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On several occasions over the course of our three days together, the conversation turned toward what it means to be brave for God.
My takeaway from that time was 6 ways we can be brave for God:
1. Sometimes brave looks like stepping out of our comfort zone.
On the final morning of the retreat, Mary Geisen led a devotional about the account in Scripture when Peter walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33).
She shared thoughts about how Jesus asks us to move forward, to take next steps. Mary pointed out that “often, in life, the boat becomes comfortable and familiar, and we don’t want to get out.”
Sometimes, like the account of Peter, brave looks like trusting in Jesus’ commands, looking to Him, and stepping out of the “boat” of our comfort zone.
2. Sometimes brave looks like staying right where you are.
We often think of bravery as jumping out of an airplane, moving to a foreign country, or selling all of our possessions and stepping into the unknown.
But as Holly Barrett pointed out at the retreat, “For some people, being brave is staying right where you are.” Sometimes brave looks like submitting to your current situation and circumstances, even and especially when they’re not pleasant.
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Through the account of His crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the ultimate example of this kind of bravery:
On the night that he was betrayed by Judas, we read this in John 18:4: “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’”
I don’t know about you, but if I had been in Jesus’ sandals and had known the immeasurable suffering I was about to endure, I would have turned and ran. I would’ve gotten out of there as fast as I could.
But not Jesus.
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His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 28:38). He “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
And he stayed right where He was, in His Father’s will.
3. Your brave might not look like my brave.
At the retreat, Mary pointed out that your brave might not look like my brave.
In fact, most likely, our calls to bravery will look quite different from each other. And that’s okay.
In her book, Let’s All Be Brave, Annie Downs writes that we all have “a unique call to be brave.” She reminds readers that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we’re all wired differently, with a “rare combination of qualities and desires.”
Annie writes, “If we are each as unique as the Bible says we are, then our calls to courage are each equally unique.”
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She goes on to say, “Like peering through a kaleidoscope crystal, no two people are going to see the same thing when they look for a brave moment. God is that creative. It’s not your job to see the same refraction of light and color on the wall. It’s your job to be brave enough to look through the kaleidoscope, even if what you see surprises you.”
So part of what it means to be brave for God is to accept that your story and my story are not the same. It means pushing the temptation toward comparison, jealousy and envy out the door, and being grateful for our unique situations and circumstances.
We can take encouragement from Annie, who says, “When God tells you to be brave, he will make it work. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be easy. But it will be your story and your best story.”
4. Brave looks like resting in God’s presence.
I’ve often been struck by the Lord’s remedy when various people in the Bible have expressed fear. To Isaac, God said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Genesis 26:24, emphasis mine).
To Joshua, the Lord said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
In numerous accounts in Scripture, the Lord tells people not to be afraid because He is with them. He doesn’t give them a pep talk about how great they are, or how strong they are in their own strength. No. He calms their fears with the promise and assurance of His presence.
In Deuteronomy 20:3, we read: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Aren’t we all in the middle of a battle, every single day? As believers, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
How do we prepare ourselves for the fight? Do we rely on our own strength?
No. Instead, we need to obey Ephesians 6:10 and “be strong in the Lordand in His mighty power” (emphasis mine).
He will never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5). His presence is what makes us brave.
5. Brave looks a lot like faith.
As we can see from the examples above, we’re not the only ones who have faced temptations of fear, anxiety and panic. Numerous people in the Bible dealt with the very same emotions.
The question is: What do we do when we’re afraid?
The Scriptures offer the same suggestion in a number of places:
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
“…in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:4).
“I will trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2).
Brave and faith go hand in hand. In order to trust and have faith, we need to be brave. And in order to be brave, we need to trust in God and have faith in Him, His presence, and His power.
You see, we can’t combat fear in our own strength. We need to transfer that dependency over to our rock and our refuge, the One in Whom we find shelter, security and hope.
6. Always, brave looks like being faithful.
No matter what our brave might look like, we're called to be faithful to God. Marcy Hanson made the poignant comment at the retreat: “There’s bravery in being faithful.”
Kaitlyn Bouchillon puts it this way: “More and more, I'm convinced that bravery looks like one million small moments of simply showing up.”
Often, being faithful means simply showing up.
These days, sadly, it seems being faithful is becoming more and more of a rarity. It’s easy and common to give up, walk away, stop trying. But as believers, we’re given this charge in Revelation 2:10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
As difficult as it may be, faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit – and by God’s help and grace, if we persevere in it, the eternal rewards will be far greater than the sacrifices.
So go forth, armed with the Holy Spirit, and show the world what it means to be brave for God.
Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.