Let me ask you three questions:
1. Do you believe God blesses those who obey Him? (See Hebrews 11:6.)
2. What do you believe God is leading you to do that you haven’t done yet?
3. What is preventing you from obeying God and receiving His blessing in your life?
I imagine your answer to the third question includes the word fear. Maybe God is leading you toward a new career, but you’re fearful of failure. Maybe you know you should break off a relationship that is displeasing to God, but you’re fearful of loneliness. Maybe God wants you to talk to your child or grandchild who is living apart from Him, but you’re fearful of rejection. Maybe you need to take a stand for God at your workplace, but you’re fearful of blowback.
Fear paralyzes us, preventing us from moving forward in God’s plan for our lives. To experience the abundant life God has prepared for you, you have to learn how to move from fear to courage.
On the Brink of Blessing
The Israelites demonstrated what not to do when it comes to fear. In Numbers 13, God’s people stood at the edge of the promised land. Their spies reported, “It certainly does flow with milk and honey. . . . Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large” (vv. 27–28).
All the spies returned with this same report, but they came to very different conclusions. Caleb said, “We should by all means go up and take the possession of it, for we will surely overcome it” (v. 30). But the other spies said, in essence, “The people are way too strong for us to conquer. They are giants! When we saw them, we felt like grasshoppers.”
At this news, the Israelites despaired. Joshua and Caleb tried valiantly to give the people a pep talk, saying, “Do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (14:9).
But the Israelites responded in fear rather than faith. And because of their fear, that entire generation died without entering the promised land. Fear caused them to forfeit the blessings of the future, and it can do the same to us.
The Problems of Fear
Why does fear paralyze us?
First, fear distorts the size of our problem. Have you ever looked at yourself in a funhouse mirror? Your distorted reflection can be a scary thing! In the same way, fear distorts the size of your problem.
Second, fear utilizes the wrong standard for analyzing our situation. The tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, soaring to 2,717 feet. Compared to you or me, that skyscraper seems impossibly tall. But compared to Mount Everest, the Burj Khalifa is a mere molehill. In the same way, if you measure your problem against your own abilities, then your problem is going to seem giant. But if you measure your problem by the size of the God you serve, then your problem will seem like a grasshopper.
Third, fear forgets the power of our God. The Israelites forgot the power of God, despite all the miracles they’d experienced. When you focus on your current problem, it’s easy to forget what God has done for you in the past.
Fourth, fear destroys the promise of our future. E. Stanley Jones wrote, “Worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is oil.”1 Fear is like sand—it takes only a few grains to bring your life to a grinding halt. But faith is the oil that enables you to move forward in obedience.
That’s why faith is the antidote to fear. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Courage is just another word for conviction—acting in light of what God has promised to do for you. If you hear God speak but don’t move, then you don’t have biblical faith.
How do you allow faith, not fear, to have the final say in your life? Let me give you three principles for developing courage in the face of fear.
First, realize that fear is a normal reaction. The key is to make sure fear is not your final reaction. When David’s son Absalom was leading a rebellion against him, David cried out to God, “O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no deliverance for him in God’” (Psalm 3:1–2). People were saying David’s kingdom was through. His own son was rebelling against him. The Jerusalem Times was reporting that David was finished. Yet he continued in verse 3, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.” David didn’t minimize his fear, but it was not his final response.
Second, reflect on the promises of God. Memorize God’s promises so you can recall them when you run into trouble. For example, the next time you face a seemingly insurmountable problem, remember Matthew 19:26: “With God all things are possible.”
Finally, recount God’s faithfulness to you. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Recounting God’s faithfulness not only strengthens us, but it also encourages people around us who are facing their own giants. Fear is contagious, but so is faith. That’s why we need to pass down stories of God’s faithfulness to our children and grandchildren.
The same all-powerful God who moved mountains in the past is able to help you conquer whatever obstacle you’re facing today so that you can experience the abundant life He has promised.
1. E. Stanley Jones, Abundant Living (Nashville: Abingdon, 2014), 85.