Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Courage (page 1 of 2)

Move Forward in Faith

Move Forward in FaithYesterday I put up fences around our garden because rabbits have been eating all our plants. As I got the stuff I needed to make the fences I thought about all the times my dad sent my brother and I out to fix the fences we had in the pasture. There were  a few times, especially when I was working by myself, when I became so frustrated that threw down whatever was in my hand and yelled, “How does he expect me to do this?” I felt ill-equipped to do the job that my dad sent me out to do.

Have you ever had a job that you felt totally inadequate doing? 

If we have a job to do, we want to be sure that we know how to do it. We don’t want to look like fools if we do something wrong, and we certainly do not want to fail. It is important to us that we to feel like we have it all together.

When we read the Bible we discover that God often called people to tasks that they are unable to accomplish on their own.Think about the examples of Noah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and Esther. Each one of them felt inadequate to tackle the job God had given to them. God still used them to accomplish His purposes.

Then God told him [Moses], “I will be with you. And this will serve as proof that I have sent you: When you have brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you will return here to worship God at this very mountain.” (Exodus 3:12; NLT)

I find it interesting that the proof God offers to Moses that He will be with Moses comes after the task is done. Basically God told Moses, “When you return to this mountain, with the nation of Israel behind you, then you can be sure I sent you.” Moses wanted a detailed plan and evidence that it was God who sending him (I guess the burning bush wasn’t enough), but God wanted faith.

God knows that we will have our doubts when it comes to the task He has called us to do. We will question our ability, the way people will respond, and if we really did understand God’s call in the first place.

We don’t handle uncertainty very well, because it reveals how little control over things we have. Certainty gives us a sense of control, security, and confidence. Yet, when we are certain and confident in our abilities we are less likely to trust God to empower us and provide for our needs.

Faith is not having no questions, but it is trusting God in spite of those questions. The person God uses is the one who has resolved to trust God, no matter what happens or what questions arise.

I know this is where I often miss the boat. The uncertainty that the future holds causes fear to grow in my heart, and that fear overwhelms my faith. Rather than moving forward in courage and faith, I shrink back with fear, not seizing the opportunity God put in my life. In the process I miss out on experiencing the different ways God empowers those who follow Him in faith.

How do we over come the fear that holds us back so we are able move forward in faith?

  1. We surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote; For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:5-6; ESV) The gift of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to overcome our fear and to live a courageous life of faith. Each day as we pray we need to declare our intention to be lead by the Holy Spirit and not by our flesh.
  2. We need encouragement from other Christians. The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote; And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25; ESV) We will not naturally live a life of courage and love. Instead we will seek ways to avoid embarrassment, trouble, and the unknown. This is why it is essential to have other Christians walking by our sides. They provide the support, wisdom, and encouragement that we need.
  3. We live with wisdom. In Ephesians the apostle Paul wrote; Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16; ESV) Wisdom in the Bible is not about knowledge. It is about being able to discern between right and wrong, and it entails doing what you know is right. Wisdom not only opens our eyes to the evil that corrupts our days, but it also helps us understand how to respond to that evil. Wisdom enables us to make the best use of our time and our resources.

God calls us to do things that we feel ill-equipped to handle. This is not because He wants us to feel overwhelmed, but because He wants us to learn to put our faith in Him. As we move out of our comfort zones and are stretched beyond our limits, we are able to experience God in a whole new way.(Tweet this)

What propels us forward in life isn’t certainty, but faith. A life of faith will always take us to where God wants us to be.

The Courageous Life Honors Jesus

Through repentance I have pledged my life to Jesus. Repentance is the intentional act of denouncing our former way of life and surrendering our life to Jesus.

Since my life belongs to Jesus means that I need to live a life that honors him. To do anything else would bring shame to me because of the poor reflection I have given of Jesus.

One of the constant prayers of my life needs to be: Father, grant me the wisdom, strength, and courage to live a life worthy of the Lord Jesus.

This appears to be the prayer of the apostle Paul:

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

Philippians 1:20; NLT

The apostle Paul knew that his honor was connected to his commitment to Jesus. He had pledged his allegiance to Jesus, and that meant his honor depended on living out his loyalty to his Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

This isn’t just about not doing wrong, but also about showing courage and faith as we do the right thing. Paul wrote that he would be ashamed if he did not continue to live a bold life that brought honor to Jesus.

