Monday, March 23, 2020

God, Make Me Brave for Life


The author of the poem, A Prayer for Courage, was Grace Noll Crowell. Though she died in 1969 (born in 1877), and was quite beloved, I had not heard this prayer-poem before.

Now I see it in many places online. Here are the words of her prayer, written post-Depression and World War II, times of great struggle for America:


A Prayer for Courage

God, make me brave for life
Oh braver than this!
Let me straighten after pain 
As a tree straightens after the rain,
Shining and lovely again.
God, make me brave for life,
Much braver than this!
As the blown grass lifts let me rise
From sorrow with quiet eyes,
Knowing thy way is wise.
God, make me brave. Life brings
Such blinding things.
Help me to keep my sight,
Help me to see aright,
That out of the dark comes light.

All I can add to this beautiful prayer is "amen." Lord, make me brave. Lord, make us brave!


God is ready to make us brave. 

I want to suggest 5 ways He transforms our fear into faith, our timidity into boldness:




1. He Comforts Us So That We May Comfort Others

Near the beginning of the second letter of the Apostle Paul to the people of the city of Corinth, he wrote these words:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NIV)

God's tender help and understanding flow into us in so many different ways - when a friend checks in on us, as we pray and our hearts rise, when we hear words from favorite worship songs. It's a fresh wind of "He knows. He sees me."

But when we then take the step to comfort others, how His comfort and presence flood in even more. When I was a pastoral care pastor, and visited many in the hospital, I always marveled at how alive and awake I felt after visiting several patients. The giving away of love inspired by God truly blesses us more than those who receive it.


2. He Clears Our Thinking So We Can Hear Him

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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..." (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

If our thoughts are weighed down by worry and guilt, it is hard to hear His cheering, uplifting voice. We remain paralyzed in fear, looking inward not upward, if we're only in a swirl of our own thoughts and if many of those thoughts are self-accusatory. 

The next verse in this passage says that we will manage to run
our race if only we will "fix our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

Jesus died to set all people free from sin, to take the punishment for it upon Himself. He also absorbed the shame and guilt of it for us.

He is not still suffering! He was victorious. He is the Resurrected One. He is not contemplating and savoring our sins and worries. He defeated them on the cross. Our task is to believe that and to receive it.

Repent and receive His forgiveness if you have never done that. Now is the moment. Or finally, truly accept it, if you have given your life to Christ but still continue to try to earn His love with your behavior. He died for us as our Savior. If we get a settled mind about that, we can really rest our attention on Him for the rest of our lives. Our capacity to live in a right way is then birthed in His love, through the power of His shed blood.

With His help, we can take this truth to heart. We can lift our eyes to Him and let Him perfect our faith. And by the way, we can look at that great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 above, who endured their own deep sufferings. They paved the way, as heroes and examples of the faith, prior to the coming of Christ, and still help us to know what courage looks like.


3. He Conforms Us to His Thoughts

God's Word, the promises that fill it, can transform our frightened, weary, despondent thoughts and make us rise up in power. It isn't just that we read something with our logical minds and say, "Well, ok." The words have power, supernatural power to change our thinking.

God says, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV)

Words like:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39 NIV)

One of the great old hymns of the past was "Standing on the Promises." And I don't even need to quote more lyrics. The title tells us the whole point. When we read those promises in the Bible, repeat them, memorize them, put them on a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, make them our lock screen verse, we gain courage.


4. He Calls Us By a New Name   

I love that the Bible gives us examples of God naming people with names that pull them into the future.

While Moses was still stammering and making excuses God was speaking to him as the Deliverer of the Israelite nation.

When Gideon hid in a wine press, so frightened of the invading people from Midian, the Angel of the Lord, showed up and said to him, "Hello, Mighty
Warrior."

And Peter was called the "Rock" by Jesus while he was still very immature.

God has a way of calling us and then equipping us, naming us as something beyond ourselves, someone who will accomplish something that only God could make possible.

Some Bible translations show Luke 1:37 (Mary's words about her carrying the baby Jesus in pregnancy), "For nothing will be impossible with God."

But I love the NIV version of her reaction, "For no word from God will ever fail."

If God has said it, we can count on it. We can become it.


5. He Commands Us and Arms Us for Our Battles

One of the names of God is The Lord of Hosts. He has the forces of heaven to send for our sake:

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways..." (Psalm 91:11 NIV)

As believers, He also equips us with authority and strength by His Holy Spirit in us and with us to carry on the ministry of Jesus with power and without fear.

Psalm 91 speaks to this spiritual mindset, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent." (v. 13)

In the New Testament, Jesus is recorded as saying to His joy-filled disciples as they ministered like Him and in His name, 

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." (Luke 10:19 NIV)

The challenge for people of faith is to get more rooted in this worldview, that we are meant to be extraordinarily brave and powerful people, as the Word and Spirit work in our lives, bring all that Jesus said and has done for us to mind, and root us in the Father's love.

Remember, if you are a believer, who you are in Christ, and what you have because of Him, "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)

"Submit yourselves, then, to God [turn your heart, your mind, and your life to our loving triune God; hold nothing back or try to figure it out for yourself. Worship Him!]. Resist the devil, and he WILL flee from you."
(James 4:7 NIV with my addition in brackets)


God make me brave for life! God make us brave for life!


For more about God's help with fear, see last week's blog.

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