Courage does not panic; it prays.

Even though life expectancy has doubled and disease research is at an all-time high, you’d think the bubonic plague was raging in the streets. Reporter Bob Garfield tracked health articles in major publications and discovered that, among other health issues,

  •    59 million Americans have heart disease,
  •    53 million Americans have migraines,
  •    25 million Americans have osteoporosis,
  •    16 million struggle with obesity,
  •    3 million have cancer,
  •    2 million have severe brain disorders.

Reportedly, in total, 543 million Americans consider themselves to be seriously sick, a troubling figure since there are 266 million people in the country. As Garfield noted, “Either as a society we are doomed, or someone is seriously double-dipping.”

There’s a stampede of fear out there. Let’s not get caught in it. Let’s be among those who stay calm. Let’s recognize danger but not be overwhelmed. Acknowledge threats but refuse to be defined by them. Let others breathe the polluted air of anxiety, not us. Let’s be numbered among those who hear a different voice, God’s. Enough of these shouts of despair, wails of doom. Why pay heed to the doomsdayer on Wall Street or the purveyor of gloom in the newspaper? We will incline our ears elsewhere: upward. We will turn to our Maker, and because we do, we will fear less.

Courage does not panic; it prays.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

God outside the box

Don’t we need to know the transfigured Christ? One who spits holy fires? Who convenes and commands historical figures? Who occupies the loftiest perch and wears the only true crown of the universe, God’s beloved Son? One who takes friends to Mount Hermon’s peak so they can peek into heaven?

Ascend it. Stare long and longingly at the Bonfire, the Holy One, the Highest One, the Only One. As you do, all your fears, save the fear of Christ himself, will melt like ice cubes on a summer sidewalk. You will agree with David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1).

In the book Prince Caspian, Lucy sees Aslan, the lion, for the first time in many years. He has changed since their last encounter. His size surprises her, and she tells him as much.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

And so it is with Christ. The longer we live in him, the greater he becomes in us. It’s not that he changes but that we do; we see more of him. We see dimensions, aspects, and characteristics we never saw before, increasing and astonishing increments of his purity, power, and uniqueness. We discard boxes and old images of Christ like used tissues. We don’t dare place Jesus on a political donkey or elephant. Arrogant certainty becomes meek curiosity. Define Jesus with a doctrine or confine him to an opinion? By no means. We’ll sooner capture the Caribbean in a butterfly net than we’ll capture Christ in a box.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

When you are afraid

So, see to it that you are not alarmed (Matt. 24:6 NIV).

“See to it . . . ” Bosses and teachers are known to use that phrase. “See to it that you fill out the reports.” Or “Your essay is due tomorrow. See to it that you finish your work.” The words call for additional attention, special focus, extra resolve. Isn’t this what Christ is asking of us? In this dangerous day, on this Fabergé-fragile globe, with financial collapse on the news and terrorists on the loose, we have every reason to retreat into bunkers of dread and woe.

But Christ says to us, “See to it that you are not alarmed” (NIV).

“Keep your head and don’t panic” (MSG).

“See that you are not troubled” (nkjv).

“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10 RSV).

Make sure the hull of your convictions can withstand the stress of collisions.

Builders of the Titanic should have been so wise. The luxury liner sank because contractors settled for cheap rivets and suffered from poor planning. Rivets are the glue that hold the steel plates together. Facing a shortage of quality bolts, the builders used substandard ones that popped their heads upon impact with the iceberg.

How sturdy are the bolts of your belief? Reinforce them with daily Bible readings, regular worship, and earnest communion with God. “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

And remember: “All these [challenging times] are the beginning of birth pains” (Matt. 24:8 NIV), and birth pangs aren’t all bad. (Easy for me to say.) Birth pains signal the onset of the final push. The pediatrician assures the mom-to-be, “It’s going to hurt for a time, but it’s going to get better.” Jesus assures us of the same. Global conflicts indicate our date on the maternity calendar. We are in the final hours, just a few pushes from delivery, a few brief ticks of eternity’s clock from the great crowning of creation. A whole new world is coming!

“These things must come to pass” (Matt. 24:6). Must is a welcome word that affirms that all events, even the most violent, are under a divine plan. Every trial and trouble has a place in God’s scheme. “The reason why we ought not be terrified is not because wars are not terrifying. Quite the contrary. It is because above all chaos reigns a divine plan.”

All things, big and small, flow out of the purpose of God and serve his good will. When the world appears out of control, it isn’t. When warmongers appear to be in charge, they aren’t. When ecological catastrophes dominate the day, don’t let them dominate you.

Let’s trust our heavenly Father in the manner Peter Wirth trusted his earthly one.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

What to do with your doubts

To one degree or another we all venture into the valley. At one point or another we all need a plan to escape it. May I share mine? Those Sunday morning sessions of second-guessing dissipate quickly these days thanks to a small masterpiece, a wellspring of faith bubbling in the final pages of Luke’s gospel. The physician-turned-historian dedicated his last chapter to answering one question: how does Christ respond when we doubt him?

He takes us to the Upper Room in Jerusalem. It’s Sunday morning following Friday’s crucifixion. Jesus’ followers had gathered, not to change the world, but to escape it; not as gospel raconteurs, but as scared rabbits. They’d buried their hopes with the carpenter’s corpse. You’d have found more courage in a chicken coop and backbone in a jellyfish. Fearless faith? Not here. Search the bearded faces of these men for a glint of resolve, a hint of courage—you’ll come up empty.

