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Courageous Living

The Bible repeatedly instructs God's followers to "do not be afraid."  But it also teaches God's followers that the "fear of God is the beginning of wisdom."  This poses a bit of a paradox!  This four sermon series promotes courageous living even (especially) in the face of fear. 

Fear plagues many church-going Christians.  Some don't even realize that their fear is the core of their life problems.  This series helps people identify where fear is contaminating their quality of life and teaches us how to live courageously in the face of fear.  It does this through healthy biblical teaching mixed with sound psychology.  The primary source for the psychology is Telling Yourself the Truth by Marie Chapian and William Backus.

While 3 of the four sermons tie to the Lectionary for Year B Easter and Pentecost season, this series fits just as well anywhere in the calendar.

Courageous Living 1: Dealing with Bad Fears (Year B 4Easter)

Psalms 23.4 (Even when I walk through the darkest valley...), Numbers 13 & 14 (esp v9 ... don't be afraid of the people of the land...), 1 Samuel 17.1-50 (David/Goliath), Luke 8.22-25 (Jesus/storm)

Thesis: Because of the high cost of living in fear, God offers us his presence and the promise that “I will allow nothing into your life that you and I together cannot handle.”

After putting God's instructions about fear in biblical perspective, this sermon describes five costs for living in fear. The last part of the sermon teaches that the reason God's followers don't need to fear is because God's presence goes with them into every situation. It also teaches  that God never lets us get into a situation that together with God we cannot handle.

Courageous Living 2: Responding to Fear (Can fit A,B Proper 14 or C Proper 6, 7, 8)

1 Kings 16.29-19 (stories of Elijah)

Thesis: God wants us to face fear knowing that he is present and that together there is nothing we can’t handle. He urges us to take concrete steps directly toward our fear - often by “going back the way we came.” (1 Kings 19.15).

When many people see a scary situation emerging their instinctive reaction is avoidance. In some situations even the prophet Elijah did this. But other times Elijah had the courage to move out against the inertia of his fear. This sermon uses Elijah stories to help us know how, and have the courage to, take action in the face of fear.

Courageous Living 3: Courage in the Face of Fear (Year B 6Easter)

1 John 5.4-5 (For every child of God defeats the evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.)

Thesis: There are at least 5 kinds of courage that delight God’s heart: relational courage, courage to resist temptation, courage to pursue the dreams God gives us, courage for difficult decisions, and courage to endure.

This is a very practical sermon that includes several pertinent present-day illustrations.

Courageous Living 4: What is the Fear of God all about? (Year B 7Easter)

Exodus 20.18-20 (the people tremble in fear after experiencing God), Proverbs 9.10

God has infinite physical power and is perfectly holy; sin stains us beyond our ability to fix.  But God loves us so much that he paid the price for our sins, and he extends us his hand in a relational covenant that is far deeper even than the best of human marriage.

I developed this sermon for a combined worship of English, Mandarin, and Cantonese speakers.  In such settings, I like to use objects as illustrations because such things communicate visually instead of relying so heavily on language.  This sermon uses six objects to help people reconcile God's instructions to "be not afraid" and the same time that we are to remember that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom."  The six objects are:

  1. Tesla coil (but if you're not comfortable with this you can use a photo of lightning)
  2. Spotlight
  3. Stain
  4. Cross
  5. Overdue tax bill (any overdue bill will work)
  6. Marriage license

This sermon ends with an invitation to relationship with God based on the acronym ABC:

  • Acknowledge the stains in my life
  • Believe that Jesus' death pays the penalty for these stains.
  • Commit yourself to a relational covenant with God - today.

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