Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee:be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

Moving Beyond Doubt to Faith

Morning sky over Sydney, Australia-Photo by: Mark J Booth

Faith in God can often be elusive in our lives.  We know that we should have faith in God; yet everything around us is crying out saying: “Can you really trust God?”.  “Why is God taking so long.?” “Where is God in all of this?”  How can we move beyond these doubts and live in faith towards God?

How do we doubt God in our daily lives?

  1.  We doubt the protection of God.  We feel vulnerable when events bring hurt into our lives.  Like the Israelites, we feel that God has left us on our own.
  2. We doubt the promises of God.  God’s Word is full of promises, but we don’t accept them for our own lives.  We feel undeserving.  We may be ignorant of his promises.  We think these promises don’t apply to our circumstances.  Thus, we lose out on the blessings that these promises provide.
  3. We doubt the presence of God. God says that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.”  We look for God, but we can’t seem to find Him.  We may think that he doesn’t care.
  4. We doubt the power of God.  Paul says: “I can do all things through Christ which sterngtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)  However, we fail to experience this power when we are expecting God “to come through for us.”
  5. We doubt the provision of God.  God says that He will take care of us; yet we fret and worry about our money and possessions.
  6. We doubt the plan of God.  God is not working in our lives in the way we would like.  We decide to go our own way. Joseph could have doubted God’s plan because the path was dark and difficult to which God had called him.

What causes us to doubt God?

  1. We doubt God because of our own human nature.  One of the conflicts we have in our Christian life is that we choose to walk by sight and not by faith.  We allow our circumstances to cloud our view of God.  Sin blinds us to the reality of God’s Word and His Promises.
  2. We doubt God because of the influence of others.  When those around us doubt God and His Word, they can infect us with this same thinking.  The ten spies influenced one another to doubt God.  Caleb and Joshua had enough faith to withstand the pressure from the other spies.
  3. We doubt God because of the many obstacles that happen in our lives.  Job had some difficulties with his faith because his whole world had collapsed.  Likewise, we tend to doubt God in the tough times.
  4. We doubt God because of his “divine delays”.  God doesn’t work His plans in our time.  Because of this, we become impatient and we begin to doubt God.  We say: “Why hasn’t God done something!”

How do we move beyond doubt into faith? 

We know that we should walk by faith and not by sight.  We know that living by faith pleases God, but we still struggle with our doubts.  What can we do to cultivate our faith.

  1. We cultivate our faith through reading and studying the Word of God.  Romans 10:17 says:  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  The reading of the Word enables us to learn more about God, His promises, and His working in our lives.  The more we know God; the more we will trust Him.  The heroes of the faith in Hebrews knew their God.  This resulted in their unwavering faith.  How well do we know our God?
  2. We cultivate our faith by learning to cry out to God.  Once Jesus met a man whose son was demon possessed.  This father understood his need to cry out to God:  “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)  Crying out to God is saying: “I can’t do it.”  “I can’t continue without you.” God will respond when we cry out to Him.
  3. We cultivate faith by choosing faith when doubt is crying out to us.  When we choose faith, we are siding with God and His Word.  We put aside our viewpoints and opinions and accept the ways of God.  2 Corinthians 5:7 says: “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)”  Paul made a choice to choose faith in spite of all the obstacles.  Our problems should be stepping stones to our faith and not stumbling blocks to our faith.

God is totally worthy of our faith.  He doesn’t need to prove Himself to us.  When we choose to move beyond doubt unto faith, we will live a life that is pleasing to God.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)  Faith in God brings pleasure to God because it shows that we know Him, we love Him,  and we need Him.

Faith is a choice in the midst of obstacles.  Let’s move beyond our doubts and place our faith in Him.  Doubt will make cowards of us all.  Faith will enable us to face life with courage.  Doubt will keep us from moving forward in our Christian life.  Faith will keep us walking close to God.

“Father, I doubt you quite often.  I choose to walk by sight instead of by faith.  Like the man who cried out to you to help his unbelief, I cry out to you: “Increase my faith.”

