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Becoming Fearless

November 2, 2021

I’m not an advertising guru. At all. I’m very comfortable using the pulpit or the pen, but the tools of advertising have always been just beyond my grasp. But I’ve been very happy to see Houghton’s embrace of “Fearless” at the center of our advertising, and indeed our campus life. In the time leading up to President Lewis’ inauguration, it was especially striking to see huge purple banners with a bright gold FEARLESS hanging down the Luckey Building, top to bottom.

I love the idea of fearlessness, but to be honest, I don’t always see Christians live it out, especially today. We want to be fearless—on Sundays we passionately sing “I’m no longer a slave to fear”—but we don’t always know how to get there. When I talk to Christians, we appear to be dominated by the same kinds of fears that everyone else has. We’re afraid for our health, our society and world, our jobs, our friends and family. We’re fearful as we see our nation more and more polarized, our churches more and more divided. Maybe the main difference between us Christians and others is that we tend to feel that we shouldn’t be afraid, and so we tend to keep our fear buried, not talking about it with others, often not even letting it surface enough to admit it to ourselves. After all, we think, we know that Jesus is Lord and that we shouldn’t be afraid, and so we find it hard to admit that we do in fact experience fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7
Luckey Building with Fearless banners showing 2 Timothy 1:7

We know that Jesus is Lord and that we shouldn’t be afraid, and so we find it hard to admit that we do in fact experience fear.

Maybe we feel so powerless against fear because we feel like fearlessness should come from inside us. There are many voices in our culture that tell us that this is the case, that fearlessness is a matter of trusting ourselves. But fearlessness doesn’t come from within us. Positive thinking can only do so much, telling ourselves “we can do it, we can be fearless!” can only do so much. The Gospel reminds us of the real truth of ourselves: we can’t do what needs to be done. We’re finite. We wear out. We can’t even know what needs to be done because of the way sin warps our intuitions, and even if we could know it, we could not do it on our own, because sin also warps our will. Only God’s Holy Spirit can make us fearless because only the Holy Spirit can reassure us that God sees us as we are and reaches out to us in love through Christ. The Holy Spirit reminds us of Jesus and sets us free to follow Jesus in all the things we say and do.

Only God’s Holy Spirit can make us fearless because only the Holy Spirit can reassure us that God sees us as we are and reaches out to us in love through Christ.

It can be scary to admit that we can’t be fearless on our own—both as individuals and as communities. Even Houghton, my wonderful alma mater-turned-employer, doesn’t have within us the ability to be fearless on our own! There’s no one smart enough here, gifted enough here, kind enough here or pious enough here to say, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here and so obviously we don’t have to be afraid.” If we are going to be fearless, it will take a miracle. That’s a scary thing to say out loud. But before you despair, hear this: Houghton has been a miracle all along.

It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word has EVER been preached, proclaimed and taught here. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that a Christ-centered learning community has ever happened here, or anywhere. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that community ever happened here, that men and women were touched with God’s love on this holy hillside. When I say we need a miracle to be fearless, I’m just reminding you that we always have needed a miracle to do this work. And there has always been one.

We always have needed a miracle to do this work. And there has always been one.

It is the same for you, in your families and churches. It was never human cleverness, piety or giftedness that created or sustained our families or communities, not ever! There’s not some inner magic that previous generations had that God is impatiently waiting for us to remember that we have; there’s not some new magic formula now, no matter what the authors and speakers say. There is only the Holy Spirit of God, on which all authentic community is built, and there is for us only our choice about whether or not to be faithful. When we choose faithfulness, we can be ready to receive the blessing of God’s Spirit, and to joyfully receive direction from Him, ready to hear, ready to follow. And then—only then—can we really be…

FEARLESS.

Grace sitting at computer recording podcast

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Michael Jordan

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Michael Jordan is an ordained Wesleyan pastor with eleven years of pastoral ministry experience in United Methodist, American Baptist, and Wesleyan churches. From 2002-2009, he was the pastor of Exton Community Baptist Church in Exton, PA, and has also served on the pastoral staff of his current church, Houghton Wesleyan. Mike’s wife Jill is a mathematician who also teaches at Houghton; they live just off campus and together are raising their five children: Grace, Jack, Lucy, Gabriel, and Anne. In his spare time, Mike enjoys singing, crossword puzzles and distance running and is a rabid fan of Philadelphia professional and college sports.

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