How People's Opinions Can Impact your Obedience
So I had this "friend" and when we were friends I was certain she always had my best interests in mind. When I was uncertain about something, I loved to call her up or go grab coffee and hear what wisdom she might have to offer.
Over time, I started to realize when I spent time with her and told her things I felt like God was saying to me, she would often interrupt me, tell me something different, or suggest that I needed to go back and revisit my thoughts.
In one specific instance, God had spoken to me in a clear and profound way. I told a few trusted friends what I thought I needed to do next.
Everyone agreed I needed to obey God, except for this one friend.
She spoke words that planted seeds of doubt and uncertainty in my spirit. I realized later that she was really afraid of other people's opinions. So afraid, she kept trying to tell me to be afraid of other people's opinions too. Her natural train of thought was going to the worst case scenario about what other people would think of her, so she was often trying to get me to think through the worst case scenario of what other people would think of me.
The only opinion that matters is God's.
When you're pursuing God's best for you, one of the things that can become confusing is the onslaught of opinions.
Caring too much about other people's opinions is often called the "fear of man."
Fear of Man prevents us from Obeying God
Have you ever felt like God was asking you to do something but you didn't do it just because you were afraid of what other people would think? Other people's opinions can be a powerful tool used by the enemy to prevent us from pursuing God's way for our lives.
Sometimes, the other person's opinion isn't even stated to us, but just the idea of their opinion can prevent us from moving into what God has for us.
Even after I stopped telling that friend about big decisions in my life, I continued to imagine what she would have to say about things.
As a leader, the stakes are even higher. Saul knew what was the right thing to do when he was leading others, but their opinions impacted him. 1 Samuel 15:24 says, "Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice."
Fear of man can prevent us from obeying God.
Fear of Man Opens us up to More Fear
Not only does fear of man often cause us to do the opposite of what God is calling us to do, but it also opens us up to even more fear. People's opinions, spoken or unspoken, will start to drive our actions and rule in our minds.
Then, we'll quickly find ourselves forgetting the power that Jesus came to impart to us. I think the enemy often wants us to care a lot about what other people have to say. If he can keep us focused on opinion's other than God's, he can start to shift our mindset towards fear instead of being confident in God's power.
When we are focused on God's power and His opinion, we can confidently declare; "the Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can [mere] man do to me? The Lord is on my side, He is among those who help me; Therefore I will look [in triumph] on those who hate me" (Psalm 118:6-7).
Confidence comes from resting in God's power and presence, knowing and acknowledging that He is on our side.
Replace Fear of Man with Fear of God
Overcoming the fear of man or other people's opinions is actually more straightforward than you might initially think. There's lots of practical steps you can take like memorizing scripture, exercising discernment about what voices speak into your life, and renewing your mind.
But the easiest way to overcome other people's opinions and the fear of man in your life is replacing the fear of man with the fear of God.
When we talk about the "fear of God" we aren't talking about fear in the context of having nightmares or being full of worry. We are talking about having a reverent attitude that acknowledges the power of God over any power in the world.
This fear is a healthy fear that places God's opinion above all others and knows He is holy and set apart. It's the fear we see in Luke 5:26,"They were all astonished, and they began glorifying God; and they were filled with [reverential] fear and kept saying, “We have seen wonderful and incredible things today!”
Spending time with God in worship, prayer, and reading the Bible helps us to look at Him in reverence. Experiencing His power in our lives reminds us that He is all powerful and in control.
Then when someone comes around with an opinion to share, we continue to obey God out of reverence because we are confident in the only opinion that truly matters.