Heroes Part 4: Courage
On Sunday 18th August we continued our series 'Heroes'.
We are focusing on courage today. We need courage when we are afraid. We all have different fears. Some are rational and some irrational.
I have been scared of very different things over the years; butterflies, spiders, public speaking, and heights to mention just a few.
Fear could sometimes be:
Public speaking may be one. What do we expect to happen?
For a fear to be justified it needs to have two components there. The thing that you are afraid of need to be both POTENT and IMMINENT. In other words, powerful and close. Faced with a poisonous snake both elements are there. It can and might attack you and it is close enough to do damage. However, faced with a plastic snake it may be imminent but it is not potent. In the case of my fear of butterflies and moths they are imminent (close) but not potent. They cannot harm me.
Our modern-day hero is Malala Yousafzai, who at the age of 16 was shot in the head by the Taliban for her decision to stand up for the rights of girls to receive an education. She knew that the danger to her was both potent and imminent. She was afraid but thought the cause worth the risk. She knew that fear is an emotion, courage is a choice. In her autobiography she says this; “I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don't be afraid — if you are afraid, you can't move forward.” You can see a potted history of her life by clicking here.
Our biblical hero is the same. She is Esther. To this day her courage is celebrated with a festival called Purim. Her courage saved her people from genocide.
Esther lived during the reign of King Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. Esther was one of the Jewish people living in Persia at the time. She was one of the thousands of Jews who had been exiled from their own country. She lived with her older cousin Mordecai who had taken care of her after her parents died. They were among the Jewish people who had been exiled from their homeland. After Queen Esther displeased him, she was banished to exile. After a nationwide search for a new queen, Esther eventually is chosen. He liked her better than all of his other wives and makes her his queen.
Mordecai tells her of a plan that has been hatched to slaughter all of the Jewish people in Persia and asks Esther to go to the King and ask him to save her people. Esther initially says no because she is afraid to go to the king because going without an invitation could mean instant death, even for the queen. Her fear is both potent and imminent. Mordecai persuades her. He asks the question. “Who knows maybe you have been made queen for just such a time as this?” Fear is an emotion; courage is a choice. She chooses to do it and pleads her peoples cause. He cannot change the edict to kill the Jews but makes another law giving the Jews the right to fight back. Esther’s courage saves her people. You can read the whole story here.
Fear is an emotion, but courage is a choice.
Malala talks about fear holding us back. Too often we allow our relatively trivial fears hold us back from serving Jesus. We have brothers and sisters all over the world who face real danger that is both potent and imminent. It doesn’t stop them from following Jesus. They face imprisonment, death and everyday persecution and yet they know that fear is an emotion but courage in a choice. They choose courage. When I go to our monthly prayer and praise meeting, I hear real life stories of Christians who risk their lives and livelihoods to follow Jesus. It is a real challenge to me. It puts my fears into perspective.
1. What in the story of Malala strikes you particularly?
2. What in the story of Esther strikes you particularly?
3. Do you know of anyone first-hand who has literally had the courage to be prepared to lay down their life?
4. Make a list of the sorts of things that we can do that are risky and might cause us to be fearful.
5. Have you ever made the decision to put your fear to one side and take your courage in both hands to do something that has a significant risk?
6. What are the sorts of things that God might ask you to do that would include a risk?
7. Malala says, “Don't be afraid — if you are afraid, you can't move forward.” Is there something that you are afraid of that is holding you back? Is the fear about a False Expectation Appearing Real? Think about these things and weather the risk is imminent and potent.
8. God gave Esther the strength to overcome her fear and she achieved a miraculous outcome that had a profound effect on many, many people. What do you need to ask God to give you the strength to face in order to move forward?