Edward Welch on Fearing Man and Needing People

Recently, there’s been a few blog posts on Edward Welch’s latest book “Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest“. Just under 10 years ago, I read Welch’s When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man“. The book spoke to me quite a bit and I bought a few copies and gave them to friends.

Both books have to do with counseling and psychology and Welch writes from a Reformed biblical perspective . I’m no expert in counseling and psychology but I have to say that the two books are thought-provoking and challenging. In my next post, I’ll quote from his Running Scared book. In the rest of this post, I’ll leave you some quotes from his When People Are Big and God Is Small book:

Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.). The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more. (p. 19)

[We] are controlled by whoever or whatever [we] believe can give [us] what [we] think [we] need. It is true: what or who you need will control you. (p. 13-14)

We’ve seen that whatever you think you need, you come to fear. If you ‘need’ love (to feel okay about yourself), you will soon be controlled by the one who dispenses love (p. 87)

Self-serving needs are not meant to be satisfied; they are meant to be put to death. (p. 162)

The Bible teaches that God’s people are no longer driven by terror-fear, or fear that has to do with punishment. Instead, we are blessed with worship-fear, the reverential awe motivated more by love and the honor that is due him. (p. 98)

The problem is clear: People are too big in our lives and God is too small. The answer is straightforward: We must learn to know that our God is more loving and more powerful than we ever imagined. (p. 113)

When you spend time in the throne room of God, it puts things in perspective. The opinions of others are less important, and even our opinions of ourselves seem less important. (p. 135)

Therefore, the first task in escaping the snare of the fear of man is to know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people. (p. 95)

If you have been in the presence of the almighty God, everything that once controlled you suddenly has less power. (p. 119)

This book challenged me to recognize that needing people is really fearing man and not God. As fallen human beings we all need people. We’re social beings. We want to be in a community of love. We want people to love and accept us. We want people to praise us. There are many times we seek man’s praises more than God’s.

I think there’s no doubt that God desires us to be a loving community. But I don’t think it’s so that we can all get our “fix” from others loving us, all of us living in a co-dependent state. But rather so that we can express God’s love through loving others.

Of course, all this is the ideal we strive for. Different people are at different stages in their life and walk with God. Different people come from different backgrounds and starting points. The book is definitely challenging, but probably not everyone is ready to read it. Those who have gone through a lot of hurts need to experience the grace and love of God, rather than be pointed and directed to the call of God to fear/worship Him and not fear or need man. It is God’s grace, after all, which empowers us to live for Him.

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8 Comments

  1. At each week I learn about Jesus and learn where I am in Him, and put that in practise in my life, I don’t bother about what others thinks of me liao.

    After all, if a BIG BIG God said He doesn’t impute sin on me, and all my sins are imputed on Lord Jesus and judged by Him liao. I am having the Righteousness of God in Christ. So I dun need man to judge if I am ok or not and I dun judge myself too. I walk by what the God word says about me.

    As for other people, as I keep on looking to Jesus, I dunno when it happens. Lord gives me the eyes to look at people as sheep. If they are close to Lord Jesus or not. And I point them to Jesus. That’s the job given to me by Lord.

    Loving others is easy when I am led by the spirit. My eyes no more judging who they are in natural. For Lord give me this understanding, looking thru His eyes, we are all perfectly created by Him.

    We born in this negative world, there are some negative traits that tag on to us. Once we know more of Christ, Lord will remove all these negative traits and we will be beautiful in His eyes again. So I am no longer judging people by their bad traits, for I know that is from the pit of hell, nothing to glorify about.

    Shalom

  2. Instead, we are blessed with worship-fear, the reverential awe motivated more by love and the honor that is due him. (p. 98)

    Worship-fear as the above mention, is about feeling love. Once you know how much Lord Jesus had sacrificed for you, you will know how much Father God love you. You will realise this Grace that is given to us unearned, undesired and unmerited, is not easy on Lord Jesus. He was born a human being, just like any of us. The only different is, he is fully God but without the God power that He had. He was anointed the full set of power by the Holy Spirit and He obeyed to Daddy God like we do. Lord Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for you, for me.

    Daddy God didn’t ask any of us to die at the cross, what He ask us is to believe the one who He sent. Isn’t that a easier job?

    It’s when I know how much Daddy God has do for me that I know there is no way I can pay any of His goodness on me. How can I not worship Him? It just come automatically with revelation of His goodness.

  3. Amen sister! That’s the kind of faith that pleases God :) Your comments are really uplifting! Keep shinning for Him.

  4. Dear stillhaventfound,

    This blog post is very relevant to me and I recognize the tension that exists. I’d explain to you why.

    Having been overseas for a couple of years, I’ve always thought that I seldom seeked the approval of man, and own the license to be different.

