New Hope Notes

Living A Courageous Life

Pastor Bernie Federman
March 12, 2006 - w0611

It’s easy to take the comfortable way in life. It’s much harder to take the courageous route. Yet the Lord calls us to live a courageous life and move forward. So today I come here to talk to you about courage, which may seem odd since New Hope is one of the most courageous, innovative, and creative churches in America. And led by one of the most encouraging pastors:  Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.

 

So naturally when Pastor Wayne invited me to speak, I wondered what I could offer.

I wondered what victories are yet to be won, what dreams are yet to be released, what territories both geographically and spiritually are yet to be possessed by this wonderful congregation. But I know that it takes courage for all of you to move forward.

 

Jesus was not afraid. He realized our world can be so discouraging. A week can go by and take the wind out of your sails and completely discourage you. But Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB) Jesus wanted us to find courage in Him.

 

Sometimes we all listen to the world and those who try to discourage us. But if we listen to them we may never get married, finish school, or get a promotion. And it happens in the face of fear. Yet fear is not always the thing that will keep us down. It is the fear that compounds into discouragement. So the Bible says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You”. In other words, fear can drive us to our knees seeking the presence of God. And in His presence there is fullness of joy, and the joy of the Lord becomes our strength and thus we can move forward. So if you feel discouraged, I have a word from God: take courage. Soar with Jesus.

 

It takes courage to say yes to Jesus, but it takes an equal amount of courage to do whatever the Lord wants us to do everyday. So the Bible encourages this with this early prayer, “Lord consider the threats we are receiving and enable your servants to speak Your word with courage.” (Acts 4:29)

 

There are lots of stories in the Bible about courage. Joshua needed courage when God asked him to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This was something that even Moses could not do. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:6 NIV) The word, strong means hold on to it tightly. And that’s exactly what Jesus tells us to hold on to His word tightly and don’t let go. As the Bible says, Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” (Josh. 1:6 NIV) The Bible further encourages by saying, “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.” (Josh. 1:9 NIV)

 

Courage does not mean that fear is gone but that we have to trust in God and move forward even while afraid. We must focus on God because I believe…

 

Fear is the result of:

 

·        Being absorbed with myself.

 

We must remember that it is not about us or about now. We tend to be overwhelmed when we look inward and think we muster our own strength to face the world. But the Lord never said we have to face life by ourselves. “…the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  So take courage and know that there is victory ahead in Christ. Another result of fear is…

 

·        Not moving forward.

 

I have found that as I move forward and do what God wants me to do, He gives me courage. The same is true as we step forward and share our faith. God gives us courage to continue sharing with others. Or when we trust Him with our finances and give unto Him, the Lord will trust us with more resources. But we must take a step of faith. The third thing that happens when we are fearful is…

 

·        Letting go of God’s Word.

 

Discouragement can sometimes make us let go of God’s Word. King David hid the Word in his heart. That’s why it is important that we read the Bible everyday. Journaling transformed my marriage, my whole life and my church because it keeps God’s Word inside of me. When we become discouraged we must hang onto God’s Word to see us through. Another effect of fear is…

 

·        Becoming distracted.

 

We tend to get distracted and forget God’s promises. The Lord told Joshua not to look to the right or left, but to keep his focus on God. The same instruction is given to us.

 

So how do you live a courageous life?  Follow these …

 

 

Principles for Courageous Living:

 

1.    KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move forward in the midst of it. .  The Bible says, “… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1 NIV) Jesus told Joshua to move forward into the Promised Land. He told the lame man to take up his mat and walk. When the child passed away, Jesus told the parents to go home and find their child resurrected. There is great power in moving forward. The Bible says it this way: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4 NIV) God is with us in the valley and shadows can not hurt us.

 

John Wayne said it this way: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”. We’ve all been scared, but the faith to move forward enables us to do things we never have done before. We must not deny that life is filled with discouragement. We will experience many losses in our lifetime. Losses of dreams, of loved ones, but in those times we must…

 

 

2.    GRAB HOLD OF HOPE.

 

My hope is built on Jesus’ blood and righteousness on Christ the solid rock. Look for God’s presence not His absence and we’ll find courage because God is everywhere. People ask me all the time, what is my calling?  This is how I answer: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Eph. 1:18 NIV) We’ve been called to hope. Therefore, if Jesus is inside of us, “God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NASB)

 

After moving forward and grabbing hold of hope, we must…

 

 

3.    REMEMBER WHO I AM AND WHOSE I AM.

 

In times of discouragement it is easy to lose our identity. We forget we are Christians and belong to Christ. We are the sons and daughters of the Most High God.

