I had to figure out a way convince myself that he was wrong. But the Holy Spirit began to take me to the cross and force me to deal with my pride. Here’s how:
Each of us has people in our lives that have meant a lot to us. At some particular place in your life, God brought a pastor or friend or spiritual leader to you and they have impacted you and had the answers that you needed. We tend to elevate those people on a pedestal beyond reality.
I have done that with Bill Gothard (a well-known Bible teacher) in my life, whom God used in my life several years ago. Bill Gothard is one of the godliest and biblical men in our nation. I had elevated Bill so high on a pedestal that I didn’t even really want to meet him because he would have me analyzed in sixty seconds because, in my opinion, he sat right next to God and he and God had this thing going.
Our Life Action staff, including myself, was in Chicago for a crusade. One day, while I was out to lunch with a pastor, Bill Gothard contacted one of the staff and invited us to come to his headquarters to lead the devotions. My staff knew I was battling this thing of fear of man and insecurity and they knew that I would have found a face-saving way out of this if Bill had talked to me, so my staff agreed to Bill’s request before I got back from lunch.
That terrible day came! I had to go their headquarters, shake hands with that man, have him sit behind me and I knew that, even though he wasn’t looking at me, he was analyzing me. Some of our staff got up to sing before I spoke when all of a sudden another staff member passed me a note he had written and the note put into perspective the whole thing I was going through.
This is what the note said, “Del, I am praying for you. Today is your final exam in the fear of man”. And when I saw that note, I took off for the cross of Jesus. I said, “God, I don’t care what Bill Gothard thinks. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and when I get through the only thing that matters is what You think.”
I want to tell you, it took me seven years in that process but there is nothing in the world like the freedom that God brings to your life once you are set free from the fowler’s snare, from being taken captive, from being a prisoner to fear of man.
I wonder where God finds you right now in relation to His truth. Are you tired of having to impress? Are you tired of fearing what others think? Are you tired of evaluating and analyzing all of your decisions based upon what everybody else thinks rather than on what God thinks?
I tell you, that’s a load to carry. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). If you’ve been taken captive there will be a process but I want to tell you that God will set you free. You can get your A.U.G. (Approved Unto God) degree. Where do you start? By simply agreeing with God that you have fear of man and that you live a life of insecurity. The biggest struggle in the fear of man and insecurity is actually admitting it. Once you agree with God, you will start on the most liberating journey you’ve ever taken in your life.
Would you be willing to pray this prayer?
“God, it’s true. I’m so consumed with fear of man. I’m so ashamed. I fear man more than I fear You. I want to be set free. The pride in me is at the root of my sin. Take the axe to the root of that tree in my life, Lord. Cleanse me, unshackle me.”
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