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Do Not Lose HeartDevotions of Encouragement and Comfort
By Dave Dravecky Jan Dravecky Steve Halliday
ZondervanCopyright © 1998 David and Janice Dravecky
All right reserved.
"Therefore we do not lose heart"
God doesn't command us to stay encouraged without giving us a reason to do so. He knows there is plenty in life to cause even the stoutest soul to lose heart. Calamities and mishaps and disease and accidents and foul play and a thousand other devastations can pulverize our lives at any moment. Life in this fallen world has countless nasty ways of causing us to lose heart.
But God is greater than any calamity, mightier than any disaster. When Paul says, "Therefore we do not lose heart," he is thinking back in verse 14 to an irresistible reason for staying encouraged: "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence."
Death does not have the final say—Jesus does! And so long as we are connected to Jesus by faith, death has no more say over us than it did over him. Truly, this is the most powerful reason in the universe for taking heart, no matter what happens. God wins! And we win with him.
The Key to Conquering Fear
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. —Psalm 34:4
Nothing can cause us to lose heart more quickly than fear. And nothing strikes fear into our hearts more than death.
"When I began radiation treatment for my cancer," wrote one man, "I discovered what it was like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. As I spent weeks without eating solid food, I began to realize that the physical and emotional trauma coming my way could only be met by taking the hand of the Lord and walking with him. Even so, being led through the valley of the shadow is frightening. Its uncertainties keep you alert to every changing scenario. I began to cling to every nuance of the doctors' words, shrugs, and grimaces; I experienced the full range of emotions that go with a life-threatening illness. I wept as I saw my utter need to depend on God. The fear of the unknown often gripped me."
That's what the fear of death can do to us. Its icy fingers touch us all, old or young, rich or poor, black or white, clergy or layperson. The man quoted above, in fact, pastors a large, influential church. And yet he was afraid. Fear is a universal human response to death.
I battled the same fear when I was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn't bear the thought of having to leave behind my kids, my wife, my life. Something deep within me told me that death is not natural. I fought against it as if it were a foreign enemy and, in a sense, it is. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has placed eternity into the heart of every person. We so long for life on earth to go on that we resist heaven, the true home Jesus has prepared for us. So we struggle. On one hand we are scared, on the other hand there is heaven. We wrestle back and forth between the two.
It is certain that fear will stalk every human heart. So when we feel its clammy grip, what can we do? How can we prevent