One of the things I inherited from my father is a love of westerns. I particularly love the stories written by Louis L’amour. One of my favorite books is a collection of short stories entitled West of Dodge. The main reason why I like this book is because many of the stories are illustrations of what it means to be a man. The story I connected with the most was the story To Make a Stand. The following scene comes from that story.
Hurley knew death then. He knew the Talbots were behind him, and he knew there were four of them, and he knew he was fairly caught.
But he was calm.
That, of all things, was the most astonishing. There were, he knew in that moment, worse things than death, and there were few things worse than fear itself.
He turned slowly. “It’s my fight, Benton,” he said. “You get back in bed.” (emphasis added)
Fear is a huge life robber. It robs you of life while you are still alive, and that is what makes it worse than death. Fear paralyzes us from doing what we need to do. There have been times in my life when I did not do what was expected of me because of fear. Life slips through our fingers when we allow fear to dominate our lives.
Think about the fears that are common to people. We have a fear of rejection so we are careful not to reveal too much about ourselves, and the result is that we miss out on the close relationships we need for life. We fear ridicule so we tone down the Gospel, rather than risk stepping on people’s toes. We fear looking like a fool so we avoid new situations, rather than trying to expand our experiences. Fear holds us back from going where God wants us to go.
Remember fear kept a generation of Israelites out of the Promised Land. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, they had passed through the Red Sea, they had received the Ten Commandments, and they had been guided by God day and night.
The nation made it to the borders of the Promised Land, and Moses decided to send out 12 spies to check out the terrority. The spies reported back that the land was very good, but it was also controlled by people who were big and strong. Ten of the spies allowed the fear in their hearts to overwhelm them, and they advised the nation against moving into the land. The last two spies, Caleb and Joshua, urged the people to follow God into the Promised Land; “Let’s go at once and take the land. We can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30; NLT).
Why were Joshua and Caleb confident about conquering the land?
The rest of Israel had witnessed the same miraculous events that Joshua and Caleb had seen. God’s power was not a mystery to the Israelites. Joshua and Caleb saw the same fortified cities and “giants” that the other 10 spies saw. Joshua and Caleb did not have different information than the rest of the people. The impossibility of the task did not escape Joshua and Caleb.
The difference was that the ten spies allowed their hearts to be ruled by fear, and that fear spread to the rest of the people. Caleb and Joshua allowed their hearts to be ruled by faith, and that caused them to live with courage.
Miracles and examples of God’s power will not extinguish the fear in our lives. Fear is present anytime we perceive a risk involved in the action that is before us. What we need is not greater examples of God’s power, but a greater trust in God’s power.
Courage flows out of our trust in God’s power and our hope in God’s promises. We have courage because we are confident that God will use whatever happens for His glory and for our transformation. He will not let our faith in Him go to waste.
That generation of Israelites missed out on the Promised Land. Their fear held them back from experiencing the goodness of God’s promise. When we allow our fear to dominate our lives we too miss out on what God has for us. This is why fear is worse than death. Fear robs us of the life God wants us to live.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9; ESV)