By Jennifer Miller
How do look at life? Do you face struggles and trials head on, or do you tend to turn the other way and run? Are you gripped with fear at each twist and turn and cannot seem to find a balance on how to live? Can you imagine yourself stepping back, assessing the situation and trusting that things will work out?
Part of me wants to shout, “Snap out of it!”, and another part of me says to find focus and trust that things though rough, will get better one day. Both responses sound a little pithy to me!
Unless you have a strong foundation to stand upon, life’s ups and downs will break you. The only strong foundation for the Christian is Jesus. When we build our lives around Jesus we can stand on His word and we can get through anything. He carries us, not the other way around. Take Peter for example. In Matthew we learn that a storm arose on the sea of Galilee and the disciples saw Jesus walking on water towards them. Peter, acting on faith, decided to walk on water to meet Jesus and he was able to do until his eye saw the storm and he became scared. It was then that he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, or we, too will sink. We must decide what is the greatest risk: trusting Jesus or trusting the world.
In order to do so, we must define a few things first: What is fear and how does it control us? What does it mean to place your faith and trust in Jesus? How does courage enter all of this?
Fear can be an irrational concept that most likely will never happen (such as fearing that the sky will fall suddenly), or it can cause anxiety (as it may when one takes a test at school), and it could be that feeling deep down in the pit of your stomach that something just is not right (such as finding a suspicious mole on your body). All these scenarios can be a bit scary or alarming and most of us, at one time or another, have stared into the face of fear. What I want to address is the issue of when we are faced with fear, how do we respond, more specifically how should we respond? Do we have control over it, or does it have a firm grip over us? I will get to that in a bit.
The next word is faith. Faith is defined as a complete trust or confidence in God based on a spiritual relationship with Him; thus, trusting without seeing. Many say that they have a strong faith, yet when something alarming comes up, they tend to get afraid and their “supposed faith” seems to disappear. If we are to stand on what we claim to believe, fear may faze us, but it should not stand in our way. This signals that our faith is non-existent or weak; thus, the foundation is cracked and needs new support. Again, I will expound on this further in a bit.
Courage is the last word that I want to define. Courage is the ability to do something that frightens one, it is strength in the face of pain or grief. It involves a noble goal, personal risk and a choice. Courage can be good or bad depending on the motivation or the parameters of the goal in mind. When our goal is altruistic and we take a risk to serve the better good for others by taking a stand on biblical principles, that is considered good courage. However, if the risk involved is for our own personal gain, then it is deemed bad courage. For example, when a transgender announces that they are transitioning from a man to a woman, it is a bold step, but the cause is for their own gain and for them to stand by a lifestyle that goes against what scripture teaches. Standing up for those who do not have a voice is defending a worthy cause, but when we use a cause for our own gain it is not.
It all boils down to the motivation behind the action. The motivation from the heart can be good or bad.
In the article, “When Courage Goes Bad” by Cynthia Pury, she addresses courage this way: ‘Good courage always relies upon the supernatural power of God to strengthen and motivate believers to be courageous as children of God (Romans 5:3-5). Bad courage relies on human abilities and motives such as the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride (James 1:19-27; 1 John 2:15-16)’. The Bible teaches about these two versions of courage as follows:
- God inspires believers to encourage one another: Examples are found in Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28; Acts 28:15; Ephesians 4; Hebrews 10:24
- Good courage is pleasing to God: Examples are found in Deuteronomy 31:6-8, 23; Joshua 1:1-18; Joshua 10:25; 1 Chronicles 28:20; 2 Chronicles 19:11; Psalms 27:14; Psalms 31:24
- Believers and non-believers alike can demonstrate and inspire others to demonstrate bad courage: Examples are found in Deuteronomy 13:6-8; 2 Samuel 1:14-17; Psalms 64:5’ Proverbs 1:10; Ephesians 6:4
- God does not approve of evil courage: Examples are found in Psalms 55:19; Amos 2:16; Romans 3:10-17
Here are three examples of courage that we find in The Bible:
1. The story of Joshua and Caleb teaches us to have the courage to trust the Lord when things look impossible (Numbers 13-14)
The remaining two spies, Joshua and Caleb also told of how wonderful the land was, but unlike the other 10 spies, they were ready to immediately go and take the land. Because the people doubted Joshua and Caleb based on the report of the other 10 spies, Joshua and Caleb were later chosen by God to lead the people into the Promised Land. They saw what could be as opposed to what wasn’t obviously evident.
2. The story of David and Goliath teaches us to have courage by trusting in the experience and skills that God has given us when dealing with adversity (1 Samuel 16-17)
David was a shepherd boy that was chosen by God to be the future king of Israel when he stepped forward to fight a giant that was 18 feet, 6 inches tall. While delivering food to his brothers, David saw that the giant was challenging the Israelites to fight. David was dismayed that no one would defend God’s people so he took courage in the belief that God would dispense with this giant no matter what the odds. God equips us for the task at hand.
3. The story of Peter and John teaches us to have courage when we are persecuted for doing what God wants us to do (Acts 3-4)
Peter and John went to the temple to pray when they encountered a disabled beggar. When the man asked them for money, they instead healed him. The healing drew a large crowd so Peter started sharing the gospel. This upset the religious leaders and they had Peter and John put in jail. They answered to God, not man.
So how do we face our fears? First, we must decide who is in control. Ask yourself these questions to determine this.
1. Are you taking authority over fear? Who calls the shots – you or God?
2. Do you trust God’s love? Do you believe His truths?
3. Are you fully persuaded? Do your surrender yourself or do you only lean on God when your plans fail?
4. Are you giving Satan an inch? When we let fear and doubt reside within us, we are giving the power to Satan.
5. Are you feeding faith and starving fear?
Next, we must feed on the Word of God. Lean into His Word and meditate on it.
Finally, we must guard what we say and do, take refreshment to combat feeding fear and strive to encourage and not discourage others. His words should be inscribed on our hearts. We must be diligent to know His word and to trust Him fully.
In short, Faith allows us to surrender and submit to God – it is on His terms and not ours. Fear binds us to Satan – we rebel and stubbornly walk our own way only to suffer consequences of our poor decisions. Courage allows us to walk in faith and overcome fear. Put it all into His hands and then let it go. Follow His lead and see where He takes you. His promises are real. Walk by faith and leave fear behind. I hope this can help someone see Him more clearly. God bless.