One look at the bright faces of the females, however, and your heart will leap with theirs. According to Luke they exploded into the room like the sunrise, announcing a Jesus-sighting.

[The women] rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. (Luke 24:9–11 NLT)

Periodic doubters of Christ, take note and take heart. The charter followers of Christ had doubts too. But Christ refused to leave them alone with their questions. He, as it turned out, was anything but dead and buried. When he spotted two of the disciples trudging toward a village called Emmaus,

Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. (vv. 15–17 NIV)

For this assignment angels wouldn’t do, an emissary wouldn’t suffice, an army of heaven’s best soldiers wouldn’t be sent. Jesus himself came to the rescue.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Ordering life the way we order gourmet coffee

If only we could order life the way we order gourmet coffee. Wouldn’t you love to mix and match the ingredients of your future?

“Give me a tall, extra-hot cup of adventure, cut the dangers, with two shots of good health.”

“A decaf brew of longevity, please, with a sprinkle of fertility. Go heavy on the agility and cut the disability.”

“I’ll have a pleasure mocha with extra stirrings of indulgence. Make sure it’s consequence free.”

“I’ll go with a grande happy-latte, with a dollop of love, sprinkled with Caribbean retirement.”

Take me to that coffee shop. Too bad it doesn’t exist. Truth is, life often hands us a concoction entirely different from the one we requested. Ever feel as though the barista-from-above called your name and handed you a cup of unwanted stress?

“Joe Jones, enjoy your early retirement. Looks as if it comes with marital problems and inflation.”

“Mary Adams, you wanted four years of university education, then kids. You’ll be having kids first. Congratulations on your pregnancy.”

“A hot cup of job transfer six months before your daughter’s graduation, Susie. Would you like some patience with that?”

Life comes caffeinated with surprises. Modifications. Transitions. Alterations. You move down the ladder, out of the house, over for the new guy, up through the system. All this moving. Some changes welcome, others not. And in those rare seasons when you think the world has settled down, watch out. One seventy-seven-year-old recently told a friend of mine, “I’ve had a good life. I am enjoying my life now, and I am looking forward to the future.” Two weeks later a tornado ripped through the region, taking the lives of his son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and daughter-in-law’s mother. We just don’t know, do we? On our list of fears, the fear of what’s next demands a prominent position. We might request a decaffeinated life, but we don’t get it. The disciples didn’t.

“I am going away” ( John 14:28).

Imagine their shock when they heard Jesus say those words. He spoke them on the night of the Passover celebration, Thursday evening, in the Upper Room. Christ and his friends had just enjoyed a calm dinner in the midst of a chaotic week. They had reason for optimism: Jesus’ popularity was soaring. Opportunities were increasing. In three short years the crowds had lifted Christ to their shoulders . . . he was the hope of the common man.

The disciples were talking kingdom rhetoric, ready to rain down fire on their enemies, jockeying for positions in the cabinet of Christ. They envisioned a restoration of Israel to her days of glory. No more Roman occupation or foreign oppression. This was the parade to freedom, and Jesus was leading it.

And now this? Jesus said, “I am going away.” The announcement stunned them. When Jesus explained, “You know the way to where I am going,” Thomas, with no small dose of exasperation, replied, “No, we don’t know, Lord. We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” ( John 14:4–5 NLT).

Christ handed the disciples a cup of major transition, and they tried to hand it back. Wouldn’t we do the same? Yet who succeeds? What person passes through life surprise free? If you don’t want change, go to a soda machine; that’s the only place you won’t find any.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Die bravely

Jesus grants courage for the final passage. He did for Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. When the pilot discovered he had terminal cancer, he and his wife went to spend their final days at his Hawaiian home. He engaged a minister to conduct his last rites and wrote out these words to be read at his burial service:

We commit the body of Charles A. Lindbergh to its final resting place; but his spirit we commit to Almighty God, knowing that death is but a new adventure in existence and remembering how Jesus said upon the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Death—“a new adventure in existence.” No need to dread it or ignore it. Because of Christ, you can face it.

I did. As heart surgeries go, mine was far from the riskiest. But any procedure that requires four hours of probes inside your heart is enough to warrant an added prayer. So on the eve of my surgery, Denalyn, I, and some kind friends offered our share. We were staying at a hotel adjacent to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. We asked God to bless the doctors and watch over the nurses. After we chatted a few minutes, they wished me well and said good-bye. I needed to go to bed early. But before I could sleep, I wanted to offer one more prayer . . . alone.

I took the elevator down to the lobby and found a quiet corner and began to think. What if the surgery goes awry? What if this is my final night on earth? Is there anyone with whom I should make my peace? Do I need to phone any person and make amends? I couldn’t think of anyone. (So if you are thinking I should have called you, sorry. Perhaps we should talk.)

Next I wrote letters to my wife and daughters, each beginning with the sentence “If you are reading this, something went wrong in the surgery.”

Then God and I had the most honest of talks. We began with a good review of my first half century. The details would bore you, but they entertained us. I thanked him for grace beyond measure and for a wife who descended from the angels. My tabulation of blessings could have gone on all night and threatened to do just that. So I stopped and offered this prayer: I’m in good hands, Lord. The doctors are prepared; the staff is experienced. But even with the best of care, things happen. This could be my final night in this version of life, and I’d like you to know, if that’s the case, I’m okay.

And I went to bed. And slept like a baby. As things turned out, no angel came. I saw no fedora. I recovered from the surgery, and here I am, strong as ever, still pounding away at the computer keyboard. One thing is different, though. This matter of dying bravely?

I think I will.

May you do the same.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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