In his weekly newsletter last week, author James Clear included this paragraph:
Cus D’amato, the legendary boxing trainer of Mike Tyson and other top fighters, on courage:
“I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being [cowardly] and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is [cowardly] refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.”
Source: Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story
Everyone wants to be brave. Too few of us sense that we are. A good friend of mine often reminds me, “No one likes a coward.” According to D’amato, no one ever feels like being brave, or feels they are brave. They become brave by the choices they make in the moments that eventually define their lives.
The same is true for pastors and all people of faith. Fear is a universal human reality. All of us fear something. Most of us fear a lot of things. David felt that way in Psalm 56. The subhead in my Bible says that this poetic prayer came when the Philistines, his archenemies, seized him in Gath. He had plenty to fear then. He feels oppressed and trampled (vv. 1–2). Many a pastor can relate to that on a Monday morning or following the most recent budget, deacons, or elders meeting.
In his fears, David notes that, while many misunderstand and intentionally misrepresent him, causing strife and division among the people, God is watching over him, gathering up the tears of his heartaches. Those tears become the ink of a permanent record in God’s book. God never forgets or forsakes his servants nor their sufferings.
I loved the interchange of verses 3–4 (CSB) so much that it was easy to commit it to memory. He repeats this part of the prayer twice:
“When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Notice he says “when I am afraid” and not “if.” I think it’s OK to be afraid. How we respond is the key. When fear arises, the right response is always faith in God’s presence, goodness, and power.
Then he reverses the thought. In verse 3, fear was the trigger to his trust. But, in verse 4, trust and praise become the vaccine against fear! That’s the place I’d like to get to! To so grow in grace that faith is always the daily starting point and not fear. To be so focused on the Spirit and growing in the word that fear cowers before our faith.
So where are you starting this Monday: fear or faith?
No matter which one, let David’s testimony lead you back to Christ, his word, and his promise. Toward the end in verse 9 is this bold seven-word assurance: “This I know: God is for me.”