The Fearless Life: Understanding Gospel Courage

This is a transcript of my recent message at Raymond Terrace Community Church—a full recording can be found on the church podcast.


Since Tim spoke on Mothers Day from the passage in 2 Timothy 1, I've been thinking a lot about the place of 'fear' in a Christian's life. During that message, Tim read these words, found in verse 7.

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

This idea has been on my mind ever since. The reason why is that, of all human emotion, it's the one we are probably most familiar with. Our culture is obsessed by it. Millions of dollars are spent every year in the self-help section of our bookstores on books dedicated to overcoming fear. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are spent every year at the box-office on movies whose aim is to create fear. 'Fear' is big business.

'Fear' is also something we grapple with, to various degrees, in every-day life. We all have fears. We're all trying to conquer fears. We are interact with others in the sphere of each others fears. Relationships breakdown because, "They had a fear of commitment!", or sabotaged through "a fear of rejection". We all have fears.

I've lived most of my life telling people I'm not afraid of anything—like it was a great badge of honour. And to be honest, not much does frighten me. This may be the first time I've ever said this publicly, but I do have a fear; the one fear that has most impacted my life, has being this: I'm afraid to fail. Failing at something petrifies me. The idea of being a failure has kept me awake at night, stifled my dreams, and dashed my aspirations.

So when I read, "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control", it makes me stop and ask, "Is that right? Is that true? Because some days, that doesn't seem the case in my life."

What about you?

What fears do you have? What keeps you awake at night, and haunts your dreams? And do you ask the same sort of questions about 'fear' as I do?

That's why I wanted to speak on this today. How does the Bible speak about fear? Does the gospel inform my courage? Is it possible to live the fearless life?

Well, let's look together.

Let's turn to two of the most iconic passages in the Old Testament to do with 'fearlessness':

Joshua 1:1-9 ESV

1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant,  2“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.  3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.  4From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.  5No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.  6Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.  7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 The second clue is found within the story of David and Goliath.

1 Samuel 17 ESV

1 Samuel 17:1-4
Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.  2And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.  4And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span...
1 Samuel 17:10-11
10And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
1 Samuel 17:24
24All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid.
 1 Samuel 17:31-3731When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”  33And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.”  34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  36Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
 1 Samuel 17:45-4745Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

Let me tell you the fundamental difference between a Biblical idea of 'fearlessness' and the world's idea of 'fearlessness'. The great difference is found in the source of courage!

The world screams at us every day that courage comes from you, that all you need to do to live the fearless life is to somehow tap into that secret place deep inside and unlock the warrior within. So we read books. We go on retreats. We take courses. And ironically, we fear we'll never unlock the fearless life!

But reflect on our two events: The source of Joshua's courage was in the fact that God promised his ceaseless presence. David knew who it had ben who'd delivered him from the lion and the bear, and who it would be who would deliver Goliath into his hands. The source of both David and Joshua's courage wasn't within—it was without! The fearless life is found when you acknowledge your strength and courage belongs to somebody apart from you, and that somebody is God!

Consider this message to His people delivered through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 41:10 ESV
10fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

 Or, as David writes in his triumphant song:

Psalms 27:1 ESV
1The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

These Old Testament statesman spoke and sung about the presence of God, a completely external reality to themselves, as being the source and foundation of the fearless life. Even before the coming of grace in Christ, before the New Testament, God was revealing himself as one who is 'mighty to save'. God was revealing himself as a redeemer, and the fact that he has bought us with a great price is enough to dispel all fear and horror.

Again, listen to his Word through he prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 43:1 ESV
1But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

Brother and sisters, we have a redeemer! We have been called by name! We are his!

Well could Paul erupt in worship with the statement,

1 Corinthians 15:55 ESV
55“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The great fear has been overcome.

The source and foundation of the fearless life isn't found in you. It's found in the victory of our redeemer, Jesus Christ. The story of the gospel dispels all fear, telling us that we have been ransomed, rescued, and restored.

 Listen to the writer as he addresses us through the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hear the invitation of God, "Draw near to the throne of grace. Don't hold back in fear. The righteousness of Christ has made a way." We have a sympathetic High Priest, one who knows our frailties and weaknesses, but he still beckons us to come. Our courage is found in Christ and his achievements, not us and ours!

If that were not enough, God has opened his family to us. We, the greatest of illegitimate children, rebellious and warring as we were, through Christ we have been made adopted children of the Most High!

Romans 8:15 ESV
15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Praise God!

Do you want to know the secret of the fearless life? It's Christ! It's the message of the gospel. You will not find it within yourself, but only as you look to Christ.

Romans 8:31-39 ESV 
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  36As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But I need to close with a warning, and an encouragement.

There is a valid reason to have fear, even apart from the good reverential fear we should have toward God. This fear is the fear we should have for the one who holds the eternal destiny of our souls in our hands.

Matthew 10:28 ESV
28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

That's the warning I feel compelled to bring. Your eternal security rests firmly in the hands of God. You will stand before a righteous judge, and without Christ as your advocate, you don't stand a chance! But it isn't too late, today is the day of salvation. Today is your opportunity to turn to God in faith; leaving everything behind and clinging only to the love of Christ.

1 John 4:18 ESV
18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

So what fears do you have? What fears must be laid at the foot of the Cross?

The fearless life is found, not in yourself, but only in Christ. Let the gospel inform your courage.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV
10fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.