In Luke 12:4, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.”
Jesus wanted them—and by extension, us—to understand what we should fear in life.
Are we to fear losing friends? Are we to fear someone yelling at us because of our beliefs? Are we to fear standing up for what is right?
No, what we should fear is losing the chance at eternity with God. All the rest are temporary things. But where we end up after we die is forever.
Last week, I watched an excellent talk on moral courage given by Hugh Brown, executive vice president of American Life League. In this 30-minute talk presented at the Bringing America Back to Life Conference in Ohio, Hugh addressed the fears we have, how we conquer them, and the faith we must attain in order to have courage to proclaim the truth about God.
Hugh stressed that “the devil uses fear” to destroy—not just people but societies and cultures. Indeed, this is why, as we look around our world today, we see so many elements of the culture of death winning.
We see disdain for faith. We see hatred for the preborn baby. We see derision for the elderly and for those with disabilities. We see violence and threats of violence. Through all this, it can be incredibly difficult to have no fear.
Yet that is what God calls us to do.
But we must remember that fear has two components—the emotion and the action. Jesus wasn’t telling His disciples that the feeling of fear would simply disappear if they told themselves “I have no fear.” He was trying to teach them the importance of having faith, trusting in Him, and then using that fear to become courageous despite the feelings.
Faith helps us deal with fear and channel it to something good. Faith helps us become courageous even if we aren’t sure what will happen to us.
Through faith, we gain moral courage. But attaining moral courage doesn’t happen overnight. We must work at it. Why? Because as Hugh stated, the Lord needs and wants us to do great things in His name. If we hide away out of fear and never shine the light of Christ to others, we are not doing good things in His name.
Think about the first apostles right after Jesus’ death. They had hidden themselves in a room, afraid for their lives. They certainly felt fear. But then the Holy Spirit descended upon them and gave them courage. Some of them may have still felt afraid, but they no longer cowered in that fear. They allowed their faith to lead them as they went and proclaimed the good news to others.
This is what God calls us to do as well. In our world today, we all have a special role to play—whether that’s in our family, in our friend group, in our community, or at a national level. We all have special talents and the responsibility to charitably stand up for our faith, to not water it down because people don’t want to hear it, and to then go out and live it.
We may think we have courage, but do we really? It’s easy to have conversations with friends and like-minded people. That doesn’t take courage. But how many of us actually have the courage to be the one person to stand up for what is right or to talk to those who don’t believe in God, who adamantly believe that abortion is a “right,” and who teach that euthanasia should be a person’s “choice”? Likewise, it’s easy for people like me to write articles about the faith, but how easy is it for you to repost faithful articles or to share them with the people you know who lack faith or who have fallen away? How easy is it for us all to stand up everywhere and proclaim that we are faithful followers of Christ and that our faith means everything to us?
This can be hard! But God would never leave us alone and without help. He is always with us. We can go to Him anytime in prayer. In addition, He gave us the saints as examples to emulate and to pray to when we need strength, as many of them faced far worse situations than we do. So when we feel that fear may overtake us, let us read stories of the brave saints who overcame their fear and who didn’t allow it to stand in their way of doing God’s work. They will help us persevere and give us the mental toughness we need.
And as Hugh said, “Mental toughness leads to moral courage.”
In 2000, just a handful of years before his death, Pope John Paul II said, “It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
That is the heart of the message of the Bringing America Back to Life Conference. Jesus and the saints will help us find that moral courage within us to change not only our world but the people in it so that they, too, know Christ and can spend eternity with Him. This is why He tells us to never be afraid.
This article first appeared in The Stream at stream.org/america-needs-the-courage-that-comes-from-god.