Hi everyone. Rob here.
Aristotle once said that “courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” In other words, it takes courage to love, show compassion, lead with wisdom, parent well, fulfil your potential and so on. It is everyday bravery that keeps relationships going, communities functioning and businesses running. Without courage we cannot grow or connect or live a truly human life.
Courage is the act of overcoming fear. As Nelson Mandela once said:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who overcomes that fear.
This means that the voices of fear have to be reckoned with and the source of that fear has to be named, so it can be overcome. “Do not be afraid” is a very common biblical phrase. Whether it’s being confronted by angels or enemies, “do not be afraid” is an invitation into faith. It’s an invitation to believe that God is not the source of your fear, and is actually the means to overcome that fear. Courage comes from believing that God’s story is big enough and beautiful enough to receive your heart and every desire in it. Fear is the lack of belief that comes when other stories hold power over our minds and hearts. Their existence can be recognized when we ask ourselves if our hearts are truly alive or not.
I recognize it in my heart when I find myself wanting to shrink my life. I don’t want to go out, take on new responsibility, avoid meetings or talk about anything meaningful. I just want to escape into a book, a TV programme or the sports news. Others find more destructive things to latch onto but the desire is the same; to run from the everyday bravery needed to live a full life. As always the invitation is to run to Jesus. It is his courage that we need. His courage led him to leave heaven for earth; to confront the powerful and touch the leper; to let go of reputation or respect; and, of course, to face death for our sakes.
For me, the ultimate act of Jesus’ bravery is in the garden of Gethsemane. Here we see Mandela’s quote played out. Jesus felt the fear of the cross; the fear of pain and death and perhaps even, the fear of failure and rejection. He felt this fear to the extent that he sweated blood and asked his Father for a different path. His courage lay in sticking it out, pushing through that fear until he could pray from his whole heart:
Not my will, but yours be done.
Courage isn’t given to us in an instant. It takes wrestling and rumbling as we take our story of fear to God, surrender our small stories to him and embrace his larger story that he has written for us. That is a story of living in the power of the Spirit, reflecting the life of Christ to the world and becoming a living invitation to fullness of life in the kingdom of God. For now it is a story that is only glimpsed in us, but the more we die to fear the more we will come alive to faith and courage. Join me in the wrestling and the rumbling and may we shine for God’s kingdom.
In the United States it is Martin Luther King day so I leave you with a saying he included in his book “Strength to Love.”
Fear knocked at the door.
There was no one there.