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Jack Graham - Choosing Courage Over Fear

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    Jack Graham - Choosing Courage Over Fear
TOPICS: Jack Graham: Choices, Choices, Courage, Fear

Can't think of a more needed choice than the one that we consider today which is to "Choose Courage over Fear". A courageous Christian is one who stands on principle, not just preference. He stands upon convictions and not just convenience. And strength, courage is a virtue that should be sought by every Christian today and every church today. This is what is needed in the church of Jesus Christ in our generation! Courage! Courage!

We live in a time when people are vacillating and compromising; a time of weakness! We live in a time when many Christians and many churches are unwilling to take a stand for truth and righteousness, a stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. But a Christian and a Christian church is decisive and determined and devoted no matter what! We need the courage of the prophets and the apostles. We don't need weak preachers presiding over weak churches preaching a weak message to a dying world! We need courage! The strength of character, the courage of commitment that will stand for light and truth. All of us are called and challenged to be strong in the face of our fears. And you know we all have fears. There's some things to be afraid of. What are you afraid of?

Jarrett Stephens was preaching last evening and he confessed some of his fears. Our teaching pastor. Now you've seen Jarrett; he's strong, he's a man's man, powerful preacher. He told us he was afraid of needles. Can you imagine that? Big strong Jarrett, he's afraid of needles. And I didn't believe it. But I actually walked in one day, we were giving some blood around here. And he's laid out there, and I thought we were going to have to give him something to calm him down! That needles. Of course, I was there to give him tender compassion and and to encourage him and tell him what a man he was for being afraid of that needle! So you know, we are afraid of some things! You know, it's okay to be afraid of snakes and teach your children to be afraid. There's some things we ought to be afraid of. And yet the Bible tells us that we're not to have a spirit of fear in our lives.

Over three hundred and sixty times, 365 to be exact, the Bible tells us do not fear. We know that fear is a human emotion. We all confront it. Even the psalmist said, "When I am afraid" and he asks for the presence of the Lord. We know there are times that we are afraid. And they're real fears, more than needles and even snakes. The fear of that doctor's report, or the fear of getting that call in the middle of the night when your children are out on the road somewhere, or the fear of not being able to pay your bills because you've lost your job, or the fear of knowing that you may not be able to take good care of yourself when you're a senior adult because your retirement may be running out. There are many serious fears: the fear of illness and the fear of disease. We all face our common denominators of fear, our common demons of fear.

So I want to talk to you, first from Proverbs 24, if you'll find Proverbs 24 and selected proverbs, how we can choose courage over fear in our lives. So that we will not live in a spirit of fear, but live in a spirit of faith and courage! Verse 10, of 24 "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not he who weighs the hearts of men perceive it"? God knows when we practice cowardice rather than courage, apathy rather than taking action. "Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work"? That is if you act in fearlessness in the face of adversity, God knows and God will sustain you and strengthen you and when you stand for truth and righteousness, God will reward you; He will repay you.

So don't be afraid no matter the cost or no matter the consequences. How do we choose courage over fear? One, by speaking up. Speak up! I wonder how often we fail in life to speak up for others, to speak up when we see something that is wrong, to speak up when what we see is intolerable and unconscionable. A number of years ago, twenty years ago, our church decided to speak up and stand up regarding this issue of life. To choose life over death, to choose to give children an opportunity to live rather than to die. And with the abortion cultural war swirling around us, we decided to choose courage over fear and action over apathy.

So we began the Crisis Pregnancy Center and its ministry. And for these twenty years our volunteers have worked and our team on the ground, our staff has given of themselves, and our church has supported this ministry, and as a result, having seen 45,000 plus clients pass through the doors, almost 4,000 visits in this past year, 78 percent of the women who were intent on receiving abortion when they walked in, saw the sonogram, the beauty of the baby within their womb and chose life, 78 percent who walked in determined to do something else; chose life for their babies. An average of 85 Bibles a month are given away to clients who have either received Christ, or desire to develop their faith and renew their lives in Christ. We're giving out the Word of Life, we're giving out the Word of God! Eighty-five volunteers work weekly at the pregnancy center to provide care for our clients. That care includes post-abortion counseling for those who are experiencing the trauma of making the wrong decision concerning their children.

And I realize when I speak to a congregation like this, and certainly by radio and television, there are many who are watching and listening right now, you made a wrong decision, and perhaps you're still living the fears and the brokenness and the guilt of the past. And it takes courage to move on, to seek the forgiveness of God and, having found the forgiveness of God, to forgive yourself and begin life anew in Christ, to confess Christ and courageously live for Him in spite of the past, to move past your past and live in the power and the grace that is our God. But the Scripture here says, "Don't faint in the day of adversity". When times are hard in America, God has chosen our generation to live in a time of adversity, and this Christian family, this Jesus nation within America, may we stand for truth and righteousness, whether it is life or the family or marriage, may we never back up or shut up or let up in our vigilance to stand up for truth and righteousness! "To rescue the perishing, to care for the dying, to snatch them from pity and sin and the grave"! It's time to stand up, to speak up! That's what we do. That's who we are!

