Develop a Brave Heart: Be Strong and Courageous! "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
One recent Sunday my pastor taught on David and Goliath, “like David, having a brave heart is crucial in this life, yes, a brave heart is critical equipment to survive this life.” He warned there is a kind of fear that shuts us down in life and leads us to dark despair where we stop asking the question, “what does God want me to do in this situation?” It’s critical for every believer to be courageous and to not lose heart no matter what life or circumstances stun us with.
A brave heart is born out of authentic faith in God, and a brave heart is crucial for experiencing the indestructible life of Christ this side of Heaven.
Life is overwhelming and painful, so we are prone to self-medicate to get through it; ironically destroying ourselves and others in the process to escape our pain.
Last month a precious young adult, with more God-given potential than most I know, ended his life because he refused to endure the pain, fear and disappointment of it. I get it!
I started this post months ago, but I am compelled to finish it now as I dedicate it to him believing with all my heart the truths packed here will save and empower every wounded heart and desperate soul who is hurting and in despair.
I am thankful I knew him. I am thankful for the influence he had on my son, my life, my family, our friends, and our grieving community. Our lives are all better having known him, and our world is not as wonderful without him in it.
We long for our home in Heaven with Jesus and our sweet fried, Alex, until then we must continue to fight the good fight of faith with courage and strength. We believe the seeds Alex planted will continue to grow and multiply, and we will do our best to water them and care for them.
Do you have a brave heart or a fearful and anxious heart?
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4
The most frequent command in the Bible is “do not be afraid.” Simply knowing Scripture is not the same as believing it and applying it to our crushing circumstances. To have the supernatural strength of Christ to endure and thrive in this dark world, we must intentionally study the Scriptures and apply them to our circumstances.
As we develop an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer and a growing knowledge of His Word; we will experience the power of His holy spirit, and as we trust Him, we will have deep joy, peace that passes understanding, unwavering hope, wisdom beyond our years, and a supernatural emotional strength no matter how difficult or painful the circumstance. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
How do we develop a brave heart?
Faith in Jesus: we must understand faith in Jesus. He died on the cross for our many sins. God said, “there must be shedding of blood for forgiveness of sins,” so He sent His One and only Son, Jesus, fully man and fully God, to earth to shed His blood for us. We are reconciled to Holy God based on this truth. Ephesians 1 explains:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Our sinfulness vs. The Holiness of God=Damnation apart from Christ’s death. Get it?
Because of Jesus, we have the promise of spending eternity in glorious heaven with God when we die. Not because of anything good we do, but because of what Jesus already did for us by taking the cross on our behalf.
Acceptance by God is not performance- based for us. The only performance that was necessary was Jesus dying on the cross, and Jesus did it! He accomplished it! We can spend the rest of our lives celebrating this truth and worshiping Jesus for being faithful to His mission.
We must remind ourselves of this truth daily and preach it to our downcast souls when they forget. No more fear of death and dying, we have eternal hope and peace with God because of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. This is amazing grace.
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12
Be Empowered by the Holy Spirit: Once we put our faith in Jesus, we are promised the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us! We don’t have to live this life in our own strength. We are too weak and easily distracted and tempted, so we get to surrender to His spirit for the strength that moves mountains and scales walls. With Him we are more than conquerors, and nothing is impossible!
“You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Most of us live life in our own strength and miss out on the power of relying on the Spirit. We miss out on experiencing the power of living a life that cannot be destroyed.
Be Aware of the Devil’s Schemes: Understand there is a powerful enemy intent on destroying us, and his greatest weapon is unbelief that he exists.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27 (Holding onto anger gives the enemy an opportunity to create bitterness and rage in our souls which will ruin lives and relationships. If only in hearts before God, we must intentionally forgive the ones who wound us daily. We must learn to resolve conflict peacefully and respectfully and forgive abusers; while maintaining safe boundaries. Forgiveness is a must, but reconciliation is case by case.)