Delighting in God in Stressful Times

 

God’s is waiting for us to come to Him. Photo by: Mark J Booth

The cares of this life often seem to build up until we feel overwhelmed. We become discouraged and feel stressed about life. Is there a place of comfort in the midst of the cares of this world? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me (cares of my heart) thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19). The Psalmist is saying: “No matter how stressful life is, God is here not only to bring comfort, but delight to my soul.”
There are many things that can be overwhelming and bring stress upon us:
  • the stress of our own failures, sins, and worries.
  • the stress from our concern for our loved ones.
  • the stress from people who oppose us.
  • the stress of work
  • the stress of growing older
  • the stress of keeping up with others
  • the stress of trials in our lives
  • the stress of loneliness
  • the stress of not knowing the future.
  • the stress of making decisions
Stressful situations fill our lives.  However, In the midst of the stresses of life, we can always flee to the “God of all Comfort”.  We can flee to Him:
  • by prayer and praise unto Him
  • by opening up the Word of God and listening to Him
  • by submitting our lives completely to Him
  • by confessing any known sin unto Him
He is always available to bring comfort, peace and hope to the soul who is coping with stress in their lives. Will we flee to Him in midst of the cares and stresses of life? Yes!
GOD WILL CHANGE OUR STRESS INTO DELIGHT IN HIM!

 

A Sunny Way to Start the Day(Psalm 19)

The early morning sky over Sydney, Australia: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

How we begin each day not only affects us, but also affects those around us.  How can we start the day in the right way?  In Psalm 19, God shares the example of one of His greatest creations, the sun.  The sun as it begins each day teaches us many lessons.

Once, Sharon and I had the joy of staying a couple of days in a bed and breakfast on the shores of Lake Huron.  One morning, we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the lake.  The sunrise brought the hope of a new day. It brought a renewed sense of the glory of God, and caused us to reflect anew upon the beauty of God’s creation.

A sunrise is one of God’s masterpieces.  Psalm 19:4-6 says: “In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,  Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it:and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”

The sun begins the day with great joy and purpose.  It fulfills God’s plan every day. Also, it brings warmth to all of us who live upon the earth.  The sun glorifies God in all that it does.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)
What about us?  How can we live each day like the sun? How can we bring glory to God?

The heavens declaring God’s Glory from the sky: Photo by: Mark J. Booth

1. The sun rejoices as it begins each new day.  (“Rejoiceth as a strong man”)
How do we begin our day?  Do we begin the day with dread?  Do we begin the day with anger?  Do we begin the day with a complaining spirit?  Have we tried rejoicing as a way to start the day?  Our joy is not based upon circumstances, but upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.  A joyful start to the day will help us through the difficulties of the day, will bring glory to God, and will brighten the lives of other people.

2. The sun fulfills God’s purpose for each day.  (“His circuit unto the ends of it”)
The sun willingly performs the task that God has given unto it.  The sun doesn’t complain.  It doesn’t get praise.  It doesn’t doubt God’s plan.  How about God’s purpose for our lives?  Are we seeking to fulfill God’s plan for our lives?  God has a great plan for each of us.  It began with our salvation in Jesus Christ and will continue for all eternity.  Daily, we have a choice: “Will I fulfill God’s plan for my life, or will I fulfill my plan for my life?”

3. The sun ministers unto others. (“There is nothing hid from the heat thereof”)
The sun brings warmth, light and a sense of beauty to all of us.  Every day, we have an opportunity to bring warmth into the lives of those around us.  We can encourage others with our words and actions.  We can share God’s love with those that God brings into our lives.  Every day is an opportunity to brighten the lives of those around us.

Each new day is a gift from God.  We have the opportunity to rejoice in the Lord, to follow God’s plan and to brighten the lives of others.  Don’t let the clouds of fear, doubt, anger and self-pity keep you from shining brightly before God and others.  Whose life will you brighten today?

Where Can I Go?(Psalm 18:2)

 

Photo of the Alps by Mark J. Booth

I am drowning in the midst of a storm.  I feel alone.  I don’t know where to go?  What does the Word of God say: “The Lord is MY ROCK, and MY FORTRESS, and MY DELIVERER; MY GOD, MY STRENGTH, in whom I will trust; MY BUCKLER (shield), and the HORN OF MY SALVATION, and MY HIGH TOWER.” (Psalm 18:2)

Jesus reminded the disciples that in this life they would experience tribulation.  We have all experienced tribulation.  We try to resolve the situation.  We try to cope.  We try to ignore the storm; yet we feel like we are sinking deeper and deeper into the raging waters.  David experienced many storms in his life.  Where did he go for deliverance and relief?  He went to “his God”.  Likewise, we can go to our God regardless of how strong the storm.

1. We can go to Our God because He is our Rock.  When a person is sinking into the water, they are looking for something solid on which to find their footing.  We often stumble and fall because we don’t stand firmly upon our solid rock, the Lord God.  Do you feel like you are wavering in every direction, then go to the Rock.  

