A few weeks ago, I gave a brief devotional at our departmental weekly prayer time. Because the constant barrage of local, national, and international news seems focused on raising our fear level, whereas God has called us to faith, Crystal suggested I share this message with my team and I am posting it here as well.

What is Faith? … Hebrews 11:11 -Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (ESV)

How do we show faith? James 2:14-26 teaches we show our faith by our actions.

How about Courage and Bravery? They are tied to actions as well. As I evaluate actions, acting in faith is acting without fear, where acting with bravery is acting despite fear. Both are important but they are different. To act in faith is to act without fear for oneself because of a full trust in our God and His Savior.

An Australian singer/speaker/author, Aliki Flodine, summed up some related thoughts in her book Fine Lines as: On the surface, faith and bravery look similar. The difference is below the surface. There’s a storm under bravery and a calmness under faith. I’ve gone through seasons of bravery and it is hard work keeping up appearances. The battle keeps raging, and the butter knife achieves nothing. Faith doesn’t necessarily remove the obstacle or end the battle, but faith puts a sharp sword in our hand to cut through layers of burden, doubt, fear and the enemy’s lies. Faith grows when we find out what God is really like. It is found in the Bible and it’s found in the character and person of Jesus. The search for understanding and faith will slowly disband the exhaustion of bravery. That’s freedom. Easy? No. Achieveable? Yes.

Here are some examples of the World’s view of courage:

  • Nelson Mandela — I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes — Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. Have the courage to act instead of react.

For the record, I think Mandela’s and Holmes’ definitions are closer to bravery than courage. But in either case, neither really offer a true biblical view. The biblical definition of ‘bravery’ is more along the lines of not showing fear even if you are afraid, whereas when God tells us to be courageous, in most cases it is stated as ‘take courage’ or ‘take heart’ which infers it is something outside ourselves, whereas in our culture, courage comes from within. I.e. “dig down inside and find your courage” or something like that.

Stated in another way, a truly courageous act would be one that happened by faith, not by bravery. Today’s bravery or world definition of courage is substituted as a cheap form of faith. Bravery is what the world refers to most when referencing courage. And when the world does refer to faith it refers to “blind faith”. ie Trust without any knowledge. While many times we need to have faith without the full knowledge, we almost always have some knowledge. And that knowledge of God and His work enables our faith to grow.

Conversely by not having fear because of a firm trust of Christ, we will see amazing things happen. Jesus said with a mustard seed size amount of faith a mountain could be moved. Therefore, if your calling is to be where you are and the calling has come from God, what do you have to fear? Now, let me make a case for when bravery may be appropriate. Sometimes, we may be afraid, but have a small amount of faith in God coupled with bravery to get us past our fears and into action. Next time we face a similar challenge, we will have less fear as our faith based on knowledge has grown. And thus we move toward a fully faith filled life.

To sum up: faith is in opposition of fear.

One last thing I want to mention briefly, the Bible does point to a proper place for fear and that is fear of God. But this fear is a different type of fear than what I have been talking about which has more in common with terror. The fear of God is more of a true proper respect for the ultimate authority above Creation who holds our eternal existence in His hands.

Remember perfect love casts out all fear! Walk today without fear because God, who is by definition perfect love, has called you.

Questions for reflection/discussion:

  • Where is your faith hampered by fear?
  • What difference would it make if you didn’t fear?
  • Where are you acting in bravery instead of faith?