Craig Smith - The Power of Courage (All Is Bright)
Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad you’re here. We’re in our "All Is Bright" Christmas series where we’re talking about something Jesus said about his people in a commandment that he gave and is a commandment that Audra and Hannah are taking really seriously. It comes from Matthew chapter five, Jesus said to his followers, which means to you and me if you’re a follower of Jesus this true of you. He said, "You are the light of the world." And that’s not because we have any light of our own. It’s Christ’s light in us. He says, "You are the light of the world." A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it up on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. So in the same way, here’s the command, "Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Audra and Hannah are doing that and we love it. That’s what we’re doing in this series. We’re talking about what does it look like to obey that commandment to shine? Now, the good news is that the light is more powerful than the darkness. The light in you is far more powerful than the darkness that’s in the world. Every time that light and dark battle it out, light wins every single time. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we have an enemy that knows that. An enemy that knows that he can’t stand against Christ in us. And so he’s been, for thousands of years, he’s been engaged in a massive dis-information campaign, a fake news campaign, if you will, for thousands of years now. And the bulk of that news is basically it’s lies. It’s lies designed to keep us from shining.
Last week we took a look at one of those lies and that was the lie of I’m not enough. Right? "Well, I can’t make a difference. I can’t drive back darkness. I’m not smart enough. I’m not wise enough. I’m not rich enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not young enough. I’m not clever enough. I don’t know the Bible well enough. I haven’t been walking with Jesus long enough." I mean, whatever it is, we looked at this lie that you’re not enough and we combated that with the power of contrast. The Law of Contrast says when everything’s dark, a little light makes a big difference. And so Christ in you is more than enough to drive back darkness if only we’re willing to pay attention to the power of that Law of Contrast.
Today, we’re gonna talk about another lie that can keep us from shining, and that is the lie of fear. And I realize some of you are going, "That’s not a lie. That’s a real thing." And maybe you’re feeling it right now. Maybe you had a conversation with a doctor this week and he gave you some bad news and you’re afraid. It’s very real. Or maybe your husband and your wife or your significant other said, "Hey, we need to talk," and you’re afraid. Or maybe your kids are making some decisions and you can see where they could lead and you’re afraid. It’s real. Maybe you’ve gotten word that maybe your job is not gonna be there this time next month, and you’re afraid, and you go like, "That’s real. That’s actual stuff." Right? How is fear a lie? And what I mean when I say fear is a lie, what I mean is that fear lies. Right? When fear speaks to us, it rarely speaks the truth.
I love what the Roman philosopher, Seneca, said. He said, "We’re often more frightened than hurt." We’re more afraid of what’s gonna happen then we are actually damaged by it. He said, "And we suffer more from imagination than from reality." And I think he’s absolutely right. Years ago, I began to understand something about fear as I battled it, and here’s what I began to understand. It’s that fear magnifies pain and it minimizes potential. Does that make sense? Fear magnifies pain, it minimizes potential. What fear does is it says, "Hey, if you do this, if you move into this direction, what’s gonna happen is it’s gonna cost you this, and here’s how people are gonna think, and here’s what they’re think about you and it’s gonna be painful, and here’s how it’s gonna be painful," and it blows that up and out of proportion. At the same time, it minimizes potential, says, "Yeah, if you do that, it’s going to cost all this. And yeah, maybe this’ll happen and maybe this little thing happened. But that doesn’t even compare to the cost." That’s what fear does, is it magnifies pain and it minimizes potential.
And the reality is that fear very quickly and very powerfully, prevents us from shining. I’m always stunned actually at how quickly and how easily fear can keep us from shining. And I don’t say that based on my observation of the Church, I say that just from reflecting on my own life. I wrestle with fear the same as anybody else. You know, our Communications Team, did this amazing job. They came up with these cool little gift tags. You know, and the idea is that if you’re gonna give a gift to a coworker or some neighbors before Christmas, you give them this tag and it has our Christmas Eve service times that you can just say, "Hey, Merry Christmas," and invite them to come to Christmas Eve. And I thought, "That’s brilliant. That’s really good. That’s a great thing."
