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From Afraid to Courageous

by Derwin Gray

Many fears, if left unchecked, can produce an “Afraid” label in our hearts. It’s time we begin replacing that label with a new one: “Courageous.” Here are some keys to courage that will begin to wipe out fear’s limiting message:

Key 1: Have a Humble Heart

We have a tendency to go after the Goliaths, seeking glory, before spending the time learning how to humbly serve where God wants us. Yet, before David stood ready to fight Goliath in the valley, he had stood in a different valley, taking care of a dirty, stinky flock. Before he defeated the great giant, he had humbly allowed God to shape his character while he had the seemingly insignificant task of tending some animals.

Many great, epic displays of God’s glory through His children are built on hours, even years, of an unnoticeable, seemingly unimportant task. It was in the valley of sheep that God made humble David into a “man of valor.” There God imprinted the label “Courageous” on David’s heart, transforming a lowly boy into a “man of war” as he honed his skills at warding off lions and bears, and preparing him to defend what He would one day entrust to his care. While David wore a shepherd’s garb, God was making him “a man of good presence” (1 Samuel 16:15), one who gained dignity as he took responsibility for his family in the absence of his brothers.

In the valley of sheep, David learned to depend on God. God’s presence, provision, and power accompanied David wherever he went, and people could see it. This set him on the path to defeating Goliath. But, in fact, because of his time alone with God, David had defeated Goliath before the battle even started. Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer to ever live, was right when he said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Maybe you’re in your own valley of sheep right now. Maybe you think you are going unnoticed and your assignment is not what you want it to be. Just remember, we must go through the valley, where we humble ourselves before God, before we can go out for God and bring Him glory by slaying a Goliath. You glorify God, too, by being faithful in the small things.

Many people never get to slay a Goliath because they think that taking care of sheep is beneath them. This is pride, and God resists the proud but generously gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Key 2: Believe that God and His Love for You are Bigger Than Your Giant

Fear caused the men in Israel’s army to think that the giant was bigger than God. But David took Goliath’s challenge because he knew God was bigger than the giant. When God stitches the “Courageous “ label in your heart, giants seem small in comparison to Him. You will find yourself attempting things for God’s glory that make no sense to most people. The odds will be stacked against you, but courage moves us to trust God, Who is greater than any odds, to act on our behalf so He will be made famous through us.

Never forget this: Fear paralyzes us from acting on behalf of God’s glory, but faith mobilizes us to live courageously for God’s glory. And David had faith that God loved him. My children, Presley and Jeremiah, know that I love them. They trust me. And because of that, courage surges through them because they know Daddy has their backs. When we know God loves us, we trust Him. Do you know that God loves you? I’m not asking if you simply know that as a theological fact. I’m asking if you have experienced God’s love as the love the apostle Paul describes:

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your heart as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:16-19, NLT).

Like David, when we know God loves us, we can trust Him when we face the giants of life. The Philistine giant didn’t intimidate David, because David knew that God’s love for him was bigger than Goliath. The giant didn’t limit David’s life because the God without limits propelled David to victory. You can face your giants and win, too. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beautifully said it takes “dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Jesus is the builder. And He’s ready, willing and able to build dikes of courage in your heart so you can have a limitless life.

Key 3: Expect Opposition…and Use It as Fuel

As David questioned the Israeli soldiers about Goliath and what would be given to whoever killed him, his brother Eliab scolded him. Check out 1 Samuel 17:28: “Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?’”

This is why I love the Bible — it cuts to the very heart of humanity. Here was the older brother, who, instead of fighting for God’s glory, was paralyzed by fear. His “Afraid” label rendered him a coward, and then he did what cowards do. He attacked the courageous David, forbidding him to even ask questions, let alone fulfill his destiny. Just as with David, people close to you will discourage you from taking a deeper look at the giants in your life and challenging them. They may have good intentions, or they may have jealousy and poison-laden intentions; but we all have Eliabs in our lives that, if we listen to them, will keep us questioning and, by extension, from overcoming the challenges we encounter.

Who are your Eliabs? What are they convincing you not to do for God? Don’t let them limit the work Jesus wants to do in and through your life.

(This has been a small excerpt from Chapter 1: “From Afraid to Courageous,” from the book, Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future, by Pastor Derwin L. Gray.)

[Derwin L. Gray is the founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church (TC), a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. TC was recognized as the 2nd fastest-growing church by percentage in America for 2010 by Outreach magazine. In 2011 and 2012, TC was recognized again as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in America. For more information, visit or follow Pastor Gray on Twitter @DerwinLGray or Facebook at .]

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