The fear of the Lord versus the spirit of fear
What is the difference between having a fear of the Lord and actually fearing God?
Fear of the Lord
When we talk about having a fear of the Lord, we refer to reverential fear. This is the fear and respect we give God because we love Him and want to be obedient to His word (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
A fear of the Lord will make you terribly afraid to be away from His presence. Whether you have sinned or not, a fear of the Lord will make you run towards Him!
The spirit of fear
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The spirit of fear does not come from God. It is from the devil. This is what makes people run away from the Lord whenever they disobey Him and commit a sin.
The spirit of fear makes you terribly afraid of God’s presence because you are afraid of His judgment and correction. This is precisely what befell Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after the serpent convinced them to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:9-10, God calls out to Adam, but he hides himself because he is naked and afraid.
We should not confuse a healthy fear of God with the spirit of fear. If you find you find yourself running away from God’s presence because of shame or guilt, then know that it is the devil trying to separate you from God. Resist the urge to run away or hide. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Just like the prodigal son, God will always be willing to forgive you if you just repent and obey His words!