Summary: Deborah provides us with a terrific example of courage.
We're looking at the lives of Old Testament believers as we think about characteristics God wants to develop in us. Today, we're thinking about courage. A good, biblical definition of courage would be, "the strength to obey God even when I'm afraid and things are difficult."
Today, we're considering the example of an often overlooked woman from the Old Testament, Deborah. Let's see what we can learn about courage.
1. The need for courage - vs. 1-5
The people of Israel were living in fear of a foe. For 20 years, Sisera, the commander of the army of a Canaanite king, Jabin, had oppressed them. But the time came when God told Deborah that Israel needed to face their fear, challenge their foe, and change their lives for the better. To do this required courage.
We've said in this series that God calls us to stretch ourselves beyond living in the comfort zone to living in the character zone. That's what He was doing with Deborah. Deborah was definitely living in the comfort zone. She lived after Moses, but before the Israelite kings; in a time when each town had a judge - a respected person who would hear the disputes of the people and render judgment. Deborah held court under a palm tree. This was unique because women in those days didn’t have the same rights as men. For her to become a judge and eventually lead the nation, means she was a woman who was greatly respected. So life was good for Deborah. She was in the comfort zone. But God called her to commit herself to stepping out in faith and obedience to the call of God. God issues the same call to us. He does so in two ways.
A. God calls us to face our fears and challenge the foes that keep us in bondage.
There's always something we need to change about our lives on our journey to become more like Jesus; and often those changes involve facing a fear and challenging a foe. What fears might God be calling you to face? What foes might God be calling you to challenge? What changes might God want to make in your life? To commit to stepping out in faith and obedience to face our fears and challenge our foes in order to change our lives requires courage.
Dr. Adrian Rogers, in his wonderful book, "What Every Christian Ought To Know," identifies the three foes of every Christian. They are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The world is our external foe. The flesh is our internal foe. The devil is our infernal foe. The world attacks our soul. The flesh
attacks our body. The devil attacks our spirit.
In our youth, we're primarily tempted in the realm of the body to commit physical sins that have to do with the appetites of our flesh. Sins having to do with sex, addiction, violence, etc. The flesh preys on our fear of not being accepted.
In middle age, we're primarily tempted in the realm of the soul to commit sins related to self. The world comes at us with all sorts of things to pursue with the promise they will make us feel good about ourselves, like living for money, career, possessions, achievements, awards, etc. The world preys on our fear of failure.
In our old age, we are primarily tempted in the realm of our spirit. The devil comes at us with feelings of loneliness, being forgotten, being disrespected, being irrelevant, being worthless, or being abandoned. The devil preys on our fear of not being loved.
When these foes attack, they seek to hold us captive to fear, like Sisera did the Israelites. At such times, God calls us as He did Deborah, to face our fears, challenge our foes, and change our lives.
B. God calls us to face our fears and challenge the foes that keep others in bondage.
Deborah was to lead the nation to face their fear, challenge their foe and change their lives. Likewise, we are called to encourage believers to walk in the freedom they have in Christ; and to lead those who are without Christ to recognize that God has worked to provide them with salvation and deliverance, by sharing the Good News with them.
Too many of us are hesitant to share Jesus with others because of fear. We let fear of failure, not finding the right words, or rejection, keep us from challenging the evil one's hold on friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates. We need to face our fears, challenge the foe and share the Good News so other's lives might be changed by the Gospel. Even Paul had to face his fear when it came to sharing the Good News.
"I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate - I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it - and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway." - 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (The Message)