And so I grabbed a stack of them and I went home. I was like, "I’m gonna make some cookies, well I’m not gonna make some cookies. I’m gonna have Lynae, my youngest daughter make cookies. They are much better cookies. And I wanna give them a good gift, right? So she’s gonna make some cookies and then I’m gonna put this tag on. We’re gonna go over, we’re going to say Merry Christmas and just invite them to come to Christmas Eve." My stack of cards is still sitting on my counter. You know why? I’m afraid. I’m afraid. Fear speaks into my life, and it says things like, "They might think you’re weird." Actually, what it says is, "They already think you’re weird. Do you really wanna confirm that?" Fear says, "The conversation might just be awkward." Fear says, "Maybe they’re gonna think it’s all self-serving. Maybe they’re just gonna think you’re interested in growing your church since you’re the pastor, right?"
Fear says, "It’s just gonna be uncomfortable." Fear says, "What if they say no, right? What if they say no and then every time you see and that’s like weird and it’s gonna be really uncomfortable and it’ll keep going on. That’s gonna be awful, right?" Fear says, "Hey, what if they come? What if they say yes and they come to the worst service?" Right? I mean, we’re doing seven of these things. I guarantee you at least one of them, I’m not even gonna know what I’m saying, right? And what if they come that service and they’re like, "How do they let him be in charge of that place? What’s wrong with that people?" Right? See, fear does that. It magnify as pain and it minimizes potential, and so my stack is still sitting here. I know exactly what it’s like to wrestle with fear and I know how easily and how quickly fear can keep us from shining. I know it in my own life. My guess is you probably do too.
What we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna push in a little bit on how exactly it is that fear prevents us from shining, how is it that it does its work in our lives, and talk a little bit about how it is we can begin to break that power in our lives. If you have a Bible, I’d love to have you join me. We’re gonna be in Luke chapter 1, verse 5 is where we’re gonna start today. Says this. "In the time of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron." In other words, they came from really good families. "And both of them were righteous in the sight of God observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly." So they were good people. They came from a good family and they were good people. "But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive and they were both very old." Now, even though the word fear hasn’t been used, I think it’s easy to understand that this is exactly the kind of situation that can be filled with fear, right?
If you’ve ever had something that you really longed for, something you were deeply and desperately hoping would happen and there was a delay in its fulfillment. You were hoping, but it just didn’t seem to be happening as the days stretch into weeks and into months and into years, fear begins to kind of crowd into that space, right? It’s the fear that, "Hey, maybe this thing I really wanna see happen isn’t ever gonna happen." And even as believers, it can be the fear that speaks and says, "I don’t think God’s listening to you. I don’t think God’s hearing your prayers." And we become afraid that maybe he’s not listening or maybe we’re afraid that he’s not caring, right? Maybe he’s listening, but he just doesn’t care. Or maybe, maybe we’re more faithful than that. we go, "No, no, I know he’s listening. I know he cares, but," but we begin to be afraid that maybe the answer is just no. And maybe we trust that God’s good, but fear that that hope is never gonna be fulfilled can be really strong and really powerful. And the problem is that as fear begins to crowd hope out, other nastier things take its place, right? And disappointment at the very least, but then maybe even anger, resentment, bitterness. It’s a hard place to be. That’s where they are.
"Now, once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as a priest before God, he was chosen by lot according to the custom of the priesthood to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. Now, when the time of the burning of incense came, all of the assembled worshipers were praying outside. And then an angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Now, when Zechariah saw him, he was startled and he was gripped with fear." And I think we can probably give him a pass on that one, right? The interesting thing though is that it’s a really good thing that’s happened, right? I mean, he’s a priest of God and he’s in the temple of God and an angel of God has appeared. That’s like the priestly jackpot right there, right? Not only did he win the lottery in being the one that gets to go into the Holy place and offer the incense, but an angel has showed up, right? Like, he hit the priestly jackpot. But his response is that he’s startled and he’s gripped with fear, which is very natural.
It’s interesting to me that sometimes even really good things when they happen unexpectedly, they can cause fear, right? It’s a pretty natural thing. I got a friend, well, Coletta has a friend. She’s, she’s 43 and she just found out that she’s pregnant again. Yeah. That was her response too. Here’s the thing. I believe and she believes that a child is always a blessing, a child is always a good thing, but it was so unexpected, and she’s struggling with fear and that fear is making it a little hard to even see that it is a good thing especially because what happens is that fear gets a hold of us, right? That’s what it says. It says that he was gripped with fear. Literally, he was gripped by fear. In other words, it’s not that he had fear, it’s that fear had him. In the literal Greek, what it says is that he was embraced by, he was, he was grasped and held tight by fear.