    The litmus test came, when I realized that my best friend’s opinion of me, mattered a lot to me and has the capacity to hurt me. This friend is a true friend, for almost 10 years, being there for me in my worst times. And as I went overseas, I grew a lot, both mentally and spiritually. But I never dared showed him this side of me for fear of rejection. I never feared others, not even my family. But I feared his opinion, and it was very real. I can admit as well, I do not even dare say grace in front of him.

    I asked around some of my friends who faced this tension and it was comforting that they faced similar situations. It’s usually the same source: an old and true friend, someone who is very important to the person, and hence likely to have “boxed” the person up.

    It was then that I realized that I have to break free from this limitations. The most ideal method is to confront that person and be truthful to him.

    I chose another variation, to put my friendship on a standstill, limiting my interactions, and leaving it entirely to God. Right now I’m just thankful that I’m no longer a prisoner of his opinion. I’m also sure that God will bless and revive this friendship one day. I feel extremely liberated.

    I wont go so far as to say that I dont care what others think of me. It is an ideal, and I’m really glad Stephanie is able to attain that.

    I also think that there is an element of knowing the importance of gaining approval. When we see the stories of Joseph and Daniel, we see phrases like “he(Daniel or Joseph) gained favor in the sight of (the king or pharaoh)”. Hence I personally do pray for favor with people in my school or work.

    I do believe that the only man who can claim that He never seeked the approval of man for all his life is Jesus Christ. And I believe that if there is such a man on earth now he will surely have offended a lot of people by now.

    Finally, can I ask, is this quote from the book?

    “As fallen human beings we all need people. We’re social beings. We want to be in a community of love. We want people to love and accept us. We want people to praise us. There are many times we seek man’s praises more than God’s”

    The first statement sounds synonymous to: as fallen human beings we all need friends or, as fallen human beings we all need fellowship. Doesn’t sound quite right. Care to clarify this part?

  5. Hi Donkey,

    Thanks for your sharing. Yes, indeed it is an ideal and no one here on earth is perfect.

    You brought up a good point about gaining favour in the eyes of man. Jesus grew in favor and as you mentioned Joseph gained favour. I do pray for favour for myself too.

    Just a thought came to my mind. Should we seek the favour of man, or should we seek God and the by-product of putting God first would be favour in the eyes of man (though definitely not all the time, if not there wouldn’t be persecution and martyrs)? I haven’t done a study on that so I’m not too sure. Galatians 1:10 talks about Paul seeking the favour of God alone – but of course the context should be taken into account.

    Even if it’s biblical and OK to seek the favour of man (i.e. praying that God would grant you favour in the eyes of man), I guess there’s still quite a fine line in seeking favour for oneself for selfish purposes and doing so with a godly motivation.

    “As fallen human beings we all need people. We’re social beings. We want to be in a community of love. We want people to love and accept us. We want people to praise us. There are many times we seek man’s praises more than God’s.”

    These are actually my words, not from the book. When I first read your question, I’m wondering what you found wrong with the above. I do have some ideas and let me clarify what I wrote and then you can let me know why it doesn’t sound right to you.

    I think what I said may not be right. Adam was pretty much a social being before he fell. That’s why God created Eve for him. And anyway, we’re made in God’s image and God Himself is a Truine God and there’s fellowship between the Trinity. So the longing for a community was before Adam fell.

    After Adam fell, we of course still long for community. But as fallen human beings we’re sinful and I think the essence of sinfulness is the desire to be god in a sense. Thus, we long for the approval and praise from other people. We want them to think highly of us.

    As Christians, we’re a new creation. I was probably not careful in not distinguishing between fallen human beings (non-Christians) and new creations (Christians). We’re righteous by faith in Christ. We’re different. However, we’re still not perfect. At least, I don’t think we are and I think we all know through experience that we’re not. We still sin. As long as we’re living in this body of ours, we’ll still sin. That doesn’t mean we think we’re “worms” or refer to ourselves in a very “low” way. No, we’re righteous in Christ and we’re a new creation.

    I think my disagreement with a lot of Christianity in the past is that they were so conscious of sin. I think especially the Reformed and Puritan tradition, but also many others. One thing I like about New Creation Church is the emphasis on the new creation and the fact that we’re righteous in Christ. To me, that seems to be the emphasis in the New Testament. And I think New Creation is spot on in emphasizing that.

    However, I don’t want to over-react and go in the opposite direction to say that we need not concern ourselves with growing in godliness and righteousness. We still ought to, though not in a condemning way. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. For believers in Christ, that fact is very certain and absolute. But I think the Bible is also very clear that we ought to strive to be holy and righteous – not because we earn God’s favour through that, but because we’re already forever saved and we’re to live for God. There are tons of exhortations in the Bible about doing this or that. It’s impossible to read the Bible without facing them. The right thing to do, I think, is not to avoid these exhortations because we fear that by preaching them, people would think we’re saying they have to earn salvation by doing them. No. I think, rather, that the right thing to do is to preach it in the correct way. One way to do this is to “ground the imperatives in the indicatives” of Scripture, which I’ll talk about more in another time.

