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.
No matter your age, you can probably recall the school teachers who impacted your life. But none can compare to the greatest Teacher. Dr. David Jeremiah considers what it means when a Teacher also claims to be the Truth.