As amazing as it might seem prison, court trials, beatings, and rejection were not sources of shame for Paul. Paul saw these things as badges of honor he received for courageously following Jesus. In Paul’s mind, it would have been shameful for him not to endure these things because of his fear. For Paul loyalty required facing his fears to do the work of his Lord.

I think it is important to remember that to refuse to do good, because of fear, is just as shameful as being caught doing something that is obviously sinful.

Open disobedience is shameful because it is there for all the world to see. Our refusal to do good is much easier to conceal to the world, but it still robs Jesus of honor. We honor Jesus when we live out his life of sacrificial love.

Courage is what we need to live a life that brings glory and honor to Christ Jesus. The courage we need comes from faith in God to provide for our needs, and in the hope that God will make all things new and set things right. Without faith and hope our courage will quickly fade away. The longer we walk in faith the stronger our courage will become and the greater honor we will give to Jesus.

 

Bring Honor to Jesus

I am not very good at following Jesus. That is why I am an imperfect disciple. I hesitate and question, which means I am not living with courage and faith. It is frustrating because I know I am not maturing my faith, but it is comfortable since don't have face my fears. When I don’t live by faith, then I don’t have to do the hard things that push me outside of my comfort zone. I confess that I am afraid to truly follow Jesus.

Take a moment and consider what Erwin McManus wrote:

Just do whatever Jesus calls you to do the moment it is clear to you. Do not procrastinate; do not hesitate, do not deviate from whatever course of action He calls you to. But I want to warn you, the closer you walk with Christ, the greater the faith required. The more you trust Him, the more you’ll risk on His behalf. The more you love Him, the more you will love others. If you genuinely embrace His sacrifice, you will joyfully embrace a sacrificial life. Your expectations of Jesus will change as your intimacy with Him deepens. (The Barbarian Way, p. 53)

Spiritual formation requires faithfully following Jesus. Not only does faithfully following Jesus change our lives, but it is also the best way for us to honor God. We honor God through our obedience. It isn’t enough that we stop doing wrong; we must also seek to do what is right. This means we avoid doing things that will bring us shame. This was one of the motivations for the apostle Paul.

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. (Philippians 1:20; NLT)


Paul lived in a culture where honor was bound to fulfilling his responsibilities and fighting with courage. When Paul says that he has nothing to be ashamed of, he is not talking about doing something that might be embarrassing or making a simple mistake. What he meant is that he lived a life of courage (boldness) which, in turn, brought honor to his master, Christ Jesus.

It would have been shameful for Paul to have quit preaching the gospel because he feared prison and death. The court trials, the imprisonments, and the beatings were badges of honor that Paul wore with pride, because he bravely followed Jesus.

We don't live in an honor/shame culture. Yet, I believe it is essential for us to understand that if we are going to follow Jesus, we must seek to bring him honor. Our lives aren’t our own, they belong to Jesus. Our honor is tied to our obedience to him. We can live a life of perfect morality, but if we fail to live boldly then we will not bring the honor to Jesus that he deserves. No matter the obstacles or the risk, we must follow Jesus.

Grant us the strength, Father, to live honorably for Your Son, Jesus.

Fear is Worse than Death

Fear is Worse than Death

 

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)

 

Sunday Prayer: I Want to Know Jesus

{Philippians 3:8-11; ESV}
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for delivering me from the kingdom of darkness and bringing me into the Kingdom of Your Son Jesus! Empower me to live a life that is worthy of him and that glorifies You!

Lord God I plead that You will change my heart.  Help me to see this world from the perspective of eternity.  Remind me of the temporary nature of the things that I possess and the achievements I have accomplished.  Give me a heart that longs to know Jesus as the most important part of my life.  A heart that is willing to suffer persecution in order to know Jesus a little bit better.  I need the strength and courage to break away from the things of this world and to set my heart and mind fully on Jesus.

Father help me to know Jesus and to experience his resurrection power in my life.  It is in the powerful of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

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