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26th April 2015
"I learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it." (Nelson Mandela)
So often in life we can be more aware of our fears than we are of courage. Fears can fill our minds in the middle of the night. Sometimes when we see fears start to stir, all hope of courage feels lost. We can mistakenly believe that courage and fear don't co-exist. But actually the seed-bed of fear is a great place for courage to grow and for us to prove God in the circumstances of our lives.
When people do something courageous, it's catching. It causes us to step a bit further than we've gone before. That's what happened in Acts 4, when Peter and John were bold and courageous. When people lead by example, it stirs courage within others.
We know that Peter wasn't naturally bold. We know that last time he was accused of something, it was by a little girl, and he ran away! So now, in Acts 4, before the high priests, what hope would Peter have of being bold and courageous? Peter and John were uneducated, common men who were standing in front of not just one high priest but three! Fear would be a natural thing here. Yet Peter and John are full of boldness and courage. They don't hold back!
There wasn't necessarily an absence of fear here. But they triumphed over their fear with incredible courage. They were and are an amazing example. What was the source of their courage?
Peter and John had spent three years with Jesus. When you spend time with Jesus, it's noticeable. The reason we encourage you to read your Bible and to pray is because we want you to encounter Jesus. It's why we come to church meetings. It's why we give Him our best in worship. My ambition for all of you is that day by day you will encounter Jesus. You cannot encounter Jesus and remain the same. Peter and John started to look and sound like Jesus. When we spend time with Him, the same happens to us!
Christians don't grow more mature over the passing of the years; we increase in maturity by spending time with Jesus. But for Peter spending time with Jesus wasn't enough – as shocking as that might sound! Peter spent three years with Jesus but still ran away when challenged by a servant girl. The difference between then and this account in Acts 4 is that Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is the source of our courage, but the Holy Spirit empowers us to be courageous. So how do we step into courage? It's something we can grow in – it's not a static thing. In Acts 4:23-31 we find some helpful things to help us become more courageous. One of the first ways to overcome obstacles of fear is to share them (verse 23), either by telling someone else or by taking someone with you to do something you need courage to do.
Secondly, the followers of Jesus remembered (vv24-28). They filled their minds with who God is, not their fears. We need to be men and women who know how to preach to ourselves – we need to remind ourselves of who God is.
They also prayed. They asked God to fill them with boldness and to perform miracles (vv29-30). We keep praying and we keep seeking God; we pray and push in and take courageous steps and see what He will do.
They were filled with the Spirit, too (v31). Not just once, but again and again. We need to be continually filled with the Spirit so that we can be increasingly courageous.
Finally, they stepped out and acted (v31). We can do all the previous steps, but we do, in the end, need to step out and go for it!
All of us experience fear, but Peter and John have given us this incredible example of courage. A few chapters in the Bible later, we're going to find such fierce persecution that the Church is scattered. But as they went, they witnessed. They had grown in courage and it prepared them for what was coming.
It was the same for Jesus. He is our great example of courage and faith. He courageously went to the cross on our behalf. Jesus is the ultimate example as well as being our source of courage. He empowers us by the Holy Spirit so that we can triumph over our fears with courage.
Posted by Paul Mann