Book Reviews

Book Review: Fearing Others (31-Day Devotionals For Life), Zach Schlegel

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Deepak Reju is the editor of a new 31-day devotional series written by different biblical counselors. There are nine volumes so far, and I have reviewed three of them (anger, contentment, and doubt). As with Megan Hill’s volume on contentment, we are far too focused on ourselves. Zach Schlegel, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Upper Marlboro, writes that being self-centered “leaves us dependent on the opinions of others” (10). We focus more on what others think about us that what our heavenly Father (who created everything) thinks of us. Overcoming our fear of people requires three actions:

  1. Understanding the fear,
  2. Identifying where the fear crops up in our lives,
  3. Equipping ourselves with the tools God has provided for us to overcome it (11).

Schlegel divides his book into two parts:

  • Understand and Identify Your Fear of Others (Days 1-12, #’s 1 and 2 above)
  • Overcome Your Fear of Others (Days 13-31, #3 above)

To fear something isn’t always to be terrified of it. King Saul disobeyed God because he “feared the people” (1 Sam 15:24). He revered, needed, and valued their opinion of him to the point that he obeyed their wants instead of God’s. Schlegel writes, “We obey what we fear. As a result, our fear of others is a worship issue” (15). Schlegel brings up Sprite’s famous Obey Your Thirst motto, observing that it is pretty theologically accurate. We desire and don’t want to live without something. So, we work to have it. We don’t want others to think we are failures, so, we don’t take enough risks to have or do what is good. We want others to think well of us, so, we fish for compliments only to be snared in the net of others’ opinions.

What is the answer to fearing man (or woman)? “Trust in the Lord” (Prov 29:25). Schlegel points you to Proverbs 29:6 which says that a righteous person sings and rejoices, unlike the evil man who is ensnared in his sin. It certainly sounds better to be the righteous man, right? But righteous people often have to wait on the Lord. That’s why the Bible often tells us to trust in the Lord, because it doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything. We have to wait, and “waiting becomes a litmus test that reveals whom and what we fear—who or what controls us” (21).

As helpful as introspection can be, sometimes we need more flashlights. Schlegel encourages you to talk about your life, your  habits, and things that worry you with a friend. As they listen, they may be able to detect areas where you are “afraid of falling.” These are places where you think highly of yourself and where you are afraid of others’ opinions. Thinking out loud with someone you trust can help you to see in which areas of your life you need to trust God. The more we rely on God, even if circumstances don’t immediately change, the less we will worry. We grow in our trust in God through prayer and reading and repeating biblical truths to ourselves.

We are sinners, yet Christ has died for our sin. Christians can receive criticism from others and know that it doesn’t define them. Not all criticism is correct, but not all is wrong either. We are not perfect, but we often try to shove off others’ criticisms. Yet if God accepts us, we don’t have to fear criticism (56). Christ took on our sin. He “became sin” (2 Cor 5:21) and became a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18). He did it for us so that he might bring us to God. We can pray to our heavenly Father that he would relieve us from our fears and worries, carry our burdens, and care for us.

Each day ends encouraging you with two reflections on Scripture and one way you can put to work what you read.

Recommended?

Highly. All people want praise, and no one enjoys critique. But how can we accept critique well? How can we not be crippled by what others think of us? Positive thinking? Just gritting our teeth and powering through it? Be the lone wolf and avoid others?Schlegel shows us a better way. He points to Christ who saved us and brought us to God. He is the creator and sustainer of all things who has given his people his Spirit, the guarantee of our salvation and that we will be with God in the new creation. We can love people without needing their complete approval. We should want most to serve God and please him. He has an abundance of goodness stored up for those who fear him (Ps 31:19). 

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon or P & R Publishing!

Disclosure: I received this book free from P & R Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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