In biblical terms, the word “fear” does not usually focus on feelings of terror or fright. “Fear” is a motivating emotion. We use “fear” to determine what we will do in any given situation.
For example, suppose that public speaking makes you sick to your stomach. Whenever you are offered speaking opportunities, you refuse without hesitation, because even the thought of standing in front of group makes you nauseous.
One day when you arrive at work, your boss assigns you to give the keynote speech at the next convention. It’s a great opportunity plus she’s counting on you. What will you do?
The biblical way of framing that question is: Who do you fear most? You fear the painful experience of speaking in public. You fear your boss who has the power to ruin or advance your career. Which do you fear most?
The thing that you fear most determines your choice. If you value your career most, then you will speak at the conference. If you value a low-stress life most, then you will refuse to speak.
The thing that you fear is the thing that has the most power to influence you for better or worse. It is the factor that you will pay the most attention to when making your decisions.
Frequently in Scripture, we are admonished, not to fear other people, but rather to fear God. When deciding how to act, our motivating factor should be His values, precepts and instructions, not what other people may think. For example:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28