And the reality is that while things that are unexpected my startle us, when fear gets a hold of us, it changes our perception. And what happens is, see when we’re gripped by fear, even good things can appear threatening. Right? Even good things can appear threatening. This is such a truth that I’ve recognized in my own life that even if I don’t recognize fear, one of the indicators that I am being gripped by fear is because good things I’ll kind of see is like threatening and people will be going, "Hey, this is a really good thing. This is happening. This is really good." I’m like, "Yeah, but what about this and this." And even if I’m not feeling that I’m afraid at moment, the recognition that I’m having a struggle to see a good thing as a good thing is an indication that fear actually has a pretty tight hold on me. Because, when we’re gripped by fear, even good things can appear threatening.
So the angel begins to speak to Zechariah, and it’s interesting. Watch this. The angel really lays it on thick. He’s working really hard to convince Zechariah that this is a good thing. The angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard." That’s a good thing, right? "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son." That’s a good thing. "And you’re to call him John. He will be a joy and a delight to you." That’s a good thing. "And many will rejoice because of his birth." That’s a good thing. "For, he’ll be great in the sight of the Lord." That’s a good thing. "He’s never to take wine or other fermented drink and he’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born." That’s a good thing. "He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God." That’s good. "And he will go on before the Lord and the Spirit and the power of Elijah, this Old Testament prophet." That’s really good. "In order to turn the hearts of the parents for their children," that’s good. "And the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous." That’s good. "And to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
That’s all really, really good. The angel is working really hard to convince him to see through the distorted lens of his fear in this moment that everything that I’m telling you is all really, really good. Verse 18, ‘Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I’m an old man and my wife is well along in years." And can we just acknowledge, that was a really good way to say that. Right? Hey, it almost sounds like a compliment, doesn’t it? If you’re like, "This is my wife, she’s well along in years." "Well, thank you. Hang on a second," right? It kind of sneaks up on you. He said that really well, but the first thing isn’t so good, right? He says, "How can I be sure of this?" And understand that what’s happening here is, is basically an expression of deep and profound doubt. He’s basically going, "Yeah, no. Have you seen her? No, we’re past that."
Now, what’s interesting to me is that Zechariah has to want this to be true, right? He has to be hoping desperately that this is true, but in spite of the fact that, you know, an angel of God has appeared in the temple of God and delivered a promise from God, he’s really struggling to put any trust in it. He’s really struggling to have any real faith, because he’s afraid, right? And that’s what fear does. Fear fights faith for room in our hearts. I don’t think fear and faith are opposites. I actually think you could have both fear and faith at exactly the same time, but they do battle with each other. They’re constantly battling over which is gonna have the upper hand, which is gonna have the most space in our hearts. And he’s been so long, and then the idea that God would suddenly answer his prayer. There’s a of him that goes, "I hope that’s true," but the fear that he’s lived with for so long is battling faith for his heart, and the reality is that faith is losing.
And so the angel kind of changed his tone. He’s gone from all this is really, really good to kind of some, some fairly harsh words for Zechariah. The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel," which basically means I stand before God. He literally says, "I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you. You don’t seem to be excited about that Zechariah. I’ve come to tell you this good news. You don’t seem to see that Zechariah. And now, you will be silent and you’ll not able to speak until the day that this happens because you, you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time." Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and they’re wondering why he stayed in the temple for so long. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he’d seen a vision in the temple for he kept making signs to them and he remained unable to speak. And when his time of service was completed, he returned home, and after this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.
It’s interesting. What that means is for five months she didn’t go out in public. For five months she didn’t tell anybody that God had done this thing. For five months, she kind of kept it to herself. She didn’t go public with her praise. She didn’t let anybody know. This was going on for five months. And I probably read that hundreds of times over the years. But as I’m preparing for this message that really kind of struck me. Five months and I thought, what exactly is the significance of five? Why five months? And so I did some study. I wasn’t really come up with any answers. So I consulted with some scholar friends of mine. We kind of put our heads together and what we determined was we don’t know. No idea. We know it happened, but we don’t have any idea why it happened. None of us are aware of any Old Testament Law that says anything like that. There’s no Jewish custom. There was no practice of the people. We can’t find anything in any of the ancient writings that suggest that this is a normal thing, so it’s apparently not a normal thing, but she did it for five months. We don’t know why, but I do have a theory. And my theory is that she was afraid.
