Courage in Christ

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Recently I was called to be a missionary and study cross-cultural ministry. However, I always thought that if God wanted to use me in ministry that He would keep me right here where I am comfortable… in the United States, maybe in Painesville, close to home and close to my mom just in case I ever needed anything. And this is what I fully intended on studying when I picked up the double major of Social Work and Pastoral Ministries. However, this is not what God had in store for me. After a few weeks of prayer, fasting, and seeking guidance from those God has placed in my life, I took up the courage to accept the call to missions that God had revealed to me.

I went to the Registrar’s office here at Malone University and changed my major to Social Work and Missions & Cross-Cultural Ministries, but kept a minor in Pastoral Ministries just because I enjoyed those classes and wanted some education to fall back on if things didn’t work out on the mission field. After sitting down and working with my schedule for the next few years, I wanted to make sure I took the right classes at the right time to graduate by my set date, but as I did this I started to become very overwhelmed. The thought of, “how am I going to pay for all of these classes?” or “How am I going to take 19 credit hours each semester until I graduate?” or “Am I able to take any of these classes over the summer to help?” flooded my mind. I was actually becoming fearful and scared as I thought about the next few years of schooling that I was about to endure. I was distraught and didn’t know what to do.

Finally, I let myself get quiet before the Lord and sought out advice from those God placed around me. The common question I heard was: “why do you think you need to take that many classes for what you plan to do after you graduate?” I finally let that question sink in. I thought about it and thought about it and eventually I came up with the conclusion that I was keeping the Pastoral Ministries as a minor for comfort. I was scared that things wouldn’t work out in the mission field and I wouldn’t have any other education to fall back on. I wasn’t trusting God completely in that He would make it all work out no matter what happened. So, I decided that I needed to take a brave step and let it go (no reference to Frozen please!).  I dropped my minor in Pastoral Ministries.

Since I have done this I have had a peace like no other. Also, submitting completely to the will of God has allowed Him to enter into my heart and work even more in my life. God has opened the doors for me to go on a mission’s trip to Nepal this summer for a whole month. That means taking a month out of my summer of not working and earning money for tuition. I knew without a doubt that God would provide the funds for my trip, but started to worry about not making enough money this summer for tuition next year. I was quickly reminded of how faithful our Father is. God is Yahweh Yireh, the God who provides and He has provided two summer jobs for me that are very flexible.

As God has me running on a treadmill with the speed turned on high, He is leading me into a new season of life. A season of fully submitting to God and allowing Him to provide for me like He promises He will. A season of practicing simplicity. A season of sacrificing things that I love, such as iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and shopping at the mall to be a better steward of my money. A season of hanging out with my friends less in order to spend more time in the word and in prayer.

But let me tell you friends, it’s not exactly easy to just take on a new season of life. There are things that come with it: new responsibilities, new environments, and a totally different comfort level. Sometimes it is scary to take on these new things because of the fact that it’s in an uncomfortable place that we have never been before.

Think of the Israelites for example, they were out in the wilderness for forty years from a place they knew as “familiar” – Egypt. It may not have been a very healthy comfort zone, but it was what they were used to. Their needs were provided for. Being pulled out of that and put into a new place brings fear…fear of the unknown. However, Moses offers some hope and light for their situation, and it is very helpful to us as well when we are entering a new season of life.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV).

Moses tells the Israelites not to fear, but instead to “be strong and courageous”. In other words, Moses is giving the Israelites hope in saying that God is always with them, they only need to be courageous and do as God calls them to.

The same goes for us friends! When God calls us into the unknown instead of cowering back and letting fear take hold of us, we need to stand strong in our faith and let courage and boldness reign in our lives. Then, brothers and sisters, we will be able to live in the will of Christ. We can know that He is always with us, He is leading us in the direction that He wants us to go, and He will never leave us.

Do you remember the old movie The Wizard of Oz? The one with the Wicked Witch of the West who Dorothy and her dog Toto are running from to find their way back to Kansas? Do you remember the friends she met on the way? Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion? Let’s focus on the Cowardly Lion. What was it that he wanted? He wanted courage. You see, he was a lion, but he was afraid of everything! When we think of lions we think of king of the jungle don’t we? Not this lion!

So Dorothy and her friends set out to find the Great and Powerful Oz to get the things they desired. Dorothy just wanted to go home to Kansas, Scarecrow just wanted some brains, Tin Man wanted a heart, and the Cowardly Lion just wanted courage. Again, let’s focus on the lion. When they find the Wizard and he finally gives them what they desire, what does the wizard immediately say to the Cowardly Lion? He says the lion is “a victim of disorganized thinking” because he believes he doesn’t have courage. Then he goes on to say that the lion is “under the unfortunate delusion that because he runs away from danger he has no courage”. Then the Wizard gives the Cowardly Lion a medal that says, “courage” to help him understand that he has always had courage, he just needed to believe in himself.”

Friends, are you letting the same “unfortunate delusion” run your life today? Are you a victim of “disorganized thinking” in that you let yourself believe that you do not have courage and strength? Are you letting fear hold you back from doing what God has called you to do? I was there, we have all been there, and we will all encounter it again in the future. We need to remember that in Christ Jesus we have the same medal of courage that the cowardly lion had. As I enter into this new season of my own personal life, I am trusting God and am covered in strength and courage just like Moses told the Israelites to have in the wilderness. I hope you will all join me there.

For more on the COURAGE God imparts to us, check out Pastor Aaron’s new sermon series, “Joshua: Courage Unleashed,” on our PAG Blog to learn about how the truths that the courage founded in Christ applies to our own individual lives.

Joshua

Friends, if you are overwhelmed with life, if you are living in fear, and if you are worried about tomorrow, do not wait. Seek God now and receive the peace that He has for you. Let courage and strength reign in your life today.

Jenny Bushnell,
College Student, Writer, Blogger

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