Sometimes the eye-opening truths of Scripture come to us in strange and unexpected ways. The false teaching at Galatia was coupled with a fear of man that caused the church to be in danger of turning away from the gospel. In my own preaching yesterday I found that my own fear of man, pride, and selfishness were hindrances to the message. Let me explain.

Sometimes sermons don’t go as expected, and yesterday was one of those days for me. I came away feeling that my communication had been 45 minutes of rambling that made little sense. Even in the middle of preaching, I had the gut-wrenching realization that it just wasn’t working the way I had envisioned. My best option might have been to duck behind the curtain behind me and escape out the back door.

While there are any number of reasons for the flaws in my own communication yesterday, I was convicted later in the day about my attitude as I finished reading a book I had been working through. When People Are Big and God Is Small presents a challenging look at how we often fear man more than we fear God and the problems that result. At the heart of my own frustration with my sermon on Galatians 4 was a prideful desire to be appreciated and to impress others. In the words of Ed Welch, the author of When People Are Big, I was seeking my own glory, at least enough glory to make me feel good about myself. Respect from others had overtaken the purity of serving God for God’s glory.

In the church life of Galatia the fear of man must have played a significant role in the challenges the believers faced as they dealt with whether to listen to those who advocated keeping certain parts of the law as a way of being right with God. To say otherwise may have excluded them from the acceptance by others they desired. To fear God and hold to the truth of the gospel was likely not a popular stance to take.

As believers, we can convince ourselves that we do not care what others think about us, but the real test of whether we fear God more than we fear man often comes unexpectedly in situations we had not planned for or thought through. In the face of the unexpected, the true attitude of the heart comes out in real time before we can collect our thoughts and correct our perspective. Thus, we must be prepared by knowing God well; we have to be convinced to fear only God as a matter of the heart that is prepared to weather whatever comes our way.