It’s interesting with Coletta. Coletta and I led a life group of young marrieds for a long time, and as is often the case with a group of young marrieds, it kept growing not only because new couples would come in too because they would bring new people into their family. They were just a lot of babies. But in the midst of seeing that growth and sharing that joy with them, we also walked through a lot of heartache. There were a lot of miscarriages, a lot of struggles with infertility. And I noticed a very clear pattern. In fact, I think over the course of four years, we saw nine miscarriages in this group. And I noticed a clear pattern that when a couple first got pregnant for the first time ever, they were really quick to celebrate. They would call us the day they found out and the next time we had Life Group, we’d have a celebration of some kind. But once a miscarriage had happened, that kinda changed. In fact, once a miscarriage happened, the next time they got pregnant, they didn’t say anything for awhile. They kind of held on because they were afraid, you know, maybe it’s not gonna take, maybe the same thing’s gonna happen. And so they didn’t share anything.
In fact, I noticed that most of them, after one or two miscarriages, they didn’t tell us about their next pregnancy for four or five or six months. Because here’s what happens. Fear suffocates celebration. It just takes the wind out of it. The problem is, as we saw a couple of weeks ago as we studied that story in Luke chapter 10, sometimes our willingness to celebrate what God has already done is the key that unlocks the door to everything else that God wants to do. And until we’re willing to celebrate, the door stays locked and those opportunities stay off limits to us. And so when fear suffocates our celebration, not only does it rob us of the joy of being able to celebrate what God has done, but it may very well keep us from being able to move into more that God has to do in us and through us in the world.
It took her five months before she was willing to go public. Five months before she said, verse 25, "The Lord has done this for me." She did eventually get there. She eventually went public with her praise. She said, "The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." She finally went public five months in. And I wonder, I can’t say for certain, but I do wonder. It’s interesting to me that verse 26 says this, "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy." In other words, God didn’t do this other great thing until she’d finally gone public. But in the six months after she’d gone public, of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, the town of Galilee to a Virgin Mary pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary, and the angel went to her and he said, "Greetings you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you."
"Now, Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." He says that she was greatly troubled. That’s the New International Version. Some translations say that she was confused or perplexed, and the word kind of means all of those things. It means kind of stirred up and agitated, but it’s clearly related to fear because what does the angel say to her? He says, "Do not be afraid." He recognizes that her confusion and her struggle to understand what’s going on is related to fear of what’s happening right there. And the reality is this, the reality is that fear creates confusion, right? Fear creates confusion. Fear fights against clarity. We’ve already talked about that a little bit. Fear, when we’re gripped by it, fear can actually make even good things appear threatening, right? Sometimes it works the other way around though. Fear can create so much confusion that bad things seem like good things, right?
And I see people that are gripped by fear making decisions that everybody else around them is going, "That’s not a good idea," but it seems good to them in that moment, right? Because of fear, and fear has this ability to create this confusion and to remove clarity, to make it hard to understand what’s going on. So she’s confused. So he pushes in and makes sure she has, says, no, no, this is a good thing. He says, "You will conceive, and you will give birth to a son and you’re to call him Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end." "Well, how will this be?" Mary asked the angel, "Since I’m a virgin?"
And the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and so the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is gonna have a child in her old age and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month, for no word of God will ever fail." "I’m the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." And so the angel left her. Can we just agree that that’s impressive? I mean, what the angel has just told her is really good, but it’s also terrifying, right? He’s just told her you’re pregnant, which is honestly a little scary all by itself, right? I mean, I’ve never been pregnant, but it looks terrifying. But worse than that, she’s an unmarried pregnant woman in a culture that does not take that lightly. It was entirely legal in first century Israel to stone a woman to death who was found to be pregnant before she was married. That’s scary.
