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Summary: Fear is a part of life. I don’t believe people who say they’re not afraid of anything. Everybody’s afraid of something.

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Fear is a part of life. I don’t believe people who say they’re not afraid of anything. Everybody’s afraid of something.

I used to be afraid of eighth graders. They terrified me, bullied me, threatened me and laughed at me. Of course, I was a seventh grader at the time. I’ve gotten over that particular fear.

I don’t like roller coasters. It’s not that I’m afraid of them. I can walk up to any roller coaster on the planet and look it right in the eye. No fear.

Riding on them? That’s another matter. I don’t like riding on roller coasters. I could probably lose my distaste (did I say fear?) of riding roller coasters if I put my mind to it, but what’s the point? Is my life really missing roller coaster rides?

I guess fear is either dealt with or it’s not. I dealt with my fear of eighth graders; I grew up, I moved on. I haven’t really dealt with the riding roller coasters thing, but why bother? My not getting over that particular fear isn’t going to change my life much unless I’m considering the lucrative theme park ride tester profession.

This is point in the letter, when you’re supposed to say, “Okay Steve, what’s your point?”

Here it is. Ready?

Courage isn’t the lack of fear. It’s doing what you know you have to do in spite of your fear.

*****

I read about Gideon this morning (Judges 6 – 8). Gideon was a Judge. Not a black robe, sit on the bench, listen to court cases judge. A Judge back in old Israel was a natural leader/hero that rose up to rule the people of Israel, kind of by default. It wasn’t really by default; God picked them to be judges, it’s just that not everybody knew about God picking them at the time, including the judges themselves.

Gideon was like that. He certainly didn’t see himself as any kind of epic hero. When God went to talk to him, Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress. What that really means is that Gideon was doing his chores in a place he wouldn’t normally being doing his chores because he was hiding from the bad guys.

The bad guys were the Midianites. They would sweep into Israeli territory, trample the crops, eat the sheep, steal the donkeys and do all the other things bad guys do.

This had been going on for seven years and Gideon was just trying to stay out of the way. That’s when the angel of the Lord sat down under an oak tree next to the winepress to have a talk with him. The angel said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Mighty warrior? Not Gideon. Mighty warriors don’t do their chores in a winepress because they’re afraid of bad guys.

The story gets a little sketchy here. The angel, it turns out, either spoke for God to the extent he felt free to use first person pronouns or God Himself was doing the talking. Any way you shake it, God was having a personal powwow with Gideon. “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Well, I don’t think Gideon knew who was talking to him. Gideon answered, “Look, I’m the scrawniest kid of the scrawniest family of the scrawniest tribe in Israel. You must be looking for someone else.”

The Lord wasn’t easily put off and He knew that it wouldn’t be Gideon doing the heavy lifting on this job. “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

At this point Gideon suspected that he may not be talking to an ordinary stranger and it just might be You-Know-Who or one of His representatives. Oh boy. “Look,” he said, “If it’s really You, wait right here and I’ll go get an offering and bring it back.”

The Lord waited.

Gideon came back with a basket full of goat meat, a pot of broth and some bread. The angel, or the Lord, or Whoever, instructed Gideon to put the meat and the bread on a rock. Then he touched the meat and bread with the tip of his staff and WHOOFF! The whole thing went up in a ball of fire (what happened to the pot of broth is one of those Bible mysteries we’ll probably find out on the other side) and Whoever disappeared.

Gideon figured out Who he was dealing with. “Oh man.” “Oh man.” “I saw an angel of the Lord face to face and now I’m gonna die.” “Oh man. Oh man. Oh man.”

Not quite the response of an epic hero.

The Lord had to reassure him (I know, the story said He disappeared, but He’s still talking. I hope it wasn’t in an audible voice; otherwise folks would Gideon was nuts). “Relax,” The Lord tells him. “Don’t be afraid. You’re not going to die.”

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