2. We can go to Our God because He is Our Fortress.  A fortress is a place of refuge from the enemies we may have in this life.  Many people talk about being hurt by others.  Yes, others may try to hurt us, but we have a fortress to whom we can run.  We don’t have to be hurt by others, we can go to the Lord God, Our Fortress.

3. We can go to Our God because He is Our Deliverer.  The disciples were fearful in the midst of a terrible storm.   They were without hope until they cried out to the Lord.  The Lord stopped the storm.  No matter how awful the storm, the Lord is ready and able to deliver us.  No matter how strong the temptation the Lord will deliver us.

4. We can go to Our God because He is Our God.  David knows that he has a personal relationship with the Lord God.  He can go to His God at any time.  When we know God, we can trust Him.  We know that He loves us with an everlasting love.  We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

5. We can go to Our God because He is Our Strength.  David couldn’t handle his enemies in his own strength, but he knew the All-Powerful God.  We can do nothing apart from God.  As Paul stated: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13).  We may get tired and want to quit, but God’s strength enables us to carry on.

6. We Can Go to Our God because He is our Shield.  Satan throws his fiery darts of doubt, denial, guilt, temptation, discouragement, and rebellion against God.  In ourselves, we have no defense against these darts; however God is Our Shield.  He comes between us and the fiery darts of Satan.  There is no safer place than behind God, Our Shield.

7. We can Go to Our God because He is Our Savior.  Our salvation solves the greatest problem in life, which is how can a sinful person approach a Holy God.  Jesus took our place upon the cross and paid for our sin.  Through Him, we have eternal life.  If God has taken care of our greatest problem in this life, why can’t we trust Him with the storms that pass through our lives?

8. We can Go to Our God because He is Our High Tower.  We often see a bird flee into the sky as we approach it.  The bird knows that there is safety in the heights.  Likewise, our Lord places us in the heights to keep us away from the traps and snares of this life.  The storms have little effect upon us when we are safe and secure in the Lord.

As a result of all that God is, David says: “In whom I will trust.”  David knows the Greatness of God.  He trusts God because he knows Him.  Do we know our Great God.  Yes, the storm may be strong, but we do have One to whom we can go.  Will we?

 

Lean Hard! What to Do When the Burdens are Heavy.

Outside of Mexico City from a plane: Photo by Mark Booth

Is your burden too heavy to carry?  Are you facing difficult times?  Are you without hope? Are you without direction?  Does anybody care?  Yes, there is One who does care. His name is Jesus Christ.  What does God say: “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) God is ready and waiting for us to place our burdens upon Him.

Here is a devotion written by Octavius Winslow that expresses God’s desire for us to Lean Hard upon Him.  Octavius Winslow was a pastor during the 19th century who was known for compassionate and doctrinally sound preaching.  He is one of my favorite authors.  I would encourage any of my readers to look up his books and download them for free.  Enjoy the following devotion and don’t forget to Lean Hard! 

Lean hard!

(from Winslow’s, “The Burden Cast upon God”)

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord; and
He shall sustain thee.” (Psalm 55:22)

It is by an act of simple, prayerful faith we
transfer our cares and anxieties, our sorrows
and needs, to the Lord.

Jesus invites you come and lean upon
Him, and to lean with all your might upon
that arm that balances the universe, and
upon that bosom that bled for you upon
the soldier’s spear!

But you doubtingly ask, “Is the Lord able to do this
thing for me?” And thus, while you are debating a
matter about which there is not the shadow of a
shade of doubt, the burden is crushing your gentle
spirit to the dust.

And all the while Jesus stands at your side and
lovingly says, “Cast your burden upon Me and
I will sustain you. I am God Almighty. I bore
the load of your sin and condemnation up the
steep of Calvary, and the same power of
omnipotence, and the same strength of love that
bore it all for you then, is prepared to bear your
need and sorrow now. Roll it all upon Me!”

“Child of My Love! Lean hard! Let Me feel the
pressure of your care. I know your burden, child!
I shaped it- I poised it in My own hand and made
no proportion of its weight to your unaided strength.
For even as I laid it on, I said I shall be near, and
while she leans on Me, this burden shall be Mine,
not hers. So shall I keep My child within the circling
arms of My own love. Here lay it down! Do not
fear to impose it on a shoulder which upholds the
government of worlds! Yet closer come! You are
not near enough! I would embrace your burden,
so I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
You love Me! I know it. Doubt not, then. But,
loving me, lean hard!

Will we LEAN HARD upon Him??

P.S  Here are a couple of websites with more writings by Octavius Winslow.  Enjoy!
http://www.gracegems.org/BOOKS/Octavius%20Winslow%20books.htm
http://octaviuswinslow.org