2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
IntroductionGod has been leading me to preach a message about courage for quite some time now. He first spoke to me about it last spring when I went to San Antonio, TX to see the Alamo. In 1836, about a hundred Texas and Tejano soldiers were stationed at an an old Spanish mission church that'd been repurposed as a makeshift army garrison. The held the fort for 13 days against an overwhelming Mexican force. In the end, the soldiers bravely gave their life defending Texas independence. Almost all the soldiers in the Alamo were killed or executed. Their fight took great courage.
Then, last week, I was in New York City to visit the 9/11 memorial. Again, the Holy Spirit touched my heart about courage as I viewed the exhibits of that tragedy and remembered the firefighters running toward the burning buildings to sae people while everyone else ran away. But the most courageous demonstration to me was a voice message a flight attendant left for her family. She called from the last plane, the one that crashed in a Pennsylvania field because the passengers decided to bravely fight back against the hijackers. The flight attendant called her family, refusing to cry or promise that she would be ok. All she could say was she was ok for the moment and that she loved her them and that she was sorry and that she hoped she would see them again.
This message has been planned since last spring. Today is the day you are reading it. I believe God brought it to your attention for a reason. I pray you will hear His Word to you today.
What is courage?
Google defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one. Some people think courage is the opposite of fear. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you cannot have courage without fear. The opposite of courage is not fear. The opposite of courage is timidity. Timidity is shying away from what you must do. 2 Timothy 1:7 says God doesn't give us a Spirit of fear and timidity. So if you have a spirit of timidity, it didn't come from God. We are to be bold and courageous.
The Source of CourageCourage is not something limited only to Christians. Many people of all different nations and religions have demonstrated incredible courage through throughout the ages. Some people draw courage from a sense of duty. Maybe, a soldier has taken a vow to protect his country and his people; and even though they are frightened of death, they may do their duty even if it cost their life. Their sense of duty gives them courage. Others may draw courage from a stoic resignation. They determine that their fate is sealed. It is what it is and there's nothing they can do to change it. So they resolve to face their destiny courageously.
Christians sometimes gather courage from these sources as well. However a Christian can draw courage from greatest source of all--our faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout the Bible, we find courage from God's promises to HIs faithful people.
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
We can face any fear we have knowing that God is with us and can help us overcome any obstacle.
"Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
God has promised to overcome our enemies. We don't have to fear. We can be bold and courageous knowing God fights alongside us.
"Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.” (Luke 12:4)
Christians have eternal hope in Jesus Christ. The worst thing that can happen to us is we die. Some would say, "Yeah, well that's pretty bad." But death is not the worst thing that can happen to us and it is not the end. Death will come for us all, eventually, but Christians have a hope that goes beyond death.
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)
Hebrews reminds us that this life, this world and all the things in it are not our goal. All that we see in this physical world will pass away one day. But those who trust in Christ have the promise of eternity; and nothing can take that away from those who believe in Jesus Christ. We can courageously face even death, because our hope transcends the grave.
True Christianity is Radical
There is a halfhearted, lukewarm Christianity in this world that won't offer much hope or courage. It's a kind of Christianity with the chief aim to make this life better. It seeks mostly to enhance a person's enjoyment of this life and this world and the things in it. It promises to help us get ahead at our job, have a happy home, be healthy, and remain safe. It's a kind of halfway Christianity that doesn't really put Christ first, but instead adds him on as a extra. The individual is always first and Jesus is only their as an enhancement.
But this kind of religion won’t do you much good. It offers little courage. Half hearted Christianity cannot save anyone. Christ has to be absolutely first. Jesus must be Lord if he is also to be your Savior. You must surrender it all to him and you must give yourself as a living sacrifice. Giving yourself to completely Christ can be very scary, but you've got to have courage to do it. It is the only way to truly have eternal life and eternal hope.
Four Steps Towards Courageous Living
I want to give you some practical steps to lead you toward more courageous living.
- Embrace your fears. Avoiding fears actually makes them stronger and scarier. You would think running away would save you from your fear, but it doesn't. You can only run from your fears for so long. Eventually, it will catch up to you. It's better to face your fears now, than fret over them as you vainly try to avoud them. God ahead and step outside our comfort zone and begin to truly live.
- Just do it. When it comes to doing things you fear, the longer you wait in hesitation, the more time your mind has to make the monster bigger. I once did a team building exercise at a Christian camp. I had to put on a safety harness attached to a rope that was held by an experienced guide. Then I had to climb up a very tall telephone pole atop which was a small platform. Once standing on the platform, I had to jump a short distance and grab a trapeze bar. Now, remember, I was safely secured by my harness and rope. If I fell or missed my mark, my guide would safely lower me to the ground. And yet, it was still very frightening. I was able to overcome my fear and make the leap, successfully grab the trapeze bar, and then be lowered to the ground. However, I watched many people who went before me hesitate. They thought, was they weren't ready. They would go in a minute. But the longer they waited, the harder the jump seemed. They gave their mind time to think about their fear and the fear grew and grew. The best way to handle the challenge was just do it. The distance and the danger and challenge never grow smaller the longer you wait. However the fear usually does grow bigger the more you hesitate. So just do it.
- Pray. I don’t just mean pray when you must face to face your fears. You shoudl do that too. We gain courage as we pray in the face of our fear. But what I really mean is practice a life of prayer. Prayer is communion with God. Prayer helps us know God is right here with us in every moment. It is much easier to be courageous when we know God is standing beside us. You have to pray daily so your awareness of God’s awesome presence becomes stronger than your fear of the monsters may have to face. Pray daily. Pray deeply. Pray diligently.
- Finally, practice makes perfect. You can practice courage. Start with relatively small things. Challenge yourself to be brave in a safe, controlled environment. Do somethings that you are afraid of. Are you afraid to talk to someone you don't know. Take a friend and go out to eat and try to engage your waitress in a short conversation; or go further and talk to someone at a nearby table. There are all kinds of ways you can practice facing your fears in small doses so you will be better prepared to do it fully if the need ever arises. Such exercises can be a kind of spiritual discipline to help you rely more and more on God’s strength to overcome timidity.
Our Eternal Hope is in Christ
Titus 3:4-7 – When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.[a] 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
There is eternal hope in Jesus Christ, but you won’t find eternal hope in half hearted, lukewarm Christianity. Christ has to be absolutely first in your life. So many are trying to find hope and fulfillment and satisfaction in a career, romantic relationships, family, friends, politics, a car, a house, clothes, money, or possessions. You can find a type of fulfillment in these, but it is not lasting and it will eventually fail to fulfill the deepest eternal longings in your soul. Only a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can truly satisfy your deepest longings. And that only comes when you lay it all down at the altar of God, and offer yourself up as a living sacrifice:
“Lord Jesus! I give You my life--wholeheartedly. Take me. Use me for whatever purpose you wish. Fill me up or pour me out. Let me suffer or let me be happy. Put me to work or lay me aside. Give me whatever you want or take it all away. I freely and wholeheartedly surrender it all to Your pleasure and disposal. I trust You. I am Yours and You are my Savior, Redeemer, and King. Amen.”
Maybe you tried to live this way before and failed. Maybe you’re scared you might fail again. But you have to have courage and keep trying and not give up.
Maybe giving yourself to Christ wholeheartedly is scary. But you've got to do it. You’ve got to have courage. Take a leap of faith. Trust in the Lord.
I'm praying for you. God bless.