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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Courage and Confidence

April 29th, 2015

“Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV.

Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

My thoughts and comments today are about “courage and confidence.”

Years earlier, there had been a difficult and disappointing church situation, and I was not sure what the outcome might be in many people’s lives, people that I pastored and for which I was responsible. Feeling embattled, I envisioned a favorite Bible story of personal courage, the battlefield scene between David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17:1-25.

As I read Samuel’s description of the occasion, “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.” (1 Sam 17:48 NLT), I could “see” David with only a simple, shepherd’s sling, yet running with abandon directly toward the towering, armor-clad warrior that all others feared. In my heart, I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me about courage and confidence. My situation seemed to require more courage and confidence than I was experiencing.

David story captures one’s imagination – young David against Goliath, a seasoned warrior. Because of its larger than life storybook ending, the phrase “David against Goliath” has even become a part of secular speech. Though an actual event, it also provides a powerful metaphor of times and situations that you will face, where the odds of success are clearly unfavorable and the ultimate outcome questionable to everyone, except you and God.

God seems to love those kinds of real life stories. Moses against powerful Pharaoh. Joseph betrayed by his brothers. Three Hebrew captives righteously defying a Persian King and his fiery furnace. Daniel facing ravenous lions. Elijah facing down the 450 prophets of Baal. Paul staring at a treacherous storm at sea and declaring, “Fear not, be of good cheer.” Read Hebrews 11.

In just such times, you must first face the fear to move forward with courage, to do what needs to be done without hesitation, to do what others will not do and doubt that you can. At such times, your faith has to overpower every fear and uncertainty. Read 1 Samuel 17:8-11. The natural inclination is to run the opposite direction, away from the confrontation and danger. But if you do, your fear will chase and haunt you forever. Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

Without hesitation, “David quickly ran out to meet [Goliath].” The sight of this diminutive shepherd boy coming his way did not frighten Goliath, but he must have been momentarily startled to see the preposterous sight, startled just long enough for David to seal Goliath’s fate forever. As he was known to do on other occasions, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. I suggest two practical things that strengthened David’s courage.

(1) David had experience with God. “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine.” Read 1 Samuel 17:32-37. If God has not failed you before, your God will not fail you now. If God has always provided your needs before, He will still provide for you. His Word promises you, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11. Look past the size of your fear; remember the size of your God.

(2) David had courage for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Who is this pagan Philistine that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?. . the God of the armies of Israel that you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:26 and 45 NLT. The situation I faced was not of a scale such as David’s, but I found courage for similar reasons. I had God’s honor to uphold, and people who depended on me to lead with courage and confidence. Courage is not about your safety. True courage is rallied for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV. Being encouraged is volitional more than emotional.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will show courage when time and circumstance require.

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Irreplaceable Influence

October 30th, 2014

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3 NIV.

Cultivate friends whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irreplaceable influence.”

My friend, Don, told me of a conversation many years earlier when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” Though I do not remember saying those words, I trust that I did. I aspire for those words to accurately reflect my gratefulness to God and appreciation for my family and friends whose love and lives have made me want to be better than I would otherwise have been. Anything noteworthy is owed to others’ kindness and God’s mercy; my faults and foibles are mine alone.

There are no such “self-made men or women,” and if there were they would have little of which to boast. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. Along the path of my life, people made a difference in who I am still becoming. People invested in my life, as well as our marriage, family, and ministry. Often selflessly and sacrificially, friends shared irreplaceable time, priceless experience, practical counsel, needed correction, and patient forgiveness. Such friends are above price, God’s gifts, for whom I realize how important they have been, and continue to be. Some people are alongside for a season of life, others for a lifetime, but all are irreplaceable in the process of God’s work in your life. As is true of all of us, I remain a work in progress.

Families provide a legacy. From most of mine, I learned how to live; from a rare few, I learned how not to live. My grandparents had much to do with shaping my earliest years. Looking back, I learned the privilege and priority of family from them and the security of being loved and willed to succeed. My parents taught me about my Christian faith by their Godly example; the consistency of their lives confirmed their words. Still today, my convictions and choices are influenced by my Mom’s songs and my Dad’s sermons. My wife has modeled caring and selflessness that challenges my desire to be more than I have been. Our children and grandchildren enrich our home and family every day by sharing our values, passions, and service to God.