Therefore God is always with us so we have nothing to fear. “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17 MSG) The Bible confirms, “As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.'”  (2 Cor. 6:16 NIV) Is there any greater promise than that? God will never forsake us.

 

 

I found a quote by Bishop Desmond Tutu when he was under scrutiny by the South African Apartheid government. This leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner said: “There is nothing the government can do to me that will stop me from being involved in what I believe God wants me to do. I do not do it because I like doing it. I do it because I’m under what I believe to be the influence of God’s hand and I cannot help it. When I see injustice, I cannot keep quiet for as Jeremiah says, “When I try to keep quiet, God’s Word burns like a fire in my breast”. But what is it that they can do ultimately to me? The most awful thing they con do to me is kill me and death is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian.”  Isn’t that powerful!

 

The devil tested God’s word with Adam and Eve in the garden. He even tested Jesus in the desert. And passers-by taunted Jesus to use His power to come down from the cross and then they would worship Him. And we can be certain that the devil will test us as well. Yet, we can praise Him because He chose to stay up on the cross. He laid down His life for us. He knew who He was and whose He was. And that’s why we must remember to be a people who…

 

 

4.    GIVE AND RECEIVE  ENCOURAGEMENT.

 

You cannot imagine how an email or a phone call can encourage and lift up someone at the right time. It is like a formation of geese flying. You can hear them honking at each other and I imagine that they are calling out “courage” to one another with each honk. And if one of the geese is too tired and must come to the ground, another will go with it. So no goose is ever alone.

 

The same is true for us and that’s why we need one another. We need to be involved in small groups because there is something powerful about being together, about applauding and encouraging one another as we commit to serving God. It takes courage. So encourage everyone around you because …

 

      Courage is contagious and best received in the context of community.

 

“But the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.” (Judges 20:22 NIV)

 

If we want to live a courageous life, we must move forward, grasp tightly to hope, remember our identity, encourage one another, and most importantly…

 

 

5.    STAY FOCUSED.

 

There are so many things in this life that will distract us and pull us away from the call of God. When I was 13 years old, I was Barmitzphad because I was raised in the Jewish faith. At age 14 I met Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. And it was a difficult thing to go home to tell my Jewish family that I’d given my life to Christ. It took courage. Needless to say they were not pleased. But I remained focused on Jesus. At age 16, I was teaching Sunday school. At 22, I was a pastor. And I can say that my mom, dad and nine families on our street came to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. All this happened because I stayed focused on Christ and was willing to move forward.

 

Be encouraged by these words: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross; scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2 NIV) Jesus’ joy came from knowing He’d be ascended to the right hand of the Father. His joy came from thinking about us and saving our souls. So every time someone comes to Christ or every time someone shares their faith the best way they know how, the Lord rejoices. And every time a sinner comes to salvation, all of Heaven celebrates.

 

So let us focus on the presence of God. God commands us to have courage. Remember that when our faith is wavering and we are fearful, it is often the result of being absorbed with ourselves, not moving forward, letting go of God’s Word, and becoming distracted. However, God gives us five principles for courageous living. First, we must keep moving forward even when we are fearful. Next, grab hold of hope because that is what He calls us to. Third is never to forget our identity because we belong to Christ. The fourth principle is to be an encourager as well as one who received encouragement because courage is contagious. And finally stay focused on Christ.

 

 

Study Questions

 

  1. How did or has being absorbed with yourself caused fear?
  2. Where in your life do you need courage and hope?
  3. Has fear made you let go of God’s word or distracted you from His call on your life?  Explain.
  4. Recall a time when someone encouraged you during a difficult time. How did you feel and how did it help you through your struggle?
  5. Do you readily give encouragement to others as others have given you?
  6. What act of courage is the Lord calling you to do? Are you moving forward?
  7. What most impacted you about today’s message? How will you apply it to your life this week?

 

Many thanks to volunteer writer, Leighton Loo.  He is a man courageously moving forward, focused on His calling, and inspiring those around him as He serves with all his heart. Thank you Leighton…job well done!