I’m almost done reading through the book of Acts. I’ve read it before, many times, but after Paul’s conversion I usually start losing interest. I get lot in all the missionary journeys and the arguments for faith in Christ. But this time through, was different. It’s held my attention longer than normal. In fact, I’ve actually been excited to pick up my Bible and find out what happens next to the apostles. There was something about them, about Paul…
In all my other readings of this, Paul has always come across as very harsh and intense. He’s so gung-ho for Jesus, intent on spreading the good news no matter how many times he’s kicked out of a town, beaten, or imprisoned. And as heroic and godly as that sounds, quite honestly, I find him intimidating. The guy’s got guts…guts I don’t feel like I have.
All the apostles do. Peter spoke out openly. Philip followed God even when he had no idea where he would end up. Stephen became a martyr. Luke wrote it all down. And so many of them faced death. So many of them faced angry crowds. They had to deal with their own people running them out of town, turning them over to the officials, and trying to kill them. Yet over and over again it’s recorded that more people were added to the faith and the numbers grew daily.
They were brave. And God did incredible things through them.
That’s the theme of the book I’ve been reading along with the book of Acts. I know it’s a God-thing that I happened to pick up Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs the same time I started reading Acts, because this book has only added to my understanding and appreciation of the Scriptures.
Annie has a way about her. She makes you laugh, is extremely vulnerable, and goes deep fast–all qualities I like in a person, but especially a writer. When I closed the back cover of the book this morning after reading the final chapter, I actually teared up a bit. The message was good, but the tears were more because I felt like I was hugging a dear friend goodbye. She had shared her heart, her stories, her struggles about being brave in various situations and I wanted to hang on a little longer. I wanted to hear more about how to be brave in this world where there are so many twists and turns on our life maps. I wanted to hear more about the faith it takes to step out and do the hard thing even if you don’t feel brave.
But eventually we need to stop just hearing about bravery, stop just thinking about being brave, and actually do it.
Paul did it. So did Peter and Stephen.
So did Jesus.
I think my biggest take away from Annie’s book is that Jesus did the brave thing. He sacrificed comfort and familiarity. He sacrificed being known to come and save us, to deal with us messy humans and let us put Him to death, all so He could make a way for us to know Him. To help us learn how to be brave too. He gave His all for the Father’s will. And it wasn’t easy.
But because He was brave, I can be too.
Looking back over the last year, I know that stepping into this teaching position was a brave thing. I trusted God for a job and He provided, but it was tough. I had a lot to learn and God gave me the strength to be brave and stick with it. He’s helped me be brave in stepping out and being vulnerable, of seeking out relationships and people even though I’d much rather sit and wait for them to come to me. He’s asked me to be brave in my writing, to not just write fluff, but to share the deep stuff, the hard stuff, the stuff I really don’t feel like dealing with.
As I’m stepping into what feels like a new season where the harvest will be plentiful and God will use all of this to not only bless me but others too, He’s asking me to be brave by not rushing ahead. He’s asking me to bravely raise lifted, open hands for Him to fill. He’s asking me to just take the next step and watch His glory fall.
What about you, dear heart? Where can you be brave? Ask Jesus. He’ll tell you. He’ll walk beside you and guide you. He will give you traveling buddies and encouragement along the way to keep hanging in there. Wherever He leads you, remember that Jesus never leaves and because of Him, you can be brave!
Live in His love!