A man who hid for 32 years fearing punishment of pro-Nazi wartime activity says he used to cry when he heard happy voices outside but dared not show himself even at his mother's funeral. Janez Rus was a young shoemaker when he went into hiding at his sister's farmhouse in June 1945. He was found years later after she bought a large supply of bread in the nearby village of Zalna. "If I had not been discovered, I would have remained in hiding. So, I am happy that this happened," Rus told a reporter. Throughout those years he did nothing. He never left the house and could only look down at the village in the valley. (Source: Today in the Word, October 17, 1993.)
Fear will paralyze our ability to function as God intended! Fear is not what God intended for us. We must confront fear to press on for Jesus!
This was possibly putting Barnabas in danger, but more so all the apostles. It was putting in danger the entire “underground operation” of the early church – IF Saul wasn’t truly converted! And remember, the apostles feared Saul and did not believe him to be a disciple! But more than being life threatening -- THE BIGGEST STRUGGLE HERE WAS THE FEAR OF BEING HURT AGAIN. Does the fear of getting hurt again keep you from moving forward on the biblical path of forgiveness and the rebuilding of trust?
A story is told of a well-known missionary in India who was bowing all night in prayer at the side of his bed when a great python lowered itself from the rafters of his bungalow and encircled his body with its cold and powerful coils. It made no attempt to constrict, and yet the missionary knew that if he struggled the great serpent would tighten the coils and crush him. With marvelous self-control, and courage born of faith, he went on quietly praying, until at length the animal unwound itself and went back into the roof. (Source: Unknown.)
What is courage?
“mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty,” -- Webster Dictionary
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
“Courage isn't having the strength to go on - it is going on when you don't have strength.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte
What does the Bible say of courage? The phrase “fear not” is used over 80 times in scripture. Other phrases like: “do not be afraid,” “be not afraid,” and “do not fear” are used over 30 times. That is a lot of verses declaring this Bible truth!
Mark 6:50 uses the phrase “be of good cheer.” In this text, the disciples cry out as they see the Lord approaching them – walking on water. He tells them, “be of good cheer, it is I.” This word is also interrupted as COURAGE. This root word means – boldness or confidence. The Bible directs our attention to courage as the opposite of fear. Remember, God commands against fear …so, our response must find its way to courage instead. But, how? We know “what” we need to do…but “how” do we get there? The “how” is actually connected to the “why.” Sooo… why have courage? Where’s the motivation? I mean, why even attempt to walk through the hard stuff?!
The answer the Bible gives? God is the reason I ought to have courage. It is God’s perfections & perfect plans… His love & goodness, that draw us to answer the call for courage! Look at these examples.
Genesis 15:1 – Abram has just had battle with the kings of Sodom and rescued Lot from captivity. It is in that context the Lord says, “Fear not, for I am your shield.”
Genesis 21:17 – Hagar is in despair for her life and for the life of her child. It is here that the angel says, “fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is….”
Luke 1:30, Mary is told to have courage in the face of being pregnant and without a husband. What is her motivation? “Fear not…thou hast found favor with the LORD….”
In each incident, God is calling for courage. He isn’t calling for a courage that is easy to obtain or as a natural response. He is calling for courage because HE is there to protect and to guide them! He is calling for a courage that comes from resting in Jesus…a courage built on faith in Him.
We are courageous because we have God…because we are confident in Him…and we rest in that position.
So, we return to Acts 9:27 and realize that in that one phrase (“took him, and brought him to the apostles…”) Barnabas needed courage to:
1. Confront fear of safety
As we already discussed earlier, the fear of safety was very real for the disciples. II Tim 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2. Courage confronts approval.
Barnabas was stepping away from the popular opinion of Saul. He was approaching his co-laborers with an opposing view. He loved these men, but he also saw another brother in Christ (Saul) in turmoil…in need of help and comfort.
This is something the Lord has been working in my own life. I know that I am one who longs for approval. It is a deep hurt to me when I realize my choice is not approved by key people in my life. It is the struggle I have been wrestling over in my mind these last few years…a greater fear of man than of God? …a greater longing to be liked by others? I have been preaching to myself a lot this week. Courage to move forward is found resting in Jesus…it is found in my confidence in the perfections of God…and this all requires — Faith. In. God.
It is not the approval of man’s opinion that we must crave. Courage will purse God’s Word and follow it at any cost.
3. Courage confronts the unknown
Barnabas didn’t know how the disciples would respond to him. Was he risking his friendship and ministry with them on the altar of accepting Saul, the persecutor?
Would Saul take advantage of such approval?
Would Saul forget what he did…or worse, would Saul treat what he did as no big deal?
Remember, Saul (Paul) never lost sight of the past from which God saved him. He would rehearse his testimony to many. This kept him mindful of how great God’s saving grace really was for him. No one had to remind him of what he had done. He had to live with that the rest of his life. But he spent the rest of his life making up for lost time in getting to serve Christ in the here and now. Saul (Paul) didn’t allow his past to stall his relationship with Jesus, instead, he allowed it to motivate him to press on!
What unknowns are you facing…or fearing? What if they don’t accept me? What if I end up with no friends the rest of my life? What if I can’t pay these bills? What if my health goes bad? What if my kids reject me as they grow up? What if my boss reprimands me in front of everyone or fires me? The list truly is endless. STOP. Refocus on God. Now sharpen that focus. Rest in your confidence of who He is…and walk forward with courage.
In January of 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries gave their lives in Ecuador in their effort to reach the Waodani (Auca) Indians. This fierce group was known to attack any outsiders, but the vision for reaching them with the gospel compelled these young men to take the risk. Not long after they set up camp near the Waodani village they were attacked by warriors. Refusing to defend their lives with force, the missionaries were killed. The news flashed around the world, and the story of courage and sacrifice challenged many to take up the missionary cause. Even today Elliot’s words live on: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Source: Jim Elliott, Kathleen White.)
Our confidence in the person and work of Jesus is what builds this courage within us. It is through the courage that comes from the confidence we have in God almighty – and resting in that position – that fear does not win. It is this godly courage that drives us through our fears (not around them). By God’s grace, embrace confidence in Him, take a courageous step of faith, and confront fear.