How different would your life be if you were no longer afraid of anything? I’ll tell you: it would be different. My answer to my question is informed by a series of responses by a large group of elderly people gave to a survey asking what their biggest regret in life was. Almost without exception they responded by saying that their biggest regret was that they didn’t take more risks in life. With the benefit of their hindsight they could now see that what they were afraid of when they were younger was never worth being afraid of!
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Courage is not the absence of fear – courage is doing what’s right and noble, despite being fearful. God knows that we are all subject to various fears at various times to varying degrees. When He says, “Do not fear” – it is not a scold; rather, it is an infusion of His assuring Word into our fearful souls which enables us to be courageous – in much the same way that Christ’s word to Peter, “Come!” had the divine power to obey it infused into it (Matt. 14:29). Most of us fear the same kinds of things: being humiliated, being rejected, being harmed, being a failure, being a loser, and death. How different would our lives be if experience God’s reassurance in these times enabling us to have courage?
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:10, 13
F.W. Boreham loved cricket. As a boy in the school class room he would often be caught daydreaming as he imagined himself on the cricket ground enjoying all of the delights of the sport he loved. Having matriculated high school at the age of 15, his father arranged for him to be a junior clerk at the local brickworks. A part of his responsibilities was to make sure that the early morning train out of the brickworks yard had the correct number of carriages with the correct loading. One particularly foggy Kentish morning he and the signalman went over to the tracks as usual and F.W. Boreham confesses in his autobiography that his propensity for daydreaming probably caused him to be somewhat negligent about where he was standing as he checked off the carriages. As the train was about to come past them, the signalman pushed the points lever to switch the tracks for the train – but what Frank Boreham had neglected to notice was that these were double points with a dual lever. As the signalman pushed his lever forward the other lever, which the young Boreham was in front of, knocked him onto the tracks in the path of the oncoming train! It was around 50 yards before the loaded train could stop. Frank’s right leg had been severed just below his knee. It was 1886, and medical treatment for such injuries were extremely crude by today’s standards. FWB contracted septicaemia and was given only a slim chance of survival. Medical staff did their best for him, but eventually they realised there was nothing more they could do for him. They telegrammed his mother to advise her that within the hour her son would die. Frank Boreham’s mother immediately went down to her church and pleaded with God to spare her son. She would later write to her son –
“Then I knelt by myself” Boreham’s mother told him, “and I prayed for you. I told God that if He gave you back to me, I should always regard you as His own, and I vowed that I would never rebel against any use that He wished to make of you. When I rose, I felt that an intolerable burden had been lifted from my heart.” Crago, p. 26
Frank had a sudden and miraculous recovery the very moment his mother prayed and offered her son wholeheartedly to God and His service if He would spare his life. Throughout the rest of life, Frank was never able to play his beloved cricket again. But when he moved to Hobart he got involved in the Hobart Cricket Club and soon became its president. Upon moving to Melbourne in 1916, he became a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and became one of their most loyal members, never missing a first-class match.
And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:19
When F.W. Boreham was discharged from hospital and came home to recuperate, the day came when he could return to work. As he walked from his front door on his way to the Brickworks he had barely made it past his front gate when he lost his balance on the icy pavement, slipped, fell and broke his left leg. He would break this leg another three times throughout his life and would live in the constant fear that this would happen again. Added to this constant fear, Frank was incredibly shy and had to work incredibly hard to be around people. When he wrote his autobiography he would reflect-
Like the medieval saint, we can testify that we have had many and great troubles in our time, but most of them never happened! F.W.Boreham, “My Pilgrimage”, 1939, p.221
Boreham learned that each of his fears could be overcome doing two things: (i) keeping his focus God and living in His presence (Matt. 6:33). In his classic book, A Bunch of Everlastings, he quoted Brother Lawrence to make this point, “Were I a preacher, I should above all other things preach the practice of the presence of God; and, were I a director, I should advise all the world to it, so necessary do I think it, and so easy, too. I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God: while I am with Him I fear nothing, but the least turning from Him is insupportable” (p. 34); and, (ii) walking in faith rather than according to his natural feelings. To this end he determined to lay down his life and shyness for Christ and try to develop Christ’s heart for people by initiating celebrations with others around significant dates and events in his life. This included his birthday, his ordination as a minister, his induction into his pastorate, his wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of his church.
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:7
As someone who battles with shyness, I have learned from F.W. Boreham about how to deal with it and glorify God in the process. Yet, I know that for many of us, fear can be crippling. It’s common for people to fear the unknown. The future is unknown. It’s common for people to also fear change. People bring change. People can be scary. If I could give everyone who battles with fear two gifts, I would want to give them the two gifts that God has given me through F.W. Boreham – a greater vision of the grandeur and beauty of God, and, a holy courage to do what is unnatural but good by choosing not to be intimidated by people.
THE THING ABOUT DRAGONS
There is a classic story about a boy and his dragon. One day he comes into the kitchen and asks his mother whether there is such a thing as dragons. She tells him of course not. But Mum, he protests, they must be real, because there is one in my bedroom. That’s ridiculous his mother tells him. The boy returns to his bedroom and the dragon is now bigger. The boy then asks his mother to come and see the dragon in his room. Shoe comes to his bedroom and refuses to acknowledge that there is actually a dragon there. As she persists in her denial of dragons, the dragon gets even bigger. In fact, the dragon gets so big she has to move around it to vacuum the house – yet she persists in denying its existence. At the end of the day when her husband arrives home from work he finds that their entire house is now missing. A neighbour comes over and tells him that a giant dragon poked its feet through the floor of their house and walked off with it. The father tracks down their house and asks the dragon to return their house, to which his wife joins in the request (finally acknowledging the existence of the dragon), to which the dragon agrees and puts their house and then begins to shrink back to its original size. The moral of this story is that when we avoid and deny our fears they only get bigger and scarier.
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. Proverbs 29:25
In the closing book of the Bible, Christ is introduced to His frail and fearful first century audience by telling them fear not!
¶ When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, Rev. 1:17
And then His Revelation closes with the best reason ever for not ever being afraid of the dragon again.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12:9
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, Revelation 20:2
It is my prayer for you that whatever dragons you’ve been afraid of, that you will now get a revelation that Christ is greater, grander and more glorious than any dragon! With your eyes fixed on Christ and your heart set on walking after Him by faith, you no longer have to be a slave to your fears and you can now live with the constant assurance that God is your heavenly father who has adopted you as His child – and He is the kind of Daddy who always looks after His children!
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15