As I sit at my desk Fox News echoes from the next room. Remnants of Covid reports, political unrest, complicated court trials, deceit, and unrelenting tempers, are reminders that we need courage to stand strong in the days to come.
Courage is a command for Christians, both attainable and mandatory. Paul instructs Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) to be strong, because “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, Christians can be characterized by power, love, and self-control, instead of fear. John Piper describes Christian courage as “the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ.”
Both fear and courage are interesting human responses. In the moment, both have potential to feel uncontrollable. Reflexive in the moment, we can train our hearts before the moment arrives and be ready to overcome fear with courage. Make no mistake, there is a healthy fear (like the heat of a fire that leads you to be prudent when confronted with danger) but it is important to understand that right now, by your present disciplines and decisions, you are either cultivating fear or courage for those times when pressure comes and action is required. Natural fear is not wrong. Sinful fear hinders you from doing the right thing. It motivates you to do the wrong thing in self-seeking and does not believe the promises of God. Sinful fear values the opinions of others over God. This is a fear worthy of repentance.
There is a healthy, robust fear of God. Biblical counselor Wayne Mack explains “a reflex, an attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding and awareness of the glory and majesty of the God of the Bible that causes a person to trust God, love God, obey God, hope in God, and be consumed with God – wanting to honor, magnify, glorify, please, and serve him in every area of life. This fear of God will involve your intellect, your emotions, and your attitudes and actions.” What does this healthy fear look like? How can we learn to honor, magnify, glorify, please, and serve him in every area of life? God has given us all we need for salvation and to live a God-honoring life in the Scriptures. The Word is sufficient. We can begin by asserting spiritual disciplines:
- learning his Word – Deuteronomy 4:10
- praying and asking God for his help – Psalm 86:112
- learning to fill and quiet our minds with thoughts of our great God – Psalm 46:10
Although spiritual disciplines are things we do, the goal of any given discipline is not so much about the doing as it is about the being: Being like and abiding with Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose of the disciplines is godliness; the purpose is to become a better reflection of Christ. Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan to bring glory to himself, and it means we identify with Christ’s purpose. Spiritual disciplines are for our growth and maturity, for the glory of God. We do not grow as Christians merely by using a spiritual barometer.
For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 2:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
We grow from the life-transforming renewal of our minds. Matthew Henry has said, “Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. The more we depend upon Christ and draw sap and virtue from him…the more we cast forth our roots.” This spiritual maturity, in turn, comes from actually understanding and learning to apply God’s word to our lives. In doing so, we walk in Him. So that we might have the courage to stand strong in the days to come, we must gain the mind of Christ.
Perhaps your mind is set on fears more personal than the news headlines. Do you need to gain the mind of Christ today so that you might walk in courage? The mind of Christ stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of man.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 12:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
For more study on spiritual disciplines see: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney