Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early , and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying , Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying , Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. Judges 7:1-3
I don't know if you have ever thought about this, but for the rest of their lives, 22,000 men had to tell their sons when other people talked about the battle against the Midianites that they went home with the women and children. Why? Because they were afraid.
It's OK to be afraid. In fact, only a fool is never afraid. Fear can make you cautious, make you walk circumspectly, make you think and rethink what you're about to do or say, but if it paralyzes you, imprisons you, and drives you from the battle and causes you to disobey the words of God, then fear becomes a sin.
Instead the Bible gives clear commands to the child of God on how to act regardless of your feelings or ability. We are told in Psalms 31:24 to "be of good courage". We are told in 2 Tim 1:7 that God has "not given us the spirit of fear." In 2 Sam 2:12, we are encouraged to "play the man for our people"; to continue on in the face of the fear that would paralyze us, and drive us from the field of battle. We are told to confront those things that would cause us to abandon our responsibilities and carry on for the cause of Christ, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of our abilities or lack thereof.
Three separate times in the book of Joshua, on the cusp on great battles in which his mettle would be tested, God commands Joshua to be "strong, and of a good courage. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Joshua was probably quite reasonably afraid. A lack on his part on his part would cost men their lives unnecessarily. He was probably afraid of the battle ahead, and specifically whether or not he had what it takes. The truth is, he didn't have what it takes, none of us do.
In 2 Cor 2 , the Bible says that we are a savour of life unto those that live, and a savour of death unto those that perish. it then poses the question "who is sufficient for these things?" My reply is simple; I am not, and neither are you. The things we accomplish for God are, by their very nature outside of our abilities and beyond our strength. Nobody has the courage to do consistently what God has commanded us to do. But knowing that, and acknowledging that, is the secret to courage. After all, the Bible tells us in Ps 27:14 to "Wait upon the Lord, and be of good courage" even as Proverbs 3 admonishes us to "lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path." Waiting upon the Lord will give us the strength , and the courage to carry on despite our incompetence.
I will give you an example. I have een involved in publick ministry for a few years now ( almost 18) and it is my joy to be able to take 'newbies' outon the street. A few years back, a young man who was a survivor of my Sunday School class went with us up to Savannah to preach during the St. Patricks Day parade. It was his first time out, and when it was his turn to preach, he locked up. This is not an unheard o fevent, in fact, it's pretty common. So one of us jumped in and filled in for him in order to give him a moment to gather himself. Soon it was his turn again, with the same result. We made the rounds again, and for the third time , he found himself paralyzed with fear at preachign to the hostiel audience. It was almost tiem to break for lunch, so I told him not to worry about it, that it happens soemtimes and that I was certain he woudl get it next time. I saw resolve flare up in his eyes and he told me "No, I've got to do this." He closed his eyes, reared back and said , as loud as he could "THE BIBLE SAYS..." and he was off and running. It was one of the greatest examples of true courage I had ever seen, an example of carrying on in the face of great fear.
One of my favorite pieces of Mr. Shakespeares writings comes out of Henry V. After laying claim to the French throne, Henry goes to battle. In 1549, at the battle of Argencourt, Henry's exhausted troops were met with fresh French reinforcements. According to Mr. Shakespeare, this is a how Henry imparted courage to his men:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
It has been my honour for the last several years to labour with some truly brave men. I am a pygmy of the faith compared to them. Someday when we are are old and toothless we will have great stories to tell of how God supplied the courage for us to serve him, and how that only started when we realized how helpless and incapable we were without him.