This new year is still pretty fresh, but enough days have gone by for me to be able to see which of my New Year’s goals are going to be easier to keep than others.
Drink more water? Killing it.
Cut out sugar? No comment.
But what about those dreams and aspirations that have more to do with the kind of person I want to be than the new habits I want to form? What about those deeper desires of my heart that I sense are very much connected to my purpose?
You have some of those too, don’t you?
And while these kind of goals and dreams definitely require discipline and practical steps, I think what they need most of all is COURAGE.
COURAGE to step out and over your insecurities.
COURAGE to try something new without a guarantee of “success” or applause.
COURAGE to believe what may have marked you in the past does not have to define you in your future.
COURAGE to trust that God really has been working ALL things for your good, even when you can’t see the evidence of that with your own eyes.
COURAGE to put yourself out there even when it seems there are plenty of others who would do a better job.
Yeah, the big stuff of life? The deep desires of our hearts? Those things take more than a planner and reading a kick-you-in-the-rear self-help book (although I have both and recommend them). Those things take a courage that you can’t drum up on your own, because if you do, it will eventually slowly leak out.
So where do you find this kind of courage that helps you step out and try brave and hard things?
Well, I’ve been reading through Scripture because I happen to need and want this kind of courage in my life right now and I keep seeing a surprising answer in the stories of ordinary people who summoned up the courage to do greater things:
They found their courage to step out and do hard things through fear. But not the kind of fear that most of us are all too familiar with. Not the fear that makes you shrink back, hold back, put it off, make excuses or pass on opportunities you know you were meant for. Not that kind of fear.
Don’t get me wrong - I see plenty of that kind of fear in Scripture as well, in the very same lives where I see courage eventually rise up. But I also see this in their lives:
There is a fear that actually leads to courage. It is the fear of the Lord.
I think this topic isn’t talked about much, so it is easily misunderstood. The fear of the Lord isn’t being afraid of God. It isn’t worrying that at a moment’s notice He might zap you with lightning out of anger over your sin and failures. The fear of the Lord is recognizing the awesome power of who He is. It is having your heart fill up with awe at His majesty and glory and unmatched strength.
The fear of the Lord is letting sink into your mind and heart that only He is:
Mighty, Always in Control, Never Taken by Surprise, Faithful to the End, Worthy of our Lives and our Devotion, Full of Truth, All Knowing, Never Contained, Strong & Powerful, Ruler Over all the Earth, Creator, Sustainer, Healer, Mender of the Broken Heart, Redeemer of Broken Lives, Love, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Lion of the Tribe of Judah - and So. Much. More.
When this reality of who God is begins to fill our hearts and minds, all other fears begin to slowly lose their grip on us. Courage starts to take root.
You see it in David as he faced Goliath - he was more convinced of God’s strength than that of the giant standing in front of him. (1 Samuel 17)
You see it in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they tell the king that their God is able to rescue them but even if He doesn’t, they will never bow their knees or lives in worship to anyone but the one true God. (Daniel 3)
You see it in Ezra and Nehemiah, hailed as incredible leaders during opposition, who again and again humbled themselves before God, sought His favor and direction and then stepped out and lead the way against all odds (Ezra 7:28, Nehemiah 1:5-11)
You see it in Peter and the other disciples, who once denied and deserted Jesus, as they tell the high priest and rulers of their day (people who had the authority to end their lives) “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
When I remind myself, day after day or hour after hour if need be, of WHO GOD IS and WHAT HE CAN DO and that I AM HIS, suddenly the things I am afraid of seem smaller and smaller by comparison. The acceptance or rejection of others begins to matter less because I know that in Christ I already have the acceptance of Almighty God. And while other people & their opinions might seem important to me, they don’t hold a candle to what God says about me.
It might sound backwards, but it is in the fear of the Lord that I find freedom from my fears.
And THERE is the unlikely place where we find COURAGE. Not in staring at our own greatness, but in fixing our gaze on His.
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