Choose Courage, part 1

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Jesus

I remember one of the first times that I was beaten by fear. It was 1980 and I was in the 5th grade. There was going to be an election for the 5th grade president. I decide to throw m hat into the political arena.  

One of my friends, David Bell, helped me come up with my campaign slogan, “Elect Doug Hunt for President, A Strong Leader.” He even drew a poster of a flexing bicep complete with a little armpit hair. It was awesome. Just before the election, all of the candidates had to give their campaign speech in front of the entire 5th grade. The day came and I I had my speech ready.  I was sitting back in the classroom while all of the 5th graders were just outside the door in the common area listening to my competition give his speech. Then it was my turn and fear came in. Doug Hunt, the future “strong leader” of a 5th grade president, froze. The teacher called for me, and I just sat there alone and afraid in the classroom.  “What if I sound funny? What if I look stupid? What if they don’t like me? What if I fail? What if I am not good enough?” I was so afraid that I began to cry. I was so afraid that I could not give the speech. My teacher ended up reading the speech for me while I sat alone in the classroom…vote for Doug Hunt, a Strong Leader

I did not become class president. More importantly, I chose in that moment to let fear win.

Fear is one of the most powerful realities we all experience.. It can be debilitating.  Fear is also deeply connected to our journey as followers of Christ.

When we allow fear to rule, we miss out on God’s best for us. 

We meet fear early in creation in Genesis 3:10 when God called out to Adam.  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  We also see fear in the final book of the Bible when John encounters Jesus in a vision.  “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then He placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” (Revelation 1:17)

Fear.  It caused Adam to hide and John to fall like a dead man.

The command “Do not fear” or variations of it, occur over 200 times in the Bible.  N.T. Wright says, “Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think – ‘Be good’? ‘Be holy’? Or negatively, ‘Don’t sin’?…No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: ‘Don’t be afraid’. 1 This must mean that’s a big deal to God. 

Make sure you catch this. “Do not fear” is a command. I know this will be oversimplified, but if “do not fear” is a command then it is also a choice. We do not have to let fear win. I know that is easier said than done.  I would agree with N.T. Wright, who goes on to say that “Don’t be afraid” is one of the hardest commands to keep. 

What is encouraging about the command “Do not fear” is that it is most often followed by God giving a reason not to fear.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). 

This comforts me for a few reasons.

  1. It tells me that I am not alone in my fear. God is fully aware of the reality and power of fear in my life.  He knows that fear may cause me to want to hide or play dead. We are not left “sitting alone in the classroom.”
  2. It also tells me that God has reasons for me to choose courage. He doesn’t just say, “suck it up yourself and be tough”. He tells me that He can take care of me even in the scariest moments.
  3. It gives me hope. Since “Do not fear” is a command, then it is possible to not be afraid.  God wouldn’t give a command that He could not lead through.  Choosing courage over fear is possible.

Over the past couple of years I have faced a unique set of fears. It dawned on me a few months ago that there is always something around the corner that could cause fear.  It is like I walk up to a line and have a choice. Will I choose fear and be stuck?  Or, will I choose courage and move forward? Choose Courage.  Fear has definitely won more than I would like to admit. This has become a thing I say often around our home.  It has become something I pray daily as I remind myself of God’s promise that He is with me.

Be on the lookout for Choose Courage, part 2. Faith, Love, and Fear.

  1. N.T. Wright, Following Jesus, Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Grand Rapids, Michiga; Eerdmans Publishing, 1994), p.68

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