And she doesn’t exactly have a good explanation, right? Was she gonna say? "It’s okay. It’s God’s," because they’re gonna buy that. "How do you know it’s God’s?" "An angel told me." Right? Oh she doesn’t… Wow. She’s got nothing to work with. And if that’s not enough, honestly, she’s carrying the Son of God. Like, raising any child is terrifying. How on earth you plan to raise the Son of God? Everything about that is terrifying. Everything about that is terrifying. But she takes a deep breath. She says, "I’m the Lord’s servant. Well let’s do it," right? I think one of the things that this story reminds me of is the fact that even good things can be terrifying, right? You know, we accept and we assume that, you know, bad news, that bad things are gonna be scary. But honestly good things can be just as terrifying, right? I know, I’ve seen that.
I remember when Coletta said, "Yes, I’ll marry you." That was really good. Followed by a complete terror like, "Well, what am I the, I can’t be a husband. I can’t lead a household. I can’t like, I can’t be in charge. What the heck? And then I remember she came to me with this little stick one day, it had a little plus sign right here, and she’s like, "You’re a dad." That was great news, and absolutely terrifying. How can I be a dad? I can’t be in charge of anybody. Even the second time when she came and told me she was pregnant, it wasn’t any less scary. It was no less good news and it was no less scary. About three and a half years ago, I got a call from somebody on staff here who said, "Hey, good news. The congregation in Mission Hills has voted. You’re gonna be the next lead pastor of Mission Hills.".
That was great news, and absolutely terrifying. It was good news. I mean, I know God had given me an opportunity to help a whole lot of people become like Jesus and join him on mission, a platform with an influence that would allow me to do a lot of good and bring a lot of glory to God and good to his people. That was all great news, but it was absolute terrifying. It still is, honestly. There, there are mornings I drive in and the moment I see the building, I go, "What am I doing?" Listen, good news can be just as terrifying as bad news. Opportunity can be just as scary as obstacles, right? Open doors might actually be more terrifying than closed ones. And it’s at that moment, it’s in the moment when confronting an opportunity, an open door. that fear actually is most damaging because it’s that moment that fear can keep us from taking a step forward into that opportunity, from going through that door into everything that God’s calling us to and everything that he has for us and everything that he has for the world through us. It’s those open doors that are most blocked by fear. I think that’s why it’s so impressive to me that Mary looked at this incredibly scary opportunity and she said, "Well, I’m God’s girl. Let’s do this thing," which is a rough translation of the Greek.
Here’s the thing. Like, I know that she heard the voice, right? I know that she heard the voice of fear. I know that there was a voice speaking in her ear that said, "Who are you to do this?" There was a voice saying, "How can you possibly do this?"There was a voice saying, "Do you understand what it’s gonna cost you to do this? Do you understand what they’re gonna say about you? Do you understand what they’re gonna think about you even if they don’t say it? Do you understand that every time you look at them, you’re gonna know what they’re thinking about you and you’re gonna be right? They’re absolutely gonna be thinking, and they’re probably gonna be thinking much worse things about you than you’re even imagining that they’re thinking about you." She heard that voice. She heard the voice, but she chose faith, and that’s impressive to me.
See, it’s okay to give fear a voice. That’s okay. Just not the final vote. Honestly, I don’t know that you can keep from giving fear a voice. You can’t silence the voice of fear. It’s not possible. And honestly you wouldn’t want to silence the voice fear because fear is a gift from God. Fear is an early warning sign against stupidity. Do you understand that? Fear is a gift from God to keep us from stepping into dangerous situations that we’re not supposed to be in. Fear is a warning sign from God to keep us from staying in situations that we shouldn’t be in. It’s a gift from God. The problem is that fear like every other year the good thing has been twisted by sin until it’s no longer doing what it’s supposed to do.
Fear is supposed to keep us out of situations God doesn’t want us to be in, but what happens now is that in the hands of sin, fear becomes something that keeps us out of situations that God does want us to be in. Fear is supposed to get us out of situations that we’re not supposed to stay in, and yet fear keeps us in situations that we’re not supposed to be in because we go, "Well, going out there and taking that step, whatever I do to get out, it’s gonna be worse," because fear magnifies pain and it minimizes potential. And so fear has been twisted into something that’s not good in our lives. So listen to me, it is okay to give fear a voice, but it’s not okay to give it the final vote. That’s what Mary shows us.