Andy Stanley said this: "Often as God often uses a single act of courage as the tipping point for something extraordinaire! A single act of courage in your home, in your family, on your street, at your workplace. A single act of courage can be the tipping point to change everything"! Are you a courageous dad to your children? Courageous mom to your family? Are you a courageous student that will stand for Jesus Christ against all odds? When I read my Bible story after story reminds me that the Bible, I think this is why I loved the Bible as a little boy so much. It was an adventure story to me. So many stories of courageous faith from Moses who had the courage to face off against Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth and demand in the power of God, "Let My people go"! That's courage! Or Abraham, to take his son, his only son Isaac and in obedience to God, have the courage to obey God when it didn't make sense, to lay his son on an altar of sacrifice, to see God deliver him.

To read those stories of those three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow, who refused to bend, who refused to burn! They stood strong and wouldn't bow down to the godless image of the king. Or Daniel himself who took a big old lion and turned it into a pillow, because he knew even in the lion's den that God would preserve him. Or like those young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, our God is able to deliver us, but if not, we will still stand for our God and not for any stinkin' idol. Or Peter who had the courage to get out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus. Paul who, knowing he was facing the end of his days, facing the sword of execution, who had the boldness to preach Christ, and Him crucified against all odds.

You see, the Bible's a courage book, and if you want courage, saturate your soul, steel your soul in the stories and the sermons of the Bible, the message of the Bible. It will change the way you look at things. It will change, I think about the Hebrew prophets, the Israelites who came to the Promised Land and ten of those prophets saw giants in the land, obstacles that made them look like grasshoppers, so they flinched in the face of opposition and turned around, and even though Joshua and Caleb came back with the same report, "Yes, there are giants, but we can overcome! Let's do it right now"! The majority report was no, and the majority is not always right.

So often the majority takes the easy way! And as a result the children of Israel spent forty years dying in the desert. It was the world's longest, larges funeral march in history as an entire generation of unbelievers, cowards died in the desert. I think of Gideon who was called of God to rout the Midianites. He had 30,000 in his army against an unprecedented force of hundreds of thousands of warriors, and God said, "Your army's too big"! "What"? "Yes, your army's too big"! He said, "Tell all the ones that are afraid to go home". And when Gideon did that, he said, "If you're afraid you can go home" he got trampled by thousands of them that left. He was down to 10,000. Twenty thousand left because they were afraid. Then God took it down to three hundred more, those who were careless and thoughtless in view of the battle. He had three hundred mighty men. But guess what? With the power of God they won of that great victory. And all who were afraid got nothing, but nerves and shakiness, and the memory that what could have been in their lives.

I wonder how many don't do something great for God because they're just afraid! Jesus told the parable of that man who had talents. God gave him talents, or the master gave him talents and when he came back to check on what he had done with his talents, while others had multiplied by investing their talents, their gifts in the work, this man buried his talent! Stuck it in the ground! And when the master said, "Why did you bury your talents? Why did you do what you did"? He said, "I was afraid"! How many of us are sitting on the bench spiritually, afraid to get into the action because we're afraid. God's given you a gift, God's given you a spiritual talent, God has given you a voice to sing, God has given you a ministry to share. But you're afraid! You're burying your talent! You're burying your gift and the possibilities of your life, because you are reckoning without God! I can't, but God can! God can do anything but fail in your life. What we need is robust faith, resilient faith, resolute faith!

Psalm 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path". What are you afraid of? What's holding you back? What's keeping you from standing for truth and living in righteousness? We are to stand up, we are to act out, and yes, we are to live through the trials and the struggles of life that frighten us, may even scare us to the core of our being. Face our fears and to live courageously. To pray when we can't even get on our knees to pray. Don't be satisfied until you have completely fulfilled God's plan and His purpose for your life.

I'm telling you as a church we're not going to be satisfied until we have done everything God wants us to do in our generation. We're not going to stop growing. We're not going to stop reaching. We're not going to stop winning people. We're not going to stop saving babies. We're not going to stop protecting families. And by God's power we will courageously tear down every stronghold that opposes us. We will break through barriers! We will prevail over the gates of hell itself! We will be unstoppable! We will depopulate hell and populate heaven! We'll walk through open doors. We'll continue to take courageous and bold risks for the sake of the Gospel! We will be courageous families and parents. We will plan to win and not fail!

