Chapter OneSession 1
THE BIG PICTURE
My dad fought in World War II, so I grew up listening to war
stories. His stories about human courage in the face of fear
and struggle had a magnetic effect on me-I could not pull
away from his side when he told them.
My father was sort of an eccentric person. He once bought a
sailboat in Ireland and sailed it across the Atlantic Ocean,
enduring a five-day hurricane and facing many other challenges
on the open sea. Before he set sail he collected and read
a small library of books on sailing, so he had some idea what
he was in for. But it was still a trip to be remembered for a
Over the years I think I have read every book my dad collected
in anticipation of that journey. He had books about ocean
crossings, shipping disasters, the sinking of the Titanic, and all
sorts of other ocean adventures. Whenever I would get to the
part where the ship was going down and there weren't
enough life jackets, my heart would start to race and my
throat would get dry. When some guy said bravely, "Take my
life jacket," committing himself to the cold, shark-infested
waters of the ocean, something happened inside of me. Every
time I read an account of someone saying, "Take my seat in
the life boat. I'll go down," my breath would get short and my
pulse would start to race. This was real-life courage!
The truth is, anytime I hear about someone demonstrating
courage rather than cowardliness, something happens inside
of me. I find myself saying, "That's what I want to be like. I
wish I had more of that in my life. I don't want my life debilitated
by fear. I don't want to live life paralyzed by worry. I
don't want to compromise my convictions. I don't want to
quit when I face difficult challenges. I don't want to be a coward.
I want to be a person of courage!"
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Describe an act of courage you have witnessed.
What are some of the ordinary, day-to-day acts of courage
that people perform without ever being noticed?
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read 2 Timothy 1:7-12
2 The apostle Paul exhibits a spirit of courage and deep
commitment in this passage. What seems to drive or
motivate him to remain courageous?
How does the example of Paul challenge or move you to want
to be more courageous?
3 This passage says God does not put a spirit of "timidity"
or cowardice in His followers. Illustrate what you
think a spirit of timidity looks like in one of these areas:
In a marriage
In a friendship
In the marketplace
In raising children
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "Spiritual Courage"
I want to dissect the concept of courage into smaller pieces so we can really get a look at it. We need
to examine how courage relates to different dimensions of our lives. First, I want to focus on spiritual
courage. You see, we don't often think of courage in spiritual terms. But we have all heard the well-worn
expression, "Christianity is for weak people." Some people think Christianity is for cowards
I've always been fascinated by this accusation because I have found the exact opposite to be true. I marvel
at the incredible amount of courage it takes to even become a Christian. Following Christ demands the best we
have. It calls for more than we can give. Living as a fully devoted follower of Christ takes courage on a daily basis
for the rest of our lives!
4 Respond to this statement: Christianity is for cowards;
it is a crutch for the weak!
How did you exercise courage when you first became a follower
5 How does living as a fully devoted follower of Christ
demand courage from you in one of the following areas:
In your workplace
Where you live
In your friendships with seekers
In your family
Read Snapshot "Moral Courage"
Have you ever thought about how much moral courage it takes to operate ethically and honestly in
the marketplace? Too often we lack the courage to admit the truth. We want to please customers so we
say, "The shipment will be there Monday," even though we know it won't be there until Wednesday.
Christians are also called to be courageous morally when it comes to financial matters. Each year, as
we pay income tax, we see who is courageous and who is a coward. We either demonstrate moral
courage by reporting all our income, or we cave in and have to admit to being moral cowards.
And how about staying sexually pure in a sex-crazed culture? It seems to me that it takes a tremendous
amount of courage to stand by your convictions even when everyone else says you are hopelessly idealistic,
old-fashioned, and a little bit strange.
6 What does moral courage look like in one of these
When it comes time to do your taxes
When sexual temptation lurks at the door
When you have given into a temptation and been
When you are tempted to bend the truth to avoid
7 How and where in your life are you being pressured to
cave in morally and not exercise courage? Explain.
What support can your small group members offer you to help
you live with courage in this area of your life?
Read Snapshot "Relational Courage"
When people ask me, "What does it take to build a meaningful marriage?" I am sure to say, "A good
marriage is made up of varying ingredients, but one thing I know for sure is that it takes courage." For
a relationship to flourish in a marriage, there must be intimacy. And it takes an enormous amount of
courage to become vulnerable and self-disclosing. A coward can't say, "This is who I am. I'm not
proud of it, but this is who I am."
This same depth of courage is mandatory for authentic relationships between friends, between parents and
children, or between colleagues at work. Courage is always an essential element in an authentic relationship.
8 How have you seen courage build a healthy
Describe a time you saw cowardice undermine and destroy a
9 What is one relationship you need to strengthen by
exercising more courage?
What is one thing you will do to courageously strengthen this
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Facing Your Fears
Growing in courage has something to do with facing crippling
fears. We tend to think that courageous people were born
without fear. In actuality, courageous people are ordinary
people like you and me who began, at some point, to face
their fears rather than retreat from them. Courageous people
have learned that facing fear usually diffuses it, while running
from fear tends to intensify it.
My dad knew this principle, and he often challenged me to
face my fears. I remember being out on his sailboat on a day
when there were huge waves on Lake Michigan. We were
coming in between two cement piers and the waves were
tossing us one way and the other when my dad said, "I've got
to go down below. You take over the helm, Billy."
I knew exactly what my dad was doing. He was waiting until
I was terrified out of my mind, and then letting me face my
fears. One minute the boat would be heading right toward
the cement barrier. I'd crank the wheel over, and then the
wave would pitch the boat over to the other side.
Eventually I managed to get safely past the piers. I can still
remember being so frightened that I was physically shaking,
at which point my dad came back up from below deck and
said, "Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" And sure enough, the
next time it was a bit easier. I'm not recommending everyone
put their kid at the helm of a boat in rough waters, but you
can see the principle at work, can't you? Often facing our
fears is the only way to overcome them and develop courage
in a specific area of life.
Take time in the coming week to identify one specific area in
which you are dealing with fear. What can you do to intentionally
face this fear straight on and begin to overcome it and
develop courage in your life? You may want to have a member
of your small group or a close Christian friend pray for you and
walk with you through this courage-building adventure.
Take time in the coming week to memorize this passage and
reflect deeply on its call to grow in courage:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of
power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7