I shivered with fear, standing at the edge of an Alaskan mountain peak, looking down at the 1,000-foot descent. My first thought was, We can’t keep going, not over that ledge. No way.
My 2 adult sons and I were on a 5-day backpacking trip through the Denali National Wilderness in Alaska, one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the world. After 12 hours of strenuous hiking with a 40-pound pack on my back, I was exhausted when we reached this peak.
We saw a spectacular, breathtaking view from the top of the mountain, with every shade of orange, purple and blue you can imagine in the sunset. But that 1,000-foot snow bank was both majestic and scary.
We pitched the tents and ate. Then I fell into my sleeping bag and mustered just enough energy to look over at my 19-year-old son and say, “Ben, this is impossible. We might have to turn back.”
He said, “Dad, get some sleep and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”
When we awoke, we talked through our options. Jeremy, 23, recommended we go over the edge and make very wide “S” curves all the way down.
However, the ground was covered in scree, millions of little pebbles in a continuous state of “rock slide.” We knew that when we stepped on the scree, we would start sliding. I knew that it would take only one stumble, one slip of concentration, and we’d be falling 1,000 feet into the rocks.
I wondered about my wife: What would Dee Dee say if I returned with only one son alive or 2 maimed for life?
I actually checked my cell phone when the boys were not looking to see if we could pick up towers to solicit a rescue -- not a chance. I was afraid.
What is your greatest fear? For many of us as believers, our greatest fear is evangelism.
Scheduling lunch with a friend who needs to hear about the hope of Jesus petrifies us. Deciding to speak to a co-worker, neighbor or family member about the love of Christ paralyzes us. God promises to speak through us, but we have to open our mouths -- He won’t do that part.
When I was on my first short-term summer mission trip with Cru, I worked at a department store during the day as part of our evangelism outreach, where I had a foul-mouthed, hot-tempered manager.
After days of praying for courage, I asked him if I could tell him more about why I was there that summer. He invited me to lunch at his home one Sunday.
After church, I drove out to his trailer and knocked on the door. I was shaking.
The woman who answered the door did not live there, yet had obviously just awakened. She invited me in, explaining that they had had a huge party all night long. Everyone was asleep, but she offered to wake up my boss.
He stumbled in, offered me a drink, then asked, “So what did you want to talk about?”
I wanted to be far, far away from that trailer and this conversation. But in some miraculous moment I opened my mouth, told how I had become a Christian, and then, using the Four Spiritual Laws evangelistic booklet, I explained how he could become a Christian.
At every step of the way, from my request to meet him, to my drive over that Sunday afternoon, to the knock on his door, to sitting on the stool in the trailer, I had to move from fear to faith to courageous action.
He asked a couple of questions and then thanked me for stopping by. That was it.
But as I drove away, I thought, Lord, You gave me the strength. It was possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit and my dependence on Him.
Fear is real and can be paralyzing. The question is, do I believe that God will enable me to tackle whatever He’s asked me to do, even if it feels impossible? Can I trust Him?
In Isaiah 41:10 the Lord says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
This has become a life principle for me, moving from fear to faith to courageous action. My backpacking trip in Alaska offered me many illustrations about the rewards of courage, especially that morning on the peak’s ledge.
With fear and trembling, I agreed to go forward instead of turning back. If only you could have seen the excitement in the boys’ eyes. We had the opportunity to take on the biggest, most death defying challenge we had ever tried to conquer.
With painstaking baby steps, we snaked our way back and forth down the rockslide. Eventually we made it over to the snow bank and, to my boys’ delight, and my chagrin, we also slid down the snow part of the way.
We had to cross 6 more snow banks to get to solid ground. After hours on this difficult descent, we finally finished, witnessing young caribou skipping and playing across the ice.
What had I done with my fear from the night before? I listened to my sons, evaluated the situation based on my experience and then stepped over the edge.
When God asks me to obey Him, but I feel afraid, I think about that hike. If I hadn’t taken my sons’ challenge to descend that treacherous peak, I would have missed out on the adventure.
If I don’t trust God when He calls me to do something I’m afraid of, I miss out on experiencing Him in new ways and seeing His glory.
Throughout life, but especially as believers in Jesus, we all need to move from fear to faith to courageous action. Through this faith, be it child-like or desperate, we may discover a new dimension of the majesty and power of God.
We may even see Him work a miracle.
We were created to belong, experience wholeness, flourish in hope and find a life-changing community. Our hearts desire these aspects of life because it’s how we are wired.
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