Don't you dare say "I can't" when God can! "I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me"! Don't say I'm too weak or I'm too tired, or I'm too old or I'm not educated or I don't have an opportunity! Don't walk through life with a loser's limp! Remember the loser's limp? Zig talked about the loser's limp years ago. That old boy on the football field, he gets tired of getting his head knocked around, so you know, he limps off the field, you know. Faking an injury to get out of the fire! God put us in the fire if that's what it takes! Nothing is impossible with God. All of us must overcome our fears. We all have them. And choose courage. We're all human; we're all emotional; we're all vulnerable. But we have Jesus. That's why it's so important when you see hurting people that you encourage them and affirm them and help them.

There are some in this room today who barely got themselves to church. And they're afraid that this is all that life is. And they need someone to tell them there is hope. That someone is you if you are a brother or sister in Christ. Better to serve God and die, than to serve the world and live. I know what I'm talking about. A number of years ago I heard some very scary words. "Jack, you have cancer". Now I never expected in my lifetime to hear those words. Not in my family really. Now my family, you know, through the years, we put cardiologists on speed-dial. I mean that's kind of our family deal. But cancer? Prostate cancer. Well, okay, so I prayed and bowed up and got ready to go and waited five or six weeks for surgery, and I was determined to come back. In fact, although I desired the prayers of all, I said, "You know, what? This is not going to be a big deal. I don't want to frighten the children if they hear the word the pastor has cancer, and all that, or even the congregation. So let me just kind of slip in, slip out. I'll get right back in the pulpit. We'll get rid of this cancer. It will be gone. We caught it early; it's gonna be great".

So that was our plan. God had other plans apparently. Went in, did the surgery and felt okay, but then I didn't feel okay. Like a fool, I jumped back in the pulpit eleven days after surgery, you know. Hey, I'm Jack Graham. I'm back in eleven days! And I just kept getting weaker and couldn't get up, couldn't get going. Then that scared me. I thought, "What's wrong"? They told me I was cancer-free and I mostly believed it, but I would see some of you in the hall and all of you kindly would say, "How you doing"? Because I did end up announcing it, that I was going to take a break. I'd see people, and you'd say, "How you doing, pastor?" and I'd say, "Great!", but I didn't feel great. I was confessing, you know, but I wasn't feeling it. I would think, "What is wrong with me"? And before you know it, I wasn't sleeping very well. Before you know it, I lost my appetite; couldn't eat very well.

And then everything seemed cloudy and dark. I found myself in a valley that I had never experienced before. I talked to some men who had been through this. "Yeah, I went through the same thing". My wife said, "Jack, get ready, it's going to take you a year to get over this". I said, "No way would it take me a year"! Well, it took a year. I hate it when she's right like that! But in that year, you know, you get a little energy and it was like this. You know, they told me it was gonna be like this. It was like that. I came back in September and frankly, I wasn't ready. This was Summer. I was out a couple of months. I wasn't ready. I had to crawl back into this pulpit a lot of days, depending on the Lord for strength. And I can remember saying "God, what have You done? What is this? Why can't I get going again"?

And then, of course, the fear started and the devil started... Does this sound familiar to some of you? Sure it does! When you go through fearful times. The devil starts saying, "You're finished; you're done; you're never coming back. You might as well quit now". I felt broken, just broken. You know, one of the best things I've always had is confidence because of Christ in me. I had no confidence. Thank God for wonderful friends who encouraged me and my sweet wife and, of course, the church, you know I just kept showing up, doing my job the best I could, preaching whenever it was time to preach, but I kept saying, "Lord, just give me my old life back. And God did not choose to give me my old life back; He gave me a better life back". And so I'm still cancer-free, zero on the PSA and, men, go get your PSA checked! Make sure you do that! You catch this stuff early, you can deal with it, doctors can deal with it. But the trauma, sort of like battle fatigue. I'm looking at some men who have been through the same thing.

When people talk about a battle of cancer, it is a battle! And it wears you out! But now I'm a hundred percent again and beyond! I'm cancer-free! I'm more excited about life and the opportunities that God has given us now more than ever. And God has steeled my soul and done some things deeper in me that has made me fearless in the face. I've found that in my journal before surgery a sentence that I wrote: "God, don't let me flinch in the fire". Well, I flinched a time or two, or three or four or ten. Let me tell you something; God was with me in the fire! Like the fourth man in the fiery furnace, Jesus is there! And when I flinch and I fear, God is faithful! God is faithful! And death is not an enemy because Christ has defeated death! Disease is not an enemy because we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Savior and our God! And if God be for us, who can be against us? Choose courage over fear by speaking up in the face of unbelief and tolerance by acting out your faith courageously taking your stand wherever you go and by living through whatever you have to live through with courage and boldness and fearlessness because Jesus is Lord!
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