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Courage and Fear

Right fear creates ready courage.

Brave Heart (4)

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine
was severe in the land. Genesis 12.10

Misplaced fear
The Christian life requires courage because Jesus intends to take us beyond where we’ve ever been before in our outlook, desires, and actions as His disciples. You cannot follow Jesus and remain the same person you’ve always been. In Jesus Christ, everything is being made new (2 Cor. 5.17; Rev. 21.5), and each of us is called to grow in the Lord, to seek His promises, and to take up challenges and step into opportunities that are beyond our comfort zone. The Lord intends us to be brave in our hearts, filled with thanksgiving and hope, and not afraid, so that we will follow wherever He leads and do whatever He requires.

Since the Christian life requires courage, we do well to understand and nurture courage as a primary affection in our hearts. But not just any courage – Christian courage, courage that acts toward the promises of God, in the hope of gaining God and partaking of Him, of enjoying enriched fellowship with Him.

Abraham must have felt like he was being courageous in fleeing the famine in Canaan and taking his wife to Egypt. He may have been, but it was not an admirable courage, and in many ways looks more like fear. We might think he was bold to lie to the king of Egypt about his relationship with his wife. Lying to kings – especially those who are looked upon as deities – takes courage, right?

But Abraham’s courage was misguided. He feared the king of Egypt and so he lied to him to protect his own hide.

Abraham’s actions were not really courage at all, even though doing what he did involved a lot of risk. If Abraham’s fear had been lodged in the right place, he might have acted in true courage in this situation, and remained in Canaan, waiting on and moving toward the promises of God.

Abraham’s fear was misplaced. Fear, as we have discussed, is one of the affections that sometimes plays into courage, enabling us to do things we’ve never done before. In this case, Abraham feared the famine in Canaan. He was afraid he might starve to death. So, rather than keep his eye on the promises of God and stay put, he allowed the fear of famine to move him away from the promises of God into the unknown terrain of a place beyond the one God had indicated.

Then, once he was in Egypt, Abraham feared the king and what he might do to him to steal his wife. He probably rationalized his lie to the king of Egypt as a very risky and perhaps even courageous thing to do. But God had another take on the situation.

Two lessons
Abraham learned two things about God through this situation, and they set him on a course of knowing God and fearing Him, so that he would not fear to continue pursuing the promises of God.

First, Abraham learned that God has power over people and nations. God, we read, “plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.” (v. 17). Abraham learned that God has power over the creation, over human health and wellbeing, even over powerful nations and their god-like kings. God is powerful. And if God can do so much to those who displease Him, what might He do to us when we displease Him?

But Abraham also learned that God is gracious, because He spared Abraham the judgment he should have received at the hands of Pharaoh; and He enriched and blessed him instead – just as He had promised He would.

So Abraham learned to fear God, but he also learned to rest in His power and might, as these work on behalf of those who have found favor in the eyes of the Lord. The first great promise God made to Abraham – that He would draw him into a blessed relationship with Himself – was beginning to be fulfilled, even though Abraham had lost sight of the promises and was living in cowardly disobedience.

Growing in the Lord
We will grow in Christian courage as we grow in our relationship with the God Who offers exceedingly great and precious promises to guide us in this life. And, as we have seen, that relationship begins in our heart, where all our affections are united for fearing God (Ps. 86.11). Through studying God’s Word, praying daily, looking to God and His promises in the face of trials and challenges, and seeking out the counsel of trusted Christian friends and advisors, we can live courageously for the Lord when push comes to shove in the everyday situations of our lives. His promises will be our supreme desire; we will know His Presence with us always; and we will deny lesser fears – whether of circumstance or people – so that we can live in the fear and love of God in all our everyday words and deeds.

Christian courage begins in the fear of God – and love for Him and hope in His promises.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, as we know (Ps. 111.10). But the fear of God is also the beginning of courage. When we fear God more than the threats and challenges that confront us, and as we love Him, and rest in His grace and promises, we’ll be surprised to discover how truly courageous we can be. We can get beyond our fears into greater exertions for Christ and His Kingdom when we fear God as we should and follow wherever He leads. 

For reflection
1.  What would be some examples of Christians living with misplaced fear?

2.  Is it right to fear God? What does that mean? Why should believers maintain a healthy fear of God?

3.  Why is it important to balance the fear of God with love for Him?

Next step – Preparations: Make a list of some of the things you fear –things that might hinder you from following the promises of God in your everyday life. How can growing in your relationship with God prepare you to overcome these fears? Which ones will you face down and overcome today?

T. M. Moore

Focusing on Jesus
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

If you missed our ReVision series on encouragement, you can download all the installments of that study for free by clicking here.

How can we increase in the knowledge of God and the living hope of His glory? Our book, To Know Him, can help you become more focused and active in seeking the knowledge of the Lord. Order your free copy by clicking here. You can see Jesus more clearly by understanding what He’s doing in heaven at the right hand of God. Our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to focus more clearly on our living hope. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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