February 1, 2012
This is the response I’ve been getting from many who read last month’s Solid Ground feature, “The Third Column.”* When I described what I saw the Holy Spirit doing in the lives of thousands of rank-and-file Christians around the country—people just like you—many readers immediately connected.
And it got them excited. Which is precisely what I wanted to happen. I hoped to encourage them, and you.
I wanted you to see yourself as a vital participant in God’s project of advancing His Kingdom through the kind of thoughtful Christianity we’ve always promoted at Stand to Reason. I wanted you to see the strategic role you play in the unique circumstances God has placed you in, whatever they may be.
But something still might be holding you back. You’re nervous. You’re unsure of yourself. You’re uncertain about stepping out. Opportunities present themselves, but you’re not able to muster the courage to face the challenge, to stand up in the line of fire.
Well, I know exactly how you feel, because I’ve been there many times myself. Courage doesn’t come easy for us because very little in our lives demands we develop it.
We don’t hunt for food. We don’t fight off wild animals. We don’t battle barbarians at the gate. Nothing requires most of us to ever risk life or limb. So, how do we develop the courage we need? Two things come to mind: knowledge and action.
First, knowledge breeds courage. The more you know, the braver you’ll be. This truth applies to every daunting challenge.
Do you like to take tests? Hardly anyone does. But would you feel better if you knew the questions in advance and you knew the answers cold? That changes things, doesn’t it?
Here’s how to put the principle into play. Certain challenges to your Christian convictions come up with regularity. The ones you fear the most will be the ones that demand the most courage, and you may not feel up to the task.
So make your job easier by taking the edge off the fear. Develop a good answer to the issue—one you can deliver in a tactically sound way (with a thoughtful opening question, for example)—and your courage will soar. You won’t fear the test because you’ll know the answers in advance.
Simply put, the more we know, the more confident we’ll be, the braver we’ll feel when facing a daunting task. Knowledge breeds courage.
Second, action also breeds courage. There have been times I’ve been shaking in my boots as an opportunity began to develop before me. Then I discovered that if I forced myself to take one small step forward to engage, I felt better. Action steadied my nerves.
I watched a western last week where the good guys were outnumbered five to two facing off for a gunfight in the middle of town. But the pair had a plan. Once the groups had squared off in the street, the two stepped out confidently towards the line of five. It was a bold move, but it changed the outcome dramatically.
Again, using an apt question for your first step is a perfect opener. It gets you moving forward while at the same time tossing the ball in the other person’s court, so the pressure is no longer on you. Action breeds confidence.
Here’s one more tip I’ve found helpful: Small acts of courage prepare us for larger ones. Paratroopers jump from platforms before they leap from airplanes. They don’t step out first at 10,000 feet—too frightening. They build their nerve little by little.
When we step out on the small challenges, we increase our ability to face more difficult situations in the future. If we shrink back, we feed our fear instead of our boldness.
Whatever fears you feel, face them head on armed with these three truths: Knowledge breeds courage, action breeds courage, and small acts of courage prepare you for larger ones. It will help you play your part in the third column.
On your side,