Yesterday, our family had quite a scare. Our youngest twin, Tobias, had a bad reaction to peanut butter and had us rushing off to the doctor. This was the 4th time he had eaten peanut butter, but for some reason it triggered an allergic reaction that left his poor, sweet face swollen and covered in hives. Immediately, I began to fear. What if his throat swells up and he can’t breath?!? The dreaded ‘what ifs’ began to plague my thoughts. But more so, I felt helpless. As I prayed to the Lord, I asked Him to be with our baby and keep him safe.
At some point in our lives, we all face fears. And fear can come in a variety of postures. We may fear men- whose judgements, words, and actions weigh heavily on our hearts, causing us to place our trust in them rather than God. We may fear the unknown. We don’t know the future or what direction our life may lead and we cower in unbelief. Or, like me, we fear all the ‘what ifs’. Our fear keeps us from trusting in the sovereignty of God in all things. Perhaps we have fear of never getting that one thing we deeply desire and begin to doubt God’s goodness. We can fear the consequences of living a life deeply devoted to the gospel, where we might be persecuted, wrongly accused, rejected, and so on.
Fear: Misplaced Trust
Over the past two weeks, I have been reading through the book of Joshua. As I started reading, I couldn’t help but notice the tone the first chapter sets for the whole book. Moses has died and a new leader, Joshua, has been appointed. Now Joshua has been chosen by the Lord to lead the Israelites into the promised land, a task which to the mere human eye seems impossible, if not suicidal. Israel will go to war with neighboring nations who, upon appearances, seem to have the victory well within their grasp. As God relays His plans to Joshua, He knows the human heart is prone to fear and doubt. So He tells Joshua over and over again,“Be strong and courageous.” But this isn’t just a mere charge to be brave in the face of challenging circumstances. Israel has no merit to be brave on their own accord. Rather, this is a call to be strong and courageous because God will be with them. In other words, the reason the nation of Israel can be brave at all is not because they trust in their own strength, but because they should trust in the Lord. The Lord is with them wherever they go and He promises to fight for them.
Like, Israel our own hearts need to be told be strong and courageous. Not necessarily because we are going to war, but because we live in world where sin abounds. And this sin has brought a misplaced trust. The reason we fear at all is because we have traded our trust in the Lord for something else. We lack faith in Him and grasp at ways to control or seek something (money, power, approval, etc.) that might relinquish our fear. Our fear causes us to fall prey to doubt and believe the same lie as Adam and Eve when Satan said, “Did God really say… ?”
Faith: The Catalyst Of Courage
Fear is hard-wired into our very fleshly desires because fear is unbelief. Fear rebukes the promises of God and His character. Now, courage is the opposite of fear. Courage provides the mental and moral strength to persevere in the face of our fears. But how do we find courage? What if the way to overcome fear is to actually die to ourselves? What if by dying to ourselves (our flesh and its tendency to fear), we might gain courage? I found this quote by G.K. Chesterton to not only be profoundly accurate as a definition of courage in battle, but also in terms of the Christian life. He says,
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live while taking the form of a readiness to die.”
As such, if we truly want to be courageous in the face of our fears then we must take the form of a readiness to die. And as believers, we take the form of a readiness to die when we crucify our flesh and live to the Spirit. We abandon the will of our flesh and live by faith.
When we die to ourselves, we are able to live a courageous life catalyzed by a faith in Jesus Christ that is able to overcome any fears we may face.
By faith, we live as people who have the Son of God living in us. And not only does He live within us but He gives us the strength to die to ourselves that we might live a life of faith. Paul testifies to this as he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and give himself for me.” Our courage then, is not founded on anything other than the presence of our Lord within us. Any time a fear arises, He gently whispers to our hearts ‘be strong and courageous for I am with you’.
When we are tempted to fear man, we die to self and remember “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
When we are tempted to fear the future, we die to self and recall, “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8
When we are tempted to doubt God’s goodness, we die to self and preach, “He who did not spare his own Son but give him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
When we are tempted to fear because of scary circumstances out of our control, we die to self and proclaim, “having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will..” Ephesians 1:11
As we entrust every aspect of our lives to Jesus, who lives in us, we are able to find courage in the face of our fears. By dying to our flesh, we live by faith and place all of our fears in the hands that were nailed to the cross on our behalf. May we all diligently listen to hear the words of our Lord, ‘be strong and courageous for I am with you.’