02 May 2011
The Fear of God
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon Aug. 1964
St. Seraphim of Sarov, in his “Spiritual Instructions” speaks of the “fear of God” and how it is the first absolute necessity for anyone who wishes to lead a true Christian life. It is profitable to be reminded of this since it is all too easy for Christians to take for granted God’s love and mercy and forget with what care were are commanded to serve Him. The words of the Psalmist, said St. Seraphim, must be engraved on the mind of every Orthodox Christian: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling”, as well as the strong warning of the prophet: “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently”.
Enemies of the Church of Christ have quoted such passages to accuse Christians of believing in a ‘religion of fear.” But they, having renounced God, are incapable of understanding this Godly fear of ours. It is a fear based upon the nature of God we worship. The Apostle exhorts us “to serve God acceptable with reverence and Godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” St. Seraphim of Sarov also spoke often of God as a fire; and if the impure and unbelieving can only be burned by this fire, Christians who approach God with reverence and faith become filled with an indescribable warmth and joy and love. If then we fear God, it is because we know His greatness and our own smallness, how that we are cold and empty, truly nothing, without Him; and our fear is the care we take to serve Him Who is our only happiness, so that He will not depart from us in our unworthiness and carelessness, but will always dwell near us.
He who is filled with this fear has no other fear, not even of the devil himself. “Do not fear the devil,” said St. Seraphim. “He who fears God will overcome the devil; for him the devil is powerless.” True fear of God means absolute trust in Him and love for Him, and one who possesses these is prepared for every good work; nothing is impossible to him. Every fervent Christian knows from experience the truth of the words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” [Proverbs 9:10].
[From the Spiritual Instructions of St. Seraphim]
All who have firm hope in God are raised up to Him and enlightened by the radiance of the eternal light” wrote St. Seraphim of Sarov in his “Spiritual Instructions”.
If a man has no care whatever for himself because of love for God and virtuous deeds, knowing that God will take care of him, such hope is true and wise. But if a man takes care for his own affairs and turns with prayer to God only when unavoidable misfortunes overtake him and he sees no way of averting them by his own power, only then beginning to hope in God’s aid, - such hope is vain and false. True hope seeks the Kingdom of God alone and is convinced that everything earthly that is necessary for this transitory life will unfailingly be given.
The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. It gives peace to the heart and brings joy into it. Concerning this hope the most holy lips of the Saviour have said: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That is, have hope in Me, and you will have relief from labour and fear.
In the Gospel of Luke it is said of Simeon: “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And he did not lose his hope, but awaited the desired Saviour of the world and, joyfully taking Him into his arms, said: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart into Thy kingdom, which I have desired, for I have obtained my hope – Christ the Lord.