“Our college kids are scared,” one mother admitted to me as she grabbed ten copies of The Story of Reality to purchase for her young people and their friends. A Christian teacher once confessed it was easy in church to stand for God, but with her non-Christian friends she could not muster the courage to speak the truth.
It’s natural to be scared when we’re facing threat. I’ve felt it many times myself. It’s one reason that the third part of STR’s vision for you is Courage and grace for every encounter. We all need to develop our courage - to nurture our ability to step up to danger. But how do we do that? How do we stand tall when all our instincts tell us to lay low? I have some ideas that have helped me, and I think you may find them helpful, too.
My first tip is the most important one: Face up.
In Matthew 10, Jesus didn’t mince words when He gave his disciples a “pep talk” before sending them on their first short-term mission. He told them they would be persecuted, hated, maligned, beaten, betrayed, and murdered. Hard facts? Yes. Frightening? Of course. Why was Jesus so blunt?
In WW2, some of the most courageous soldiers were the ones already convinced they would not survive the war. Since they were dead already in their own eyes, they simply accepted the threat and moved forward with resolve. In the same way, there is a courage that comes when we make peace with the fact that faithfulness to Christ is going to cost us. We will never be welcomed by the world, so why worry about it? But Jesus had more to say. He added - three times - “Do not fear.”
Do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known...Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell...Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:26, 28, 31)
“Do not fear” - in the final reckoning all will be known and you will be vindicated. “Do not fear” - the worst anyone can do is kill your body, but God will save your soul. “Do not fear” - you are not alone. You are cherished. God has your back.
It also helps to know we are not the first to feel the jitters. The disciples felt it. Paul felt it (Acts 18:9). We feel it. When trepidations, forebodings, and apprehensions arise, Jesus says to you what He said to them - firmly, lovingly - “Do not fear.”
So decide today - mark your calendar - that you are already dead in this fight. You will not survive this war. You are fully in. You are fully His. You accept the consequences. Let the ridicule and rejection come. You are ready for it. You expect the worst from men, and you expect the best from God. Do not fear.
Here’s my second tip: Prep up.
For cold-case homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace, weapons training wasn’t just shooting at targets; he fired rounds into his bulletproof vest, too. Why? Because he needed to know, firsthand, that his vest stopped bullets. It gave him the confidence to stand in the line of fire when circumstances got intense.
Do you like tests? Most people don’t...unless they know the answers. Then there’s little fear. That’s because knowledge breeds courage. As you spend more time with the kind of training STR provides, you’ll realize that Christianity can stand up to the challenges. Put simply, our vest stops bullets.
Another part of STR’s vision for you is Confidence for every Christian. So prep up. If you take a hit in a conversation, you’re alerted to where you need to bone up on for the next round. The more you know, the braver you’ll be. As the Marines say, the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.
Here’s my final tip: Step up.
You may be surprised to know that, ironically, pluck and nerve often come immediately after you get going, not before. Your courage surges once you’re moving.
The best way to do that is to plan your first few moves in advance so when a particular challenge comes up you can step out immediately. I know of no better way to do this than to start with questions. Take small steps forward, if you need to. Probe. Inquire. Investigate. Get the lay of the land. As you do you’ll discover the other side is not as frightening as you thought.
So first, face up. Make peace with the fact that you may be a victim of the war in the short term, but you’ll be a victor in the long run. Second, prep up. You’ll be amazed at the pluck you’ll feel when you’ve done your homework. Finally, step up. Motion matters, so put on your game face and get moving.
And always remember, do not fear. The Lord is there for you.