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Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear

Book Review

Can we train our hearts before that moment arrives and be ready to overcome fear with courage?

Aug 16, 2016

Fear and courage are interesting responses. In the moment, both feel quite uncontrollable. While they are reflexive in the moment, can we train our hearts before that moment arrives and be ready to overcome fear with courage? The answer is yes. In fact right now, by your present disciplines and decisions, you are either cultivating fear or courage for the times when pressure comes and action is required. Wayne and Joshua Mack can show you how to cultivate biblical courage.

Yet you don’t have to take the Macks word for it. By the time you are finished reading Courage you will have been presented with so much of the Bible’s teaching that you will know directly from God’s Word how to be a biblically courageous person.

The authors begin by offering biblical hope to their readers, and then focus on understanding the fundamental problem that leads to fear in a Christian’s life. They walk their readers through confession and repentance, and give practical strategies to becoming a person who fears God—in other words, a courageous Christian.

Courage is a command for Christians. It is both attainable and mandatory (page 21). Paul instructs Timothy to be strong, because “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians can be characterized by power, love, and self-control, instead of fear.

What kind of fear are we talking about? Distinctions are necessary. Natural fear is not wrong; in fact it is inherently human. It leads you to be prudent when confronted with danger (Proverbs 22:3) (pages 50-51). However, you can identify sinful fear by the following characteristics: if it hinders you from doing the right thing, or if it motivates you to do the wrong thing, if it is self-seeking, or does not believe the promises of God, or if it values other’s opinions over God (pages 54-62). This is the fear of which Paul warns Timothy, and this is the fear of which believers should repent.

On the other hand, there is a completely different kind of fear that believers are actually called to cultivate: a holy fear of the Lord (page 62). Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” But how do we understand this in light of 2 Timothy 1:7? Aren’t Christians supposed to do battle against fear? The Macks explain how the paradox works: you actually fight sinful fear (of man) with a righteous fear (of God). The fear of the Lord will ultimately extinguish the fear of man.

A Christian could be living in sinful fear for several reasons, including a guilty conscience, lack of trust, self-centeredness, and more (pages 92-99). In order to put off fear and put on courage, we must begin by acknowledging our sin and repenting before God. You simply cannot bypass this and head straight for the helpful strategies, because “you won’t truly change until you truly repent” (page 121).

Finally, how do you become a person with a robust fear of the Lord? How do you overcome fear of man with the obedient, courageous, righteous fear of the Lord? The Macks define fear of God as“a reflex, an attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding and awareness of the glory and majesty of the God of the Bible that causes a person to trust God, love God, obey God, hope in God, and be consumed with God—wanting to honor, magnify, glorify, please, and serve him in every area of life. This fear of God will involve your intellect, your emotions, and your attitudes and actions” (page 223-224).

They show that the only way to know and experience this fear of God is through learning his Word (Deuteronomy 4:10), praying and asking God for his help (Psalm 86:11), and learning to fill and quiet our minds with thoughts of this great God (Psalm 46:10) (pages 236-252). They spend much time unpacking biblical truths that you must believe in order to fear the Lord. Fearing God will not just lead to biblical courage, but it will also cause your whole life to flourish (Psalm 25:12-14).

This review leaves much more to say, and many more Scriptures to discover. The Macks will lead you well, and this book can help you put off sinful fear and put on a biblical and courageous fear of God.

Helpful Quotes

  1. “Do not allow your distress to keep you from thinking biblically about your situation” (page 32).
  2. “If your primary concern in life is protecting yourself, you are going to create a prison for yourself in your mind and throw away the key. But if your primary concern is glorifying God by His grace, by the enabling work of the Spirit who produces power, love, and a sound mind within you, then you’ve found the key to be free even if your body is locked up in a real prison” (page 20).
  3. “The point is: you are not worshiping the true God if you are worshipping a God you don’t fear” (page 171).
  4. “Courage is not the absence of fear….Courage is controlling fear; courage is the ability to face whatever happens without being overcome by fear” (page 282).
  5. “Don’t be so eager to stay safe. Make pleasing and glorifying God your top priority regardless of what may come your way” (page 20).
  6. “Some people hide from God by staying far away from His Word” (page 113).
  7. “If you have a problem with fear, worry, or anxiety, it doesn’t mean you have a problem with self-esteem. It means you have a problem with your faith!” (page 36)
  8. “You fear what you trust, and you trust what you fear” (page 99).
  9. “Many Christians….never considered the resources that are available to them in Christ, so they fail to take advantage of the privileges that belong to them. The result? They live like nonbelievers” (page 14).
  10. “The word Paul used for fear describes moral cowardice. He was referring to a sinful fear that would keep Timothy from obeying God and fulfilling his responsibilities” (page 11).