Teachers contributed to who I am becoming. A fourth grade teacher taught me a love for language and learning; a Sunday School teacher invited me to know and love Jesus; a college professor changed my life through his friendship and counsel; a minister’s diligence and loyalty to the Word of God created my passion to know and share truth faithfully; friends became mentors giving Godly counsel. The example and personal availability of so many spared me from the mistakes I would have made and unwise paths I might have taken. Others’ unshakable belief gave me the courage to venture further than I would have dared without their company.

In the three congregations we have served, Church families made ministry a lifelong joy. People have been as gracious as God has been generous. Our marriage and children are blessed with the kindness of those we served, as well as those who partnered in ministry alongside us. All have made our journey more safe and satisfying than would have been otherwise, and Gayle and I are grateful to God and you.

Life apart from good and Godly friends is unimaginable. Indelible impressions formed my habits and heart. Our years have been graced by a quality of valued friendships I could never have anticipated. Now, across a lifetime of years our friendships are counted as Gayle’s and my greatest treasure. Walking without such pleasant company and invaluable encouragement is unthinkable. God planned that from the beginning.

With intentionality, cultivate people whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be and to what you are called to do. Such friends bring to mind Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you . .  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 NIV. To a company of people, I gratefully say, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” By the grace of God, I hope to be that kind of person to others.

Today, my prayer for you is to develop friendships whose influence you find irreplaceable.

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It’s Not About You

October 17th, 2012

“The battle is the Lord’s.” 1 Samuel 17:47 NIV.

A battle never bravely joined is a battle never won, and an enemy never defeated.

My thoughts and comments today are that “it’s not about you.”

No one is exempt from battles. To do right and be right, you will be challenged and attacked. There is much at stake, eternally at stake. It is important that you be mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared or you will live in fear and/or defeat. The Old Testament prophet, Samuel, relates the consequential battle between David and Goliath. Read 1 Samuel 17:11/24. Why would battle-seasoned men cower for forty days while Goliath taunted them twice a day, with no response except their dismay and fear? David heard Goliath’s taunt the first time and recognized the real issue. The battle was not about the men on the field; the real battle was about the honor and character of Israel’s God. Read 1 Samuel 17:45-47 NKJV.

If you could see that the spiritual battles you face are not all about you – your victory or failure over some point of obedience and righteousness. The present battle is merely the most recent attempt of your enemy to defeat you through unrelenting taunts and intimidation so that you are afraid to engage him in conflict. This is about your God – whether your God is big enough, strong enough, caring enough, and faithful enough to protect you and give you victory. What do you really believe about God in your heart?

Your enemy is counting on your not resisting; he is planning on your running scared, again. A battle never bravely joined is a battle never won, and an enemy never defeated. David understood what was at stake. The daily taunts would not stop. This enemy would not grow weary and go away quietly. There are battles that simply cannot be ignored. “For You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” Psalm 18:37-40 NKJV.

Jehoshaphat, a king of Judah, faced a similar threat. Three armies were gathered against Judah, surrounding and outnumbering them. Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-13. As the King and people sought the Lord and fasted, God spoke through a prophet, “The Lord says to you, do not be afraid nor dismayed . . for the battle is not yours, the battle is the Lord’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:14. The battle is the Lord’s! That simple truth is the difference between your victory or defeat! Don’t be afraid; be encouraged.

If the battle is the Lord’s – the size of the enemy does not matter! Gideon had to learn that uncomfortable lesson when God whittled the size of his already outnumbered army down from 32,000 men to just 300. Listen to God’s reasoning, “The people that are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into your hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself, saying ‘My own hand has saved me.” Judges 7:2. The odds may not be in your favor, but God is. God’s power is not greater with more, nor diminished by few.

If the battle is the Lord’s – your weakness or strength is irrelevant! Zechariah discovered that the battle is won “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6. God taught Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. David understood that the battle with Goliath was not his fight – “The battle is the Lord’s!” The men around David talked only about the giant they saw before them. David spoke only of the Almighty God who was beside him. David saw what they didn’t and refused to think what they did. I suggest that you do the same.

My prayer for you today is that you will have confidence in God and draw courage in every battle.

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Encouragers

May 24th, 2012

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

Life requires courage and others who encourage that in you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouragers.”

I remember watching our grandsons play basketball, while our granddaughter was among the enthusiastic cheerleaders cheering for the team. Hearing those cheering voices must be a great feeling. Anyone can celebrate after the game has been won, but cheering is more inspirational while the game is still being played. In your life, someone in a tough time needs you to cheer for them. See Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT. Be a cheerleader for others, as someone has been for you.

