You’ve no doubt heard the story about the two hunters in the forest who were surprised by a huge grizzly bear. They immediately took off running with the bear in hot pursuit. The slower of the two men yelled out, “We’ll never outrun this bear!” The man in the lead yelled back over his shoulder, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!”
Is it cowardly to flee a charging grizzly bear? Not to me! Sometimes “flight” is a much wiser decision than “fight” when it comes to the physical arena of life. But what about the spiritual arenas of life? Sometimes God puts us in fight-or-flight situations so we can learn two things: bravery and trust.
What Is Bravery?
Courage is an internal conviction that an obstacle can be overcome in spite of risks or threats. It is thoughtful and well-reasoned; it weighs the risks and concludes that action is the proper course. And that’s where bravery comes in.
If courage is internal, bravery is external. It’s one thing to feel courageous on the inside, but it’s another thing to be brave—to demonstrate the courage of one’s convictions by acting bravely in the face of obstacles, threats, and risks. I think it’s possible for a Christian to have all the components of courage in place—faith, trust, willingness, resolve—but be paralyzed by fear and never step out in faith to act. But people who are afraid to step out in faith can learn to be brave. The Bible is full of examples of people who were fearful at first but brave at last.
Who Needs Bravery?
Some of God’s greatest heroes started out lacking bravery but found it by the grace of God.
•Moses (Exodus 3–4). When God called Moses to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, he was terrified at the thought. But he confronted Pharaoh, depended on God, and put his courage into action.
•Esther (Esther 4–5). When a teenage Jewess realized she held the key to her people’s survival, she put fear aside and made a request of the King of Persia. She took the counsel of her cousin and realized God had put her in a place of influence to save the Jews. If she remained silent, many would have died (Esther 4:14). Sometimes cowardice is just not an option.
•Peter (Matthew 26; John 21; Acts 2–5). Peter was anything but brave when he denied knowing Jesus; but he was the epitome of bravery when he preached at Pentecost, led the church in Jerusalem, and stood up to the Sanhedrin. Sometimes the bitter seed of failure brings forth the sweet fruit of bravery.
•Stephen and Paul (Acts 7–9). We never see cowardice in these two men, only bravery from the start. With them, and others, we see the extent to which bravery can go—all the way to a willingness to die (Luke 14:27; John 15:13; Acts 7:59; 14:19).
We could go on with many examples, but you get the picture: Bravery, when lacking, can be acquired. Paul had it from the start while Peter gained it over time. Neither is better; we’re all different. The goal is to possess it and exercise it when (not “if”) God puts us in a place where it is needed.
How Do I Become Brave?
1. Know the situation. Learn to recognize the fight-or-flight symptoms in your body. Recognize fear as an emotion alerting you to a decision to be made. When you feel weak or fearful, stand your ground; breathe deeply; and ask God for guidance to boldly step forward.
2. Know yourself. We’re all somewhere between Paul and Peter on the bravery scale. There is no right or wrong, but you must recognize the chinks in your armor that Satan is likely to exploit. Know those situations in which you need God’s strength the most.
3. Know God. In most of the situations in Scripture where someone became brave, a key was God’s promise to be with them. If you are His child, He is with you (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:20; Colossians 1:29; Hebrews 13:5).
4. Know God’s promises. Charles H. Spurgeon said it best: “My own weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave.”
When all is said and done, we become brace by being brave: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Every time we defeat fear and step out in faith, we are boldly being brave for Christ’s sake.
In the education and business worlds it is not uncommon to hear the term affirmative action, but what does it mean in our everyday life to affirm someone? Basically, it is a statement or action that encourages someone. The Bible is filled with promises that affirm an endless supply of riches, privileges, joys, and blessings that we’ve never appropriated. These are the promises in the Bible we haven’t claimed. There are levels of peace we’ve not experienced. There are joys we’ve underappreciated. There are answers to prayer awaiting us.
Scripture is filled with affirmations about all God has given us. For an interesting Bible study, read the first half of Ephesians and notice how the words inheritance and riches and wealth and blessing fill the first three chapters of this book: [He] has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ … the riches of His grace … we have obtained an inheritance … the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints … rich in mercy … the exceeding riches of His grace … the gift of God … the unsearchable riches of Christ … the riches of His glory (Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11, 18; 2:4, 7, 8; 3:8, 16).
In Christ we’ve inherited a fortune beyond anything this world can imagine, but perhaps we’re largely unaware of it.Fear Nots
At the beginning of the multiple-Oscar-winning movie Gladiator, the Roman general Maximus is readying his cavalry to ride against a Germanic horde in a forest in Europe. He shouts to them, “Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!”
Elysium was a version of heaven that arose among the Greek poets and philosophers and remained popular in Roman times—a place where the righteous and heroic, and those chosen by the gods, would spend a blessed afterlife. If anyone would qualify for entrance into Elysium, Maximus’ brave cavalry would—so they had no fear in the face of possible death. As mythical as Elysium was, its promise was enough to take the fear and sting out of death. When you can laugh at death, nothing else in life deserves to be feared. Hebrews 2:15 tells us that one thing is powerful enough to hold people in bondage all their lives—the fear of death. But the apostle Paul spent an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians explaining how Christ, by His resurrection, defeated death: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) If Roman soldiers had no fear of death by hoping in a make-believe place called Elysium, how much more should we Christians not fear death based on the documented reality of the resurrection of Jesus? And if we don’t fear death, why should we fear anything else?Divine Resident – the Holy Spirit
When you think of home, what comes to mind? The types of homes available for people living in the United States today varies greatly from the “Leave it to Beaver” model seen on television so many years ago. Many of us grew up in neighborhoods where all the homes were similar in style and size. Move forward to today and homes are built in extremes—everything from massive homes with home theatre systems and gyms—to the tiny home craze where people are down-sizing to enjoy life more. Wherever we live, home has a special place in our heart and memory. But beyond where we call home, there is divine resident who goes and dwells with us a child of God. Here are seven ways that His presence changes us:
Looking back on The Jesus You May Not Know, are you wondering what to do with all that you learned? Today, Dr. David Jeremiah shares practical tools for building a deeper intimacy with Christ than you’ve known before.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah