Choosing Courage over Fear

By Dr. Jack Graham

There are many important spiritual choices we must make in life. I can’t think of a more needed choice than choosing courage over fear. Courage is one of the most valued of all virtues. We long for strength to stand with hearts abandoned and lives given over to Christ.

Being spiritually courageous means having conviction and an uncompromising commitment to the Word of God. Having courage means standing against the intimidating fears that challenge our faith. It means facing opposition, and in some cases persecution, for the Gospel’s sake.

A courageous Christian is one who stands on principle, not preference. He stands upon convictions, not convenience. Courage is a virtue that should be sought by every Christian and every church today.

We live in a time when people are vacillating and compromising all around us. Many Christians and many churches are unwilling to take a stand for truth and righteousness, for the Word of God, and the testimony of Jesus. But it is time for followers of Christ to turn away from weakness and be decisive, determined, and devoted no matter what the cost!

We don’t need weak preachers presiding over weak churches preaching a weak message to a dying world! We need the courage of the prophets and the apostles. We need strength of character and the courage to stand for light and truth.

In 1 Corinthians 16:13–14, Paul said: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

The phrase “act like men”applies to everyone. Squeezing out a living from the land or working with your hands was harsh and taxing. So when he spoke, he emphasized a Greek verb which translates as “to prevail by God’s dominating strength.” All of us are called and challenged to be strong in the face of our fears.

Fear is a human emotion that we all experience. Even the psalmist said, “When I am afraid” as he asked for the presence of the Lord. Certainly in life, there will be times when we will experience genuine fear—of a bad report from the doctor, of getting a call in the middle of the night when your children are out on the road somewhere. We feel fear over unpaid bills, lost jobs, illness and being unable to take care of ourselves when we’re older.

And yet the Bible tells us that we’re not to have aspiritof fear in our lives. More than 360 times, the Bible tells us not to fear. Let’s look to Proverbs 24 to learn how we can choose courage over fear in our lives, so that we will not live in a spirit of fear, but in a spirit of faith and courage.

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”(Proverbs 24:10–12)

If you act in courage in the face of adversity, God will sustain you and strengthen you. When you stand for truth and righteousness, God will reward you. When God is with us, we don’t have to be afraid, no matter the cost or the consequences.

I believe that the first step in choosing courage over fear is speaking up. Speak up! I wonder how often in life we fail to speak up for others. Do we speak up when we see something that is wrong, intolerable or unconscionable?

Scripture reminds us not to “faint in the day of adversity.”This is important because God has chosen our generation to live in a time of adversity. I pray that the Christian remnant within America will always stand for truth and righteousness—whether it is in regard to the sanctity of life or the covenant of marriage—may we never let up in our vigilance to stand up for truth.

Have we become so fearful and lazy that we cannot walk across the street or walk across the room to tell someone the truth of the Gospel that will save his soul? Do we not have the courage to simply invite someone to church?

If there were a scale of courage from 1 to 10, where would you rank today? Are you a courageous dad to your children? Are you a courageous mom to your family? Are you a courageous student willing to stand for Jesus Christ against all odds?

If you find that your courage is lacking, turn to the Word of God. The Bible is a courage guidebook. When you are in need of courage, saturate your soul in its stories and sermons. When you see how God took ordinary people and gave them extraordinary courage, it will change the way you look at life.

  • Moses had the courage to face off against Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the earth, and demand in the power of God, “Let my people go!”
  • Abraham took his only son, Isaac, and in obedience to God, had the courage to obey God when it didn’t make sense. He placed his son on an altar of sacrifice and experienced supernatural deliverance from God.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow, refused to bend, and placed their lives in God’s hands. They stood strong and wouldn’t worship a godless idol.
  • Daniel continued to pray to the almighty God instead of to a worldly king. Though his obedience came with a death penalty, God delivered him from a den of hungry lions.
  • Peter had the courage to get out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus.
  • Paul, knowing he was facing the end of his days and the sword of execution, had the boldness to preach Christ against all odds.

How many of us are “sitting on the bench” spiritually, afraid to get into the action? I realize it can be frightening to step out in faith, but it’s okay to be scared and courageous all at once. God has given each of us a gift, a spiritual talent that is to be used for His glory. Maybe it’s a voice to sing, or a service to offer, or a ministry to share. Confess your fears to God and don’t let them keep you from stepping forward in faith, standing for truth, and living in righteousness.

As believers we can stand strong through trials—even the ones that scare us to the core of our being—because we serve a mighty God who is bigger than our fears and stronger than our weaknesses. “I will strengthen you, I will help you,” says the Lord, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

In a journal I was keeping before my cancer surgery, I wrote: “God, don’t let me flinch in the fire.” (Well, I flinched a time or two, or three, or four, or 10). But God was with me in the fire. Like the fourth man in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Jesus will be with us through our trials! And when we do flinch in fear, God is faithful.

And if God be for us, who can be against us? Death is not an enemy because Christ defeated death! Disease is not an enemy because we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Savior!

Yes, we are all human; we’re emotional and vulnerable. But we have Jesus and we have the body of Christ to hold us up when we can’t go any further. That is why it is so important to encourage, affirm, and help hurting people when you see them. There are people in countless churches every week who are barely able to get themselves through the doors. And they need someone to tell them that there is hope in Christ. That someone can be you. Choose courage over fear by living out your faith courageously, and by facing trials with courage and boldness because Jesus is Lord!

Dr. Jack Graham serves as Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and most dynamic churches in the country. Follow him on Twitter @jackngraham.

This article was originally published in Choices by Dr. Jack Graham. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of Choices, please contact Jack Raymond at jraymond@prestonwood.org.

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