I have no idea what fear lurks in your heart, preventing you from really living life. What I do know is that fear holds you back from living the life God wants for you. At least that is true for me. Here is the question I think we need to consider: What fear does Satan use to keep you from living the life God planned for you to live?
This fable by Aesop illustrates how many of us respond to fear:
An old cat was in the habit of catching all the mice in the barn.
One day the mice met to talk about the great harm that she was doing them. Each one told of some plan by which to keep out of her way.
“Do as I say,” said an old gray mouse that was thought to be very wise. “Do as I say. Hang a bell to the cat’s neck. Then, when we hear it ring, we shall know that she is coming, and can scamper out of her way.”
“Good! Good!” said all the other mice, and one ran to get the bell.
“Now which of you will hang this bell on the cat’s neck?” said the old gray mouse.
“Not I! Not I!” said all the mice together. And they scampered way to their holes. (The Brave Mice; p. 457; The Book Of Virtues)
Many of us want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to do something that has lasting value, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road we run away and hide. We don’t want any part of it. Yeah, we may talk a good game, but in reality we know we are going to chicken out in the end.
That is why people who have demonstrated courage amaze me. You can see that courage in many of the men who fought during World War II. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, flew B-17s in the war, even being shot down on at least one occasion. When I was preaching in Russellville, Arkansas one of the guys at the church had a heart attack. When I was visiting him doing his recovery he told me a couple of stories about fighting in the Pacific during WWII. I am amazed at their courage, and I am left to wonder if I could do that.
In the March 2003 issue of World War II magazine there is an article about an infantryman and his experience during the Battle of the Bulge. This is what the author, Wyatt E. Barnes, wrote about the assignment he was training to do in the days leading up to the battle.
“I was to be a pole charge man; I would have to run up to a bunker with a long pole capped with a block of TNT. If I survived to reach it, I was to thrust the pole into the bunker’s firing embrasure and detonate the TNT. Others in the unit had equally unappealing assignments. But like infantrymen everywhere, we did not think much about it. We could not change anything. We would have to deal, somehow, with whatever was to come.”
I think we can see an element of courage in what Mr. Barnes wrote. That element is the realization that the task is dangerous, or unappealing as Mr. Barnes put it, but being committed to deal with whatever is to come. Courage is not the absence of fear. If there was no fear then it wouldn’t take courage. Fear is there to remind us something is dangerous, that the task is not safe. Courage, therefore, is the determination to do what needs to be done in spite of fear. For the follower of Christ we know hat determination comes from being committed to God. Total trust in God gives us the courage to deal with whatever obstacles that may pop up in our path.
Courage is not just for soldiers, law enforcement officers, and fire fighters. Christians need courage. We need to recognize that courage is a vital part of our lives. Bill Hybles wrote; “Living as a fully devoted follower of Christ takes courage on a daily basis for the rest of our lives!” We need courage because we are in a war. There is a spiritual war raging all around us and we are, as C. S. Lewis reminds us, living in “Enemy-occupied territory -- that is what the world is.” We need courage, because Satan is at war with God, and he is doing whatever he can to thwart God’s will. As God’s children we are prime targets for the evil one.
Not only are we prime targets of the evil one, but we are also called to fight in this spiritual battle. The apostle Paul tells us:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13; ESV).
Courage is an essential part of the Christian’s life. While there are many things that bring fear into our lives it is possible to live with courage. We can be courageous Christians!