HOW TO BE COURAGEOUS
T. PIERCE BROWN
Since teachers may occasionally be afraid that they will fail, and since each student needs to learn how to have the courage to stand, I started to entitle this article, “How to Overcome Fear,” when I realized that we do not need to overcome fear as much as we need to be courageous. There is a difference! There are various kinds of fears. Hebrews 5:7 says about Jesus, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to deliver him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” So we do not need to overcome all kinds of fear, but we do need to have courage. Developing courage will help us to overcome the fears that need to be overcome, and more importantly, to function properly in spite of the fears that may still remain. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the will to go on in spite of fear.
Let me suggest some things about fears in general, and how to remove some of them. Then we need to know how to have the courage to serve God and our fellowman in spite of fears. Most of us have fear of failure. In addition to that, we have fear of someone finding out about our failures, sins and shortcomings. Keep in mind that those fears are related, but different. There are rational fears, such as fear of stepping out of an airplane at high altitudes without a parachute. There are irrational fears, such as fear of stepping into an airplane at all.
In general, to handle any fear, it is usually good to try to logically analyze exactly what it is you fear, and why. For example, you have “stage fright” when you are about to make a speech. You know that you may “blank out,” forget what you meant to say, stumble over your words, or in some other way fail to communicate properly. Now what will be the result if any or all that happens? Will you be burned at stake? Will you be shot at sunrise? Will you be disgraced and shunned for life? When one examines carefully the worst that could happen as a result of his failure, and then the worst that would probably happen, 90% of his fears will become so insignificant they will not matter.
But the second step is, if the fear is not of a real danger that needs to be avoided, face the fear that remains, admit it, and act anyway. This takes a little courage, but almost everyone has a little. When one acts on that which he has, he develops more.
Daniel may be a case in point. There is little doubt that he was afraid of lions. But probably he was not nearly as afraid after he had and demonstrated the courage in spite of the lions. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were no doubt afraid of fire. It burns! But when they demonstrated the courage evidenced in Daniel 3:17-18, they probably were never quite as afraid again. Their answer contains the principle about which we write. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known, O king, that we will not serve your gods. Nor will we worship the gold image you have set up.”
But there is a different kind of fear we mentioned with which we need to deal, and that is the fear of others finding out about our failures, shortcomings and sins. One effective way to deal with that, in most situations, is to simply follow the admonition of James5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, they ye may be healed.” This is not to be a “one way street,” where one confesses to his “senior advisor” and gets advised, or to his priest and gets absolved. But if I have already told you my sins and faults, then I cannot be in fear of your finding out. I will discover, in most cases, that I get strength and help from you to overcome them. But in any case, I do not then have to live in fear and anxiety that someone will discover the truth about me.
So, to have the kind of courage God commands and commends, take the following steps. 1. Examine the things you fear to see if they are worth fearing–whether rational or irrational. 2. Evaluate the worst consequences if the things you fear actually happen. 3. Ask yourself if God is able to help. It will be almost impossible to develop courage if you do not believe in a God that can do things! 4. Deliberately and consciously cast your care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), and leave it there! 5. Then act as you think you should act in spite of your fear.
Joshua 1:1-9 with special emphasis on verse 9 touches on these thoughts. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If God wants a thing done, act upon your faith in the promise that God is with you, and you will have courage, demonstrate courage, and grow in courage.