What Christians Get Wrong About ‘Being Brave’

The introduction of my upcoming book, The Bravest You, begins with me sitting in church when I was 10 years old, listening to a pastor tell everyone in the congregation that fear was wrong and that we shouldn’t fear. I don’t explore my relationship with God much in my book because it’s not a Christian book. But here I will talk more about my life perspective from growing up in the Church, and maybe you can relate to my story.

The pastor used 2 Timothy 1:7—KJV of course—to prove his claims: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The problem I had with what he had to say was that I was extremely fearful as a kid. (If I couldn’t find my parents in a store, I thought I had been left behind in the rapture.) But people mess things up, like the pastor I just mentioned.

He neglected to tell everyone that fear is normal and that everyone fears, and it skewed my perspective of fear and bravery for the worse. I’ve been a part of other churches where people mess things up too—it’s only human nature—so my relationship with God isn’t contingent on mistakes, but these mishaps do provide good stories to tell later.

But my misunderstanding of fear didn’t stop in my adolescence; it would continue until my early 20s. Sure, I covered up my fearfulness to the best of my abilities, but that didn’t cancel out the fact that it was still there. I prayed and prayed about it, but fear remained. After praying about my fears until I could pray no more, I figured that God just wasn’t into answering my prayers about my fears, so I eventually put in the research to find that passion is what ultimately pushes people to bravery. This is why Christians and non-Christians can both find bravery. Our main focuses are different, but everyone has something or someone they are passionate about.

But don’t get me wrong—whether you are a Christian or not, you will have to put in the work to achieve your dreams. You can pray all you want to, but you will always sow what you reap. That’s a principle that will last until the end of time. No, not every step you take will produce the results you are looking for, but the difference between the brave and the fearful is that the brave get up more often than not. The brave also tread new ground.

I never thought I would do anything outside of having a traditional ministry position because that’s what good Christians are supposed to do. We Christians are supposed to grow up, become senior pastors or youth pastors or choir members or deacons, right? But I didn’t become any of those things. In fact, I moved to Colorado to help plant a church and found out that I am not wired to be a church planter, so I ended up quitting that adventure after a short time and now find myself helping people in life and business through coaching and consulting.

My road has been interesting, but the journey is what makes it all worthwhile. As I’ve lived more life, I have learned that bravery isn’t the brave pirate sword fighting that most people think of. Real-life bravery looks more like showing up when you need to show up and a willingness to take the first step. Remember, the fruits of the spirit don’t include bravery, but they do include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, all of which will help us live more courageous lives—especially patience and faithfulness.

With all of this talk about bravery, I am reminded of the story of Peter from Matthew 14:25-31:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

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I used to only see that Peter fell in the water once he doubted Jesus, but I can now see that Peter had to first get out of the boat to step foot on the water, and that in itself required bravery. (And if Peter and the other disciples were afraid when they could see Jesus face-to-face, then it is completely normal to doubt Him when you cannot even see Him in the literal sense.)

Jesus could have easily said to Peter, “Fear be gone,” so that he could have the faith he needed to walk. But like my unanswered prayers, Jesus doesn’t handle fear like that. He makes us get out of our boats, but our faith in Him is what sees us through. And yes, even though God is bigger than your circumstance, fear will still come. But if you’re a Christian, then your advantage with fear is the ability to talk with a powerful God who cares about you, who possesses abundant wisdom.

So, my question to you now is, what is the boat you need to get out of? To find what you are looking for, you must take the first step with faith in your heart and passion in one hand and fight in the other. The world needs your bravery.

Adam Kirk Smith is the author of the upcoming book, The Bravest You. He is an entrepreneur, consultant and speaker. You can find out more about Adam at http://asmithblog.com/about.

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