(Originally published 9/3/13)
Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible says ‘do not fear’? Take 2 Tim. 1:7 for example;
‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’
We tend to associate the words ‘bravery’ and ‘courage’ with large scale endeavors. For example, if we find out that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, we encourage them, and ourselves, to be brave.
It’s like bravery is only needed in life and death situations, or acts of heroism, such as rushing into a burning building. But I think that courage should be far more common place than that.
I’ve always been an introvert, but even more than that, I’ve always been painfully shy. During my adolescence I was known as a ‘wall-paper kid’ and I remember once when I was around ten years old, it took me literally weeks to gather the nerves to strike up a conversation with a girl I wanted to befriend. I avoided the young adults group at my church for months because I was so self-conscious and afraid that people would find me annoying or stupid.
Though I’ve improved tremendously, I still struggle with reaching out to people I’m not comfortable around. There have been several times when I have felt God tugging at my heart to minister to someone, but, to my shame, I have only responded with obedience a few times.
Usually, I ignore the Lord’s call and walk away. I’m very good at signing up for the behind the scenes positions where I don’t have to talk to people, and while I recognize that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, allowing fear of others to hinder my obedience to God is a sin. In Galatians 1:10 Paul asks if he is ‘now seeking the approval of men, or of God.’ This is the fear I suffer from most often.
The extreme situations we relate to the term ‘brave’ lead us to the misconception that courage is something we need only when we are approaching dangerous situations. There are certainly dangerous times in everyone’s life, but those aren’t the only times we need boldness.
Sometimes, it takes just as much courage to stand up to friends and family as is does to save someone from a fire; in fact, without the dose of adrenalin, we may have even more trouble steeling our nerves.
Maybe you fear others’ opinions of you, failing a test in school, or stuttering during a presentation at work. Others are afraid of being a bad parent or spouse or friend. Some people, like me, are paralyzed by the thought of asking the homeless person on the street if we can pray with them.
I believe one of the biggest fears among Christians is sharing our faith with those we know and love who don’t know and love Jesus. For most of us, the thought of leaving our comfort zone invokes the same level of apprehension as skydiving.
Anytime we allow fear to dictate our actions, or, as is more likely the case, our inactions, we are committing the sin of worry and we are not trusting God fully. Obviously there is a place for wisdom and prudence; I’m not telling anyone to knowingly endanger themselves just for laughs. But when it comes to actions that God has fully equipped us for – such as loving and reaching out to others with the message of Salvation – we need to be strong and courageous.
I would encourage you to be more mindful of those actions and/or people you avoid out of fear. For myself, I know there are a fair few instances when I listen to doubts from the devil rather than directions from God.
When you come up against an occasion that tempts you to give into fear, stop, be still and know that God is God, and, if He is telling you to do it, go for it! Be bold and courageous; God has already won the battle!
I leave you with one of my favorite inspirational quotes on bravery:
“The enemy is in front of us, the enemy is behind us, the enemy is to the right and to the left of us. They can’t get away this time!”
― Douglas MacArthur