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Entries in Christian bravery (2)

Tuesday
Sep102019

Seeking Spiritual Discernment Is Brave

Janet Thompson writes solid, biblical books on a number of tough topics—cancer, prodigal children, infertility, mentoring, etc.—and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she challenges us to look at the topic of discernment, which is more than just knowing what to do.

"Imagine a scenario where you observe a situation and your instinct tells you something isn’t right, but you look around and no one else seems alarmed," Janet said. "Everyone is carrying on as if nothing abnormal is happening.

"Do you intervene or do you walk away?"

Good question! I (Dawn) have often prayed for discernment about a tough situaiton, and then when I got that answer from the Lord, sometimes it was truly hard to follow through. I'm glad Janet is taking the topic of discernment one step further, because sometimes we need courage to obey God's direction!

Janet continues . . .

As women of faith, praying for the spirit of discernment can prove to be a brave and bold request in itself.

When we humbly ask God to reveal His will to us for specific situations, even when others may not see what we perceive, God may ask us to perform courageous acts that could be life-saving or forever life-changing.

We can become the brave spiritual warriors that our world needs so desperately.

We tend to categorize “brave women” as those who go into the mission field or into the military. Police officers, firefighters, first responders. Any woman who goes into a dangerous career, willing to lay down her life for a job, cause or belief is superhero—brave in our eyes.

Or we may only attribute bravery to men.

Typically, we don’t consider that “ordinary” women like you and me display real bravery and courage every single day, often in the routines of life.

We may not realize that a courageous heart makes us “superheroes” to those who know us and especially to God.

How Do We Know When God Wants Us to Bravely Intervene?

James 1:5–6 reminds us:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

1. Pray.

Prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s wise direction and guidance gleaned from reading the Bible and prayer.

Spiritual discernment and godly wisdom lets God guide.

2. Be patient.

Discernment takes time and effort to develop as we grow and mature in our faith and develop an ability to sense God’s plan and purpose in a given situation.

3. Obey.

Expectantly ask God for the willingness, strength, and desire to take whatever action our discernment dictates and let God handle the consequences.

Some Christians are more sensitive than others to the still small voice of God; but with patience, studying—not just reading—God’s Word, and a desire to know God’s will, we all have the ability to seek and obtain discernment to be braver than we ever thought possible.

Maybe you’ve sensed the pain behind a word or facial movement or body stance. You know there’s a sadness hidden behind, “No, everything is fine.”

Discernment is seeing what others may not see or say.

It’s more than just a hunch, or burying our hunch in denial, even when faced with observable evidence of a problem. When we discern a situation, we have a choiceignore or ask God what He wants us to do about it.

Sometimes, we can wait to take action, but other times we can’t dodge, deny, or dismiss the signs that our discernment is revealing—we’re the ones who must act immediately.

In Everyday Brave, I tell the biblical story of Huldah, an Old Testament prophetess who King Josiah asked to decipher the meaning of the lost “book of the law” found during restoration of the temple. Huldah felt dismay, but not panic, as she resolutely read the words in “the book.” She knew she must bravely tell the king the dreadful consequences of the Israelites’ sin and rebellion.

God wanted her to proclaim the truth, no matter how distressing, from His written Word.

Fortunately, because of King Josiah’s grief over hearing from Huldah about his people’s unfaithfulness to follow God’s laws and His covenant with them, God gave a reprieve of punishment during Josiah’s reign.

Josiah took advantage of God’s grace to initiate a spiritual revival.

Lives saved, spiritually and physically, all because Huldah bravely resolved to interpret God’s Word truthfully, even though it was painful for all to hear.

In moments that require the spirit of discernment, we need to pray for God’s protection and then respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. If we ignore the Holy Spirit, we may regret it or even feel responsible for a preventable crisis.

It takes great courage to step out in faith on a revealed truth.

If it’s God’s will, He will be there, giving us the help and reassurance we need when it’s difficult or others shy away from getting involved.

When you act on Holy Spirit–inspired discernment, you’re braver than you know.

So what would you do now when facing a situation you know isn’t right? 

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author. She mentors women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet's latest book, Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith, releases today, September 10, 2019! Among the 20 books she's authored: Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness; Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. She founded Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Sign up for Janet's blog/free newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.

Graphic adapted, Photo courtesy of Bethany Laird on Unsplash.

Wednesday
Jan202016

Finish Well: Take Courage

If we want to finish well, I believe the first thing we must do is take courage!