Be Prayerful: Once we understand the first three truths, we are equipped to fully overcome anxiety and fearfulness!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4
So, according to this verse, when we are anxious about something, anything, we are to pour our hearts out to God in prayer and stay on our knees till the peace that passes understanding floods our hearts and minds regarding the matter.
Guard Our Thought-Life: The battle is in the mind!
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
Identify Core Issues of Circumstances and Act: we must learn to be content in our circumstances, but we must make sure we are not suffering from our own sinfulness or foolishness.
God has a perfect plan and will for our lives, and He uses difficult circumstances and suffering to strengthen our faith and develop Godliness in us.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2
That being true, understand, He does not expect or desire for us to suffer apart from His plan. In other words, there are times we make foolish and sinful choices; such as, drinking too much and getting a DUI, overeating and becoming obese, engaging in toxic relationships instead of fleeing from them. These circumstances create pain, stress, depression, and anxiety for us that are not God’s perfect plan for us, instead, we have complicated are lives. We may be on a path of destroying the life God intends for us when we make sinful and foolish choices repeatedly. 1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 4:15-20
It is never too late to fall on our knees and intentionally follow God’s will for us. When we do, He promises to clean up our messes and redeem our lives for His glory and our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Philippians 8:28
It may take time to be content with our circumstances once we are following God’s plan for our lives, but it is worth the journey and the wait to allow Him to guide us and instruct us day by day and moment by moment. He uses the time to develop our relationship with Him, strengthen our faith in Him, and establish Godly character in us.
There are times we are victims of someone else’s sinful behavior; such as a cheating spouse, an abusive parent, or a rebellious child. The Lord weeps for us and with us when this happens. Just as He does not intend for us to be content with a sinful or foolish lifestyle, He does not expect us to be content with circumstances created by evil done to us. He may call us to separate from an abusive parent or spouse instead of seeking to be content with them, etc.
As a Christian counselor and mental health case manager, my role is to first assist the client with identifying their mental health needs and assess what is going on with their circumstances or what may have traumatized them in their past that is causing them significant anxiety and depression.
Next, we prayerfully consider all options and solutions that are within the power of the client to change.
Next, we pray for wisdom and clarity to develop a plan of action to make effective changes based on scripture.
Next, we pray for courage to implement the plan.
When obstacles are identified or arise, we pray for divine intervention from God to change the things or the people the client cannot change; such as the heart of an abusive parent or spouse or unjust judge.
Then, we wait and observe how God is going to work either to empower the client’s new boundaries to change the circumstances or change the heart of the abuser or cheater.
This prayerful interaction with the Lord coupled with the courage of the client to act is how faith in God is developed resulting in transformed lives and brave hearts to survive and thrive this side of Heaven!
Collaborating with Jesus to Transform our Lives
Think about this, according to scripture, a single mother of five young children to no fault of her own, living in poverty is not to be anxious, instead, she is to pray and be content, and she is to be strong and courageous. She is to pray for help, wisdom, open doors for well-paying jobs, the courage and energy to walk thru the doors, affordable housing, a positive support system, well-behaved kids, God’s protection for their safety, freedom from all worldly coping mechanisms of drinking, drugs, medications and co-dependent relationships, and courage to obey God’s purpose and plan for her life as a single mom.
As she prays, she is to work diligently, knowing, “I can DO all things through Christ who gives me strength.” She is to be alert to the well-being of her children, and she is not to be distracted from caring for them daily, understanding that caring for them is her highest calling and responsibility from God.
The Bible describes Jesus this way, “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Where is His power at work? Within us! His Holy Spirit truly works through us to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” We collaborate with His spirit to change our lives and circumstances.
I have personally witnessed the following scenarios of lives transformed by authentic faith in almighty God while diligently applying His ways found in Scripture to their various circumstances:
“In this life you will have troubles, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” -Jesus