There are things in everyday life that slowly deplete strength, dampen hope, or drain courage – times when you simply wonder if you have the strength to go on, feeling drained, even disheartened. You succumb to a pessimistic subjectivity. You need encouragement, the words or example of someone whose belief in you help recapture courage. Not anyone can do everything, but anyone can be an encourager. You can do this! Paul wrote, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. That doesn’t sound like a suggestion.

There was a man in the young church in Jerusalem for whom encouraging others was so much a part of his lifestyle that those who knew him best changed his name to something that fitted him well. His name was Joseph, but his friends changed his name to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” See Acts 4:36 NIV. Saul, the persecutor of the church, may never have become Paul, the great missionary, apostle, and author without the encouragement of Barnabas. See Acts 9:26-28 NKJV. Barnabas linked his good name with Saul’s name and reputation, introducing the new convert with a frightening history to a circle of faith that previously excluded him, settling unsettling questions the young church had about Saul.

Later, John Mark made a young man’s mistake and was deemed unreliable by Paul and others, but Barnabas saw good in John Mark that others didn’t bother to see. Acts 15:36-39 NIV. They saw his mistake; Barnabas saw his worth. The man whose lifestyle was to encourage found another life under God’s construction that needed encouragement. Did it help? Well, consider this. John Mark eventually wrote the Gospel of Mark, as had been told to him by Peter. Would he have done so, if someone had not encouraged him when he could not encourage himself? Mark would not likely have found the courage to try again without Barnabas’ help?

Someone says, “You can do this!” And your heart finds courage to believe you can. You will rarely need the size of courage that faces extreme danger or dares to attempt the impossible. But every day, there are those small but important moments when you need fresh courage – to trust a little longer, to walk a little further, to try a little harder, to believe a little more, to obey a little better, to bravely try again when you want to give up, and maybe when it counts most, to accomplish what you weren’t sure you could. You can encourage someone today, and make an eternal difference.

My prayer for you today is that you hear the cheers and have new courage.

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Who’s on Whose Side?

April 30th, 2012

“There is a greater power with us than with him.” 2 Chronicles 32:7 NIV

“A sure strategy for spiritual failure is to isolate yourself from God and others’ company.”

My thoughts and comments today ask “who’s on whose side?”

Life has times when it is important to know whose side you are on, and also times when it is critical to know who is on your side. Knowing whose side you are on provides clarity and strengthens loyalty. Knowing who is on your side empowers courage and confidence. When adversity touches your life – when fears scramble your thoughts – when confusion clouds your judgment – when shame pushes you to withdraw – or when you need someone to care for you – open your heart to people who have a history of caring about you.

There may be times when people can’t be there for you, but God always will be. When the Assyrian King threatened Judah, King Hezekiah assured the people, “’Be strong and courageous . . for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people gained confidence.” 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV. You too can have that confidence today. Read 2 Kings 6:14-17 NLT.

As Joshua faced the intimidating, fortified city of Jericho, he found himself confronted by an armed visitor and asked, “’Are you for us or for our enemies?’ So He answered, ‘Neither, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” Read Joshua 5:13-15 NIV. “Whose side are You on?” would be a normal question for anyone in such a situation. That’s good information to have but the real issue was, “Joshua, whose side are you on? Yours or the Lord’s?” It’s always best to be on the Lord’s side; then you’ll know for sure He is on yours. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side let the [people of God] say . . [they] would have overwhelmed us.” Psalm 124:1-5 NKJV. Many times that would have been true for me were God not on my side. Be assured, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NIV.

Sometimes God is there for you in the person of a friend. Some years ago, my friend, Rick, asked a thought provoking question at a pastors gathering, “If you were to fail and fall, who have you allowed to know you well enough – to know your history and struggles – to know where to look for you?” To our own harm, many of us are too private, allowing few if any others into our confidence. Solomon reasoned, “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one . . people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble . . two can stand back to back and conquer.” Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. Who has your back?

No one does as well when facing challenges and adversity alone. Across the years of pastoring, I have observed that a sure strategy for spiritual failure is to isolate yourself from God and others’ company. See Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV. You need the strength of others as they need yours. I have watched people in difficult situations, when needing the reassurance and resource of others, illogically withdraw from those most likely to help. Is it pride? Is it embarrassment? People often become scarce when they need fellowship most. When you feel alone and don’t want to be, open your heart to allow others into your life. But when you feel like just losing yourself in a crowd, get alone with God instead; there you’ll find the help you need. See Hebrews 13:6 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you stay close to God and be real with others.

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