How do you do that though? How do you give fear of voice and not the final vote? Probably no big surprise. It’s courage, right? Courage is what lets us give fear a voice, but never the final vote. That’s what it is. Courage. That’s all you need. Have a great weekend. Yeah. Except that courage, courage isn’t so easy to come by, right? Actually, what I’ve found over the years is that part of the reason that the courage seems like a bigger thing and a harder thing to get a hold of is because a lot of times I think we understand courage properly. If it’s okay, I’d just like to share some things that God’s taught me about courage over the last few years.
Here’s the first thing that I’ve come to understand about courage. Courage isn’t the opposite of fear, but it is the opponent of it. Courage isn’t the opposite of fear. I think we naturally tend to assume that, you know, courage and fear that they’re just sort of like polar opposites. So if you have a lot of courage, you don’t have a lot of fear. And if you have a lot of fear, then you don’t have a lot of courage because as one goes up, the other one goes down because they’re exact opposites, right? They’re on the other side of the seesaw, right? But that’s not the way it works at all. In fact, the reality is that the more fear you have, the greater the opportunity for courage. And in fact, I’m not even entirely sure that there can be real courage unless there’s real fear. I actually think you have to have the one to have the other.
I love what Eddie Rickenbacker, he’s a decorated American fighter pilot said. He said, "Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage without fear." I think he’s absolutely right. Like, if you don’t feel any fear and you’re just like, "Yeah, we’re gonna do this thing. I don’t feel any fear at all." I’m not sure that that’s courage. It might be stupidity. It could be all kinds of things, but the reality is I think unless you’re feeling fear, then there’s no real room for courage. Now, here’s the great news. If you’re afraid, and if right now you’re struggling with fear and you go, "I’m just filled with fear," you need to understand that at this moment in your life when you are most afraid, this moment is pregnant with the potential for courage in a way that no other moment has ever been. Because courage isn’t the opposite of fear, but it is the opponent. Courage is that thing that we use to fight fear back into its place so that we can do what needs to be done. That’s the first truth?
Second truth I’ve understood about courage is this, is that little steps of courage add up over time. See, we have this idea that, you know, courage is this big thing and I’m gonna summon up all this courage. I’m gonna do this Herculean effort and I’m gonna change everything and I’m going to break through my circumstances. I just got to have this big thing of courage. But the reality is that honestly, courage is not always this big thing. I love what Mary Anne Radmacher, she’s an American poet. She said this. She said, "Courage doesn’t always roar." We always think it does, but she says "Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the small voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow. I’ll take another step." The thing is, those little steps of courage add up.
You know, the average human being, the average human being… And by the way, I’m 5’7. That is the average. Just want to make sure everybody understands that. I’m not short. I’m average. The average human being, when they take a normal step, they take about 18 inches. Okay, so 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 12 steps. That’s a world record, long jump. It’s the farthest any human being has ever jumped with one giant leap. I can’t do that in one leap. Chances are you can’t either. But 12 small steps, 12 average steps, you cover the same distance. You see the power in that? Small steps add up over time. They take us farther than we would have ever thought possible. And courage isn’t this roaring giant thing that allows us to do Herculean efforts. It’s the voice that just says, "Okay. I’m gonna take one more step." Small steps in the same direction will take us places we would never have thought possible. Courage is what allows us to take those. Third thing that I learned about courage is that we feel fear, but we choose courage.
Fear is a feeling. Fear is a feel. Courage isn’t a feel. Courage is a choice. We choose it. And the reality is we often choose it without feeling it. I’m not too sure that we ever feel courage. We feel fear, but we choose courage. I love the story when Moses led his people out of Israel, they escaped Egypt. They, wait, out of Egypt, not out of Israel. He led them through the desert, and they got to the edge of the Promised Land that God had given them, and he was told that he wasn’t gonna be the one to lead them into that Promised Land. And he called a young man named Joshua. In Deuteronomy 31:7 says this, "Moses summoned Joshua and he said to him, in the presence of all of Israel, be strong and courageous. For you must go with his people into the land." He didn’t say, feel strong and courageous. He didn’t say, "How are you feeling today? Feeling strong? No? Doesn’t matter. You feel encouraged today? No? Doesn’t matter." You don’t have to feel it. You have to be it. Be strong. It is a choice. It’s a decision. We feel fear, but we choose courage. We choose to say to fear, "I’ve heard your voice, but you don’t get the final vote. Faith gets the final vote. I’m going to take this step." Has nothing to do with how I feel. It’s a choice that I make.