As I (Dawn) mentioned in an earlier post, I am resetting my priorities and goals in order to "Finish Well" ... to complete the rest of my life with joy. I think it's important for seniors to pause and evaluate, to determine what needs to change in order to someday hear God's "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21), but also for a better life while we are on earth.

God, I believe, gave me three marching orders last June: (1) Take Courage; (2) Build Strength; and (3) Embrace Freedom.

In this and the next two UPGRADE posts, let's consider these three "resets."

Today, it's TAKE COURAGE.

I think these are days when Christians must be brave. There is too much at stake for our nation, churches and families for us to sit back, timid shadows of the warriors God calls us to be "for such a time as this."

The Israelis have a word for this: hazaq (pronounced Hah-zahk).

Hazaq is a verb meaning to be or become strong, firm or courageous. It is one of the Hebrew words used for man's power ("strong hand") and also God's power.

Hazaq was often used in the Old Testament to encourage soldiers to be strong (for example, Deuteronomy 31:6; 2 Samuel 10:12) and not be afraid of their enemies, because God would go with them. According to a biblical scholar friend of mine, a form of this phrase (Raq hazaq) is still used today by Israeli soldiers. They shout, "only be strong".)

We see this concept in Psalm 27:14:

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (ESV)

We are to wait for and confidently expect the Lord! We are to allow our heart to "take courage" in Him!

Marvin Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham,* describes how, in ancient and modern-day synagogue services, an entire congregation will shout loudly to each other, "Hazaq! Hazaq! Venith Hazeq!" ("Be strong. Be strong. Let us strengthen each other.")

One of the secrets to taking courage is to come alongside each other, supporting each other in the battles we must face!

I think there are at least four practical ways we can be strong and "Take Courage"—especially in the second half of life.

1. Face Uncertainties Bravely.

Our confidence is in Christ, as Psalm 27:14 indicates. Because our confidence is not in our weak flesh, we can face the uncertainties of life bravely.

In fact, when we trust the "arm of flesh," we are playing into the enemy's desire to destroy us! (See Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 17:5; 2 Chronicles 32:8.) We must always face life's uncertainties with the Lord, not in our own strength!

It's foolish to stay up worrying at night, afraid of the unknown. God is faithful in our future as clearly as in our past and present. And what's even more precious, if we have trusted Christ, God is our loving Father. He desires what's best for us—no matter our circumstances—and we can trust Him.

Wise King Solomon said it plainly:  

"Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence..." (Proverbs 3:25-26, ESV).

2. Confront Your Weaknesses.

Face down your weaknesses. And your failures. And your sins.

God can enable us to courageously face who we've been, what we've done, and who we are in our darkest moments even now. Covering up or hiding what is true about our lives is not the path to growth or freedom.

We like to stay hidden in the darkness, hiding our ugliness. We don't want to come to the Light of God (John 3:19-20); but who do we think we are kidding? Jeremiah says our "ways" are not hidden from God's sight (Jeremiah 16:17; Isaiah 29:15).

We must come to God and welcome Him to enter the secret places in our hearts if we ever hope to have mercy, forgiveness and strength in ministry.

  • "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13, NIV)
  • "... Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12b, NIV)

When we have that merciful freedom of forgiveness, there's no need to fear being "exposed."

3. Stand for Righteousness.

And then, when our spiritual house is in order, we're in a better position to have spiritual influence. And oh, how this world needs spiritual influence ... BIBLICAL influence.

Even as we are courageously taking all our sins and faults before the Lord—"confessing" them, agreeing with God about them (1 John 1:9)—we need to remember who we are in Christ!

We are already righteous in the sight of God, because of what Jesus has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:22a; 4:5; 10:4).

The life we now live is "in the Son of God" who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). In and through Christ, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. And in that confidence, we can stand against the wickedness in our world.

We can stand for righteousness, knowing God will be with us, enabling us to do the work He calls us to do.

4. Become a Warrior.

God calls us to be soldiers in His army. We must determine to impact this world for Christ, using our spiritual gifts and the Christian disciplines as tools for our warfare.

In Christ, we can be a soldier of the cross. We can go into to battle, enabled for the fight by the grace of God.

  • Some will do battle on the front lines, exposing Satan's lies with the truth of the Word of God.
  • Some will battle as mighy prayer warriors for those in the thick of the conflict.
  • We all have a part. No one should be standing on the sidelines.

So take courage! In Christ, you will finish well.

Which of these four "Take Courage" goals is hard for you? Ask the Lord to show you how you can change in order to finish well.

* Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, p. 190.

Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM). Dawn is the co-author of a devotional, LOL with God, and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, from pixabay.