    Anyway, that’s kind of my long explanation of what I wrote. I think you’ll agree with the above. But I’m also not sure if I’m missing your point in asking me your question.

  6. Hi stillhaventfound,

    I think you addressed it spot on with this part:

    “I think what I said may not be right. Adam was pretty much a social being before he fell. That’s why God created Eve for him. And anyway, we’re made in God’s image and God Himself is a Truine God and there’s fellowship between the Trinity. So the longing for a community was before Adam fell.”

    I think I just did not state my question very well in that I think fellowship is not isolated to fallen beings, but also heavenly beings. It is only the part about the first statement

    “Should we seek the favour of man, or should we seek God and the by-product of putting God first would be favour in the eyes of man (though definitely not all the time, if not there wouldn’t be persecution and martyrs)?”

    I think this statement struck a note because I have been pondering about this verse, which has a parallel theme:

    Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    Which is also parallel to Paul’s theme in Ephesians, where he prayed for every spiritual blessing for the Ephesus church.

    All the themes are the same: seek God first, seek Christ first, seek spiritual things first, and the other things will be by products.

    I think that’s really my theme for this few weeks, especially in the area of my job hunt.

    I agree with you definitely about people seeking favor for themselves with the wrong motivation. In fact, people can seek all types of spiritual blessings for themselves with the wrong motivation.

    And the tension goes like this for me: after listening to a sermon urging me to seek God first, I’d be obedient and seek God. But maybe after months of waiting, no results seem to come, and then I’d take matters into our own hands again, using the old methodology. It is not the imperfection of God’s work. It is the imperfection of my patience and trust.

    To answer your question, I’d believe the Word: Seek God first and His approval. But practice is different from belief at this time.

  7. Hi Donkey of Christ,

    It’s not that I reached there, more of there is power in God’s Words.

    Eg, when someone accused me of taking his seat in church, I was very angry with him. But I told God, I said “Daddy, I don’t want to be angry with this man, I passed my anger to you. Please help me to handle this conflict, for I am know nothing, but You know everything and how to handle it.” I pray in Jesus Name, Amen.

    After I said it, I felt a peace came to me. The next time I saw this same man again, there wasn’t any bad feeling at all.

    Another situation, I was misunderstood and somehow I felt embarrassed. In this case, I keep confessing, In Christ, I have no sin and no dead and I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Did I still feel bad after some confession? Yes, I did. So I continue confessing who I am in Christ till that guilty feel departed from me. Of course, the person who misunderstood me, I did apologise to him too. When I next saw him, there wasn’t any guilty feel in me liao…Lord took it away.

    This is how I practise God Words in my life.

    Daily, I pray this prayer: Father God, I pray that you will open up the heart of everyone whom I meet today, so that i may find favour in their eyes. I pray in Jesus Name. This is how I trust on God’s favour on me when meeting others.

    Putting God’s Words into practise is not like Pastor Lian recently shared. You jumped on the God Word train for sometime, then you jumped out again into the worldly train.

    My friend, YC, was under prosecution in office. The same level and her staff tried to get out of the co. When she told me about it. I told her to daily ask Lord Jesus to come into her and lead her. Also to plea Jesus blood over her and the co.

    She told me that her life at work was peaceful, on days that she told me problems arose, I asked her if she had asked Lord to lead her. Then she told me, “Oh, morning too busy and forgot about it.

    She was in that co for 6mths before Lord opened another door for her. This led to a 65% increase in her pay. Btw, she told me that before this happened, she kept praying to Lord to promote her life. Also, she said that she tithed a lot more that year.

    She is the one who tell me that this tithing and harvest principal sure works. So far, Lord have always out give her. There is no way she could tithe more than what He blessed her. YC is a 20+ years Christian.

  8. Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    This is scripture is true. I put my trust on Lord Jesus and always learn more about him through sermon till Lord told me to read my bible too. With Sermons understanding and my study bible explanation, I could understand the bible better.

    Many a time that Daddy God blesses me, I need not ask Him for specific things, He knows what we need. Eg, my girl was a super shy girl with adult. She took 6 mths to get used to the teacher and 6 mths to warm up to the teacher. By the time that she loved her teacher, it was time to move to another level. This happened from Pre-N at 2yrs old to K2 at 6 yrs old. Even thou she opened up a lot in these few years.

    Her K2 teachers worried that she might not adapt well in Primary School. I kept believing that Lord will surely change her as Lord Jesus had done a Perfect Work on the Cross.

    Just a day before primary school started, as I was laying my hand on her head and asked Holy Spirit to say a prayer for her to sleep peacefully and sweetly, Lord came and extended the prayer and showed me the vision of confession of trusting Him to change her. He did it that night and my girl is able to adapt to her new school without any problem.

    So, yes, as you trust the Lord and not worry, waiting patiently for the right time, it will come to past.

    Praise the Lord! Amen!

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