The last thing that I wanna share with you today is this. I came to understand that to fuel your courage, you need to feed your hope. To fuel, your courage, feed your hope. You can’t feel courage. I don’t know that anybody’s ever felt courage. But there is something that fuels courage that you can feed and that is hope. Hope is what gets our eyes off of the circumstances. Hope is what gets our eyes off of the magnified pain and chooses instead to focus on the minimized potential, the potential that fear is minimized. It says, "I’m gonna focus on that potential, I’m gonna focus on what God could do. I’m gonna focus on what God has promised and by focusing on that, I’m gonna start to feel something that we call hope." And hope does fuel courage. Maybe we can’t feel courage, but we can feel hope and we can do things that will make that hope in us grow and ultimately that courage.
I think is almost impossible, it’s inconceivable to me that when Mary began to face all of the difficulties of this journey God had her on, it’s inconceivable to me that she didn’t constantly think of these words from the angel. He said, "You will conceive and you will give birth to a son, and you’re to call him Jesus. He will be great and he’ll be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever and his kingdom will never end." I guarantee you, when things got hard, Mary thought about that. And then those promises of God fueled her hope and it was that hope that ultimately fueled her courage. No, no, no. You can’t feel courage, but you can feel hope and hope fuels courage. So to fuel your courage, feed your hope. Focus on those things that God could do, has promised you.The reality is this. Courage is what lets us give fear voice, but never the final vote.
So let me ask you this, ask you to ask yourself this. What fears are most likely to keep me from shining? For some of you maybe it’s the fear of some really difficult thing that’s been brought into your life. It’s that conversation with the doctor or your spouse, your significant other, or your kids or your workplace. It’s something that’s happened to you and you’re afraid. And that’s okay. What’s not okay is that that fear keep us from shining. So if it’s that, what is that fear? Or maybe it’s the other side. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that’s happened. Maybe it’s a good thing that’s opening up. It’s a door that is beginning to swing open and you’re seeing what could happen, but fear says, "You can’t walk through that. You can’t do that. Who are you?" What fear is most likely to keep you from shining?
And I think it’s helpful also to ask this question, what specific steps of faith are being crowded out by that fear? What is it that God’s calling you to do that you’re struggling to do because the voice of fear is so loud? And then lastly, what’s one truth? We’ve talked about four truths about courage today. What’s one truth about courage that I need to embrace to overcome that fear? Which of those truths about courage do you need to grab a hold of and ask the Lord to plant deep in your heart so that it begins to spring up in that courage that will allow us to choose to say the fear, "I’ve heard your voice. That’s fine. But you don’t get the final vote." We’re gonna take a few minutes right now to just sit before the Lord. It’s such a busy season. We’re gonna take a little bit of time right now to just to be still, to go before God and spent some time praying about this. Maybe some time confessing fear and asking for that courage, courage to shine. The prayer team is gonna come down and if you wanna pray with somebody, they would love to pray with you. There’ll be here to pray with you. If you want to do that in your seats, that’s fine, but however best use this time to go before the Lord. I’ll start us off.
Jesus, we thank you. We thank you because you, you didn’t give fear of the final vote either. We know that you felt fear. On the night before you went to the cross to pay for our sin, your Word says that you were actually sweating blood that night because you were afraid. You knew what it was gonna cost you. You knew the pain that you were facing that next day. You understood that there was a moment when our sin was really truly paid for where the Father was gonna turn his face away from you because of our sin on your shoulders, and you hadn’t experienced that for all of eternity, that break in that fellowship until you sweated blood. You were afraid, but you didn’t give that fear the final voice. And so you died on the cross for our forgiveness. And so because of that, we get to celebrate resurrection and your gift of new life received by faith. Simply by saying yes to a relationship with you, we are set free from sin and death and darkness. Your light comes into us. We’re given the opportunity to shine. Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for the different ways that we have entered a new kind of bondage, a bondage to fear in all of its different forms, a fear that keeps us from shining your light. We asked for forgiveness. Now, as we come before you would you simply allow your Holy Spirit to move among us. Allow us to identify these fears, to confess them to you, maybe by your strength to begin to root them out, to silence their voices, and so to give faith and faith alone the final voice, the final vote.