My dad picks up hitchhikers. When I was a kid, I vividly recall watching him open the door for sweaty, ragged strangers, then spend every minute of the drive telling them about Jesus.
A few times a year, my mom takes mini-vacations to a cabin in the mountains, usually alone. Sometimes dad joins her for a few days, but she’s never been afraid to venture out on her own.
One of the greatest gifts my parents have given me is the freedom of fearlessness. There are many things I’m afraid of, but life and death aren’t among them. I’m grateful they didn’t teach me to cower or fear the unknown. They encouraged me — never pushed, just encouraged — to see what lay beyond what I’d witnessed.
When I was in third grade, they briefly considered sending me to a private school in Georgia, where I would live with an unmarried teacher in her 20’s. In high school, mom implored me to consider being an exchange student. “Don’t you want to see the world?!” she asked. “You should travel more!” Dad spent years telling me I should go to Israel and Palestine — war zones at the time — before I ever took him up on it.
Fear is one the greatest obstacles of the disciple. It threatens to keep us from sharing the Gospel with family members, from venturing to lands unknown to advance the Kingdom, from speaking the truth to a brother or sister in sin, from obeying the radical promptings of the Spirit in moments where we’d rather stay comfortable and normal.
We’ve been invited into dangerous, beautiful things. Meanwhile, fear prompts us to protect ourselves, to hold onto what is “ours.” But nothing is really ours. Not today, not tomorrow, and certainly not yesterday. It’s all His. “From Him, through Him, to Him...” (Romans 11:36). I forget sometimes, though. When fear creeps up — that frantic feeling of nervousness — I try to identify what it is I’m trying to protect:
* If the thing that seems to be at stake is something shakeable or temporary (like my reputation or my rights or my comfort or my so-called safety), I ask Him to help me focus on the eternal things.
* If the thing that seems to be at stake is something unshakeable (like the Kingdom or the Gospel), then it’s not really at stake after all.
Either way, when fear rises up, the Truth calms my heart by reminding me what lasts. Then, being armed with the Truth, it emboldens me. I remind myself: what I perceive as danger may actually be an invitation to enter in. Nearly every beautiful memory I have, every joy I’ve experienced, has come as a result of facing some kind of danger or fear. Every person I admire in Scripture showed me how to do it — Abraham, Moses, Esther, Ruth, David, Paul, Peter, Elijah, Isaiah, Gideon, Lydia, Stephen, Uriah, Mary, Jesus …
The call of discipleship is a guarantee to lose things. It’s an invitation to come and die, perhaps even literally. It’s why I can hop a plane to Israel, to help people fall more in love with the Bible; news stories (albeit exaggerated and inaccurate ones) won’t keep me from doing that. It’s why I aim to boldly speak the truth to the people in D-Group, not having any idea what expressions will grace their faces when they watch the video I send out to all the groups each week. It’s why I plan to live and die for the Gospel.
But ultimately, the call of discipleship is a guarantee to gain the only lasting thing:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…” – Philippians 3:7-9
There’s only one way to properly embrace the invitation of danger. It’s rooted in the only thing that outweighs fear: it looks like faith, it walks like hope, and it feels like love. And no matter what happens, it wins in the end.