“These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33 NASB
Okay, so, some fun geeky Bible facts:
The command to “fear not” is used three-hundred-sixty-five times in Scripture and the word courage is used one-hundred and fourteen times.
That’s a lot of times.
God explicitly promises abundant personal peace to those who trust Him enough to courageously obey His commands (Leviticus 26, Romans 2:10, Galatians 6:15). All that combined makes it tough not to conclude that Christians are straight-up commanded be courageous people (Joshua 1:6-9).
Overcoming fear is not about white-knuckling it through the scary stuff of life. Nor, is it about pretending everything is okay when it’s clearly not okay. Overcoming fear is about doing what’s right in the face of fear or potentially uncomfortable consequences and trusting God with the outcome. When we choose to trust God He not only makes us braver than we naturally are, He also blesses our bravery by making us braver AND by using us to bring about change in the world. Following are four areas we all probably need a little more courage in order to bring about much needed change:
Saying what needs to be said-
Life is full of situations where God clearly calls His people to speak up for what we know is right, just and true. These moments pop up with children, spouses, friends and those we interact with on a regular basis. Anything hard should be said with a generous measure of compassion and grace (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:15). However, it is critical we understand that choosing not to speak truth, especially hard truth always comes at a substantial price. Our culture is the way it is, partly because good people have chosen to keep their mouths shut rather than run the risk of offending others or being ostracized by “the cool people”. I cannot help but wonder what the world would look like if more of us had the courage to challenge wrong thinking when it first began taking root in the lives of people we know and love rather than waiting until bad ideas and wrong thinking became endemically entrenched throughout the culture (Galatians 5:9).
Living the way God calls us to live-
We live in a world that’s broken in ways none of us will never fully understand this side of heaven. Consequently, there was never a time when it was actually easy to put God first, live with integrity and speak out against sin and injustice. That said, it’s getting tougher to do those things all the time. When life gets scary and the pressure to conform feels like too much we have to remember that God promises peace beyond human understanding to those who choose to live courageously and counter-culturally (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:9, 2nd Peter 1:2).
Standing up against the forces within Christianity that are pulling the church in the wrong direction-
Many churches and Christian denominations are being pulled away from biblical truth into worldly philosophies that run counter to the gospel (Colossians 2:8, 2nd Timothy 4:3, 2nd Peter 3:3). This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Jesus never promised that the church would be occupied only by good, God-fearing Christians determined to live Jesus first lives. Jesus promised in Matthew 13:24-30 that weeds (unbelievers) will grow-up alongside wheat (believers) causing all sorts of difficulties and challenges for true Christians. Furthermore, all Christians are in various stages of spiritual maturity and health. It is possible for a genuine Christian to be wrong about all kinds of issues or misled by bad teaching or their own wrong thinking. This is why prayerful self-examination is a must for all believers. Self-examination gives God opportunity to correct our thinking and set us straight. If we want to be at peace with God and ourselves we must know the word, understand how God is calling us to live and never allow ourselves to be swayed by any voice not rooted in Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit (John 10:14)
Being the right voice of righteousness-
Christians are not called to defend a particular nation or form of government. Instead, Christians are called to be defenders of the faith (Philippians 1:7, 1st Peter 3:15, Jude 1:3). There is nothing wrong with patriotism, however choosing country over fidelity the gospel always leads to a lack of peace.
In Matthew chapter ten Jesus sends out the twelve and commands them to do things that could only be done with God’s empowering presence and a serious dose of courage (Matthew 10:7-10, 2nd Corinthians 12:9). He then promised life would be hard for anyone who actually has the guts to do the things He asks (Matthew 10:16-21). He also lays out a series of promises throughout the passage. Jesus promises that the courageous will be loved by God (Matthew 10:30-31), be like God (Matthew 10:24), and be honored in the presence of the Father (Matthew 10:32). Then He promises that the courageous will have such and abundance of personal peace the world will be blessed by their existence (Matthew 10:13).
But first we have to trust God in the face of any fear we may feel.