Courage – Introduction
Who hasn’t faced moments of fear at some point or other? The truth is, we, as a society, tend to operate from a standpoint of fear. We lock our cars out of fear of theft. We lock our homes out of fear of theft and fear for our safety. Many of us live in fear of losing our jobs, fear of losing a relationship, fear of illness, etc. We buy insurance to minimize and assuage our fear of losing our homes or property to theft, fire, or accident. We even buy life insurance out of fear of leaving our loved ones in a state of financial ruin in the event of our death. We hear reports of horrifying events around the globe, and we fear violence, disease, the collapse of the world’s monetary systems.
The question before us is, do we live our lives and look to our futures with a sense of dread, or with a sense of wonder, excitement, and hope? Do we let our fears control us, or do we step out and experience life with courage?
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
Much of what we fear never actually comes to pass. And, many of our fears are easily laid to rest with a little planning, like buying insurance. We don’t stay up at night in worry – we realize a potential risk, we take steps to minimize the risk, and we go about our lives. But, sometimes, our fears become debilitating and paralyzing. Maybe we’ve been so severely hurt in the past that we fear ever being hurt to that extent again, and so we close ourselves off. We build walls around ourselves so high and so strong that we isolate ourselves to the extent we merely exist – never truly living life.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a certain amount of fear is a good thing. It can guide us to make decisions that are ultimately in our best interest. For example, most of us didn’t have reason to truly fear our parents. But, we had a healthy fear of the consequence should we misbehave. As adults, a certain level of fear can keep us from taking unnecessary risks, putting ourselves or others in danger.
In order to have a discussion about fear and courage, we should understand what the two words mean.
Fear is defined as: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.
Courage is defined as: the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to deal with or face danger, fear, or pain.
Notice that fear is based in emotion – distressing emotion, feelings of dread, apprehension, anticipation. Courage, on the other hand, is more spiritual in nature – state of mind, quality of spirit. Having courage doesn’t mean there is an absence of fear, it means that, in spite of dangers, fears, or pain, we press on and experience life in ways we could not if paralyzed by fear. Courage is what allows us to move forward and to grow. It is that next step, that growth, that we determine to be more important than the fear. If we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear, we get stuck, we don’t move forward, we don’t grow – we simply exist.
While some of our fears may be justified, God wants more for us than simply existing. So, how do we break out of the bonds of fear and face the challenges of life with courage? For those who don’t have a relationship with God, it can be difficult. They are largely on their own. They must turn inward and try to find ways within themselves; or they must look outward, to someone or something that will inspire them. On the other hand, since courage is largely spiritual in nature, people of faith, who have a relationship with God, can turn to Him.
Scripture instructs us to have courage because we have the assurance that God is always with us.
- Joshua 1:9 – “Behold, I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage; fear not, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Aramaic)
- Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor tremble before them; for it is the Lord you God who goes with you; He will not fail you, nor forsake you.” (Aramaic)
- Psalm 31:24 “Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart, all you that trust in the Lord.” (Aramaic)
- Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I have strengthened you, and have also helped you, yea, I will also uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Aramaic)
We can all think of times in our past when we were fearful, and God was with us. When we’re fearful, we must remind ourselves that God has seen us through in the past, and He will again. He will strengthen us and He will guide us. Turning to Him in prayer and meditation and, in the stillness of our hearts, He will let us know how to proceed, whether to move forward or wait, which decisions to make, or what actions to take. Scripture assures us that God is always with us and will not fail us, but we must remember to turn to Him and ask for the guidance we seek. He will give us the strength to forge ahead, despite the challenges we may face.
For those without faith, or if we of faith forget to turn to Him, we may feel like we have to face our fears alone. But God doesn’t expect us to be strong without Him. With a relationship with Jesus, however, we don’t have to face our fears alone.
- Mark 5:36 – “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”” (ESV)
- Hebrews 13:5-6 – “…for the Lord Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear…” (Aramaic)
It is by our faith (trust) and our belief (knowing) we are assured that the Lord will help us along the way. However, we must remember to turn to Him and give our fears over to Him. How do we know? If we turn to Scripture the answer is set before us.
- 1 John 4:8 – “…God is love.” (Aramaic)
- 1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear is tormenting…” (Aramaic)
Fear and love cannot co-exist. The key to courage, then, is love. The more one moves into love, the more fear is pushed out. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more we experience His love, and the more we express His love to those around us. The more we express His love to others, the deeper our relationship with Him grows.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “…If you abide by My word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and that very truth will make you free.” (Aramaic) What’s the truth? John 14:6 gives the answer – “…I am the way and the truth and the life…”(Aramaic) Basically, Jesus is telling us He wants us to get to know Him, to have a relationship with Him. And, when we do, when we think as He wants us to think, behave as He wants us to behave, live as He wants us to live, and love as He wants us to love, the deeper our relationship with Him will be. The deeper our relationship with Him grows, the more we are set free – set free from sin (thoughts, words, and actions that move us away from God), free from fear.
We’ve all known fear – whether real or imagined. It doesn’t take a lack of fear to live fully and experience all that life has to offer; it takes courage to face those fears and move past them. Courage is borne of love, and love is borne of God. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to it, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Aramaic) If we truly love God with all of our hearts and minds, body and soul, what happens? We experience His love. Since His love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear, through a deep and abiding relationship with Him, as is made possible through His Son, Jesus Christ, we will find the courage to face any challenge that might come our way.
Let us Pray…
- Joshua 1:9
- Deuteronomy 31:6
- Psalm 31:24
- Isaiah 41:10
- Mark 5:36
- Hebrews 13:5-6
- 1 John 4:8
- 1 John 4:18
- John 8:31-32
- John 14:6
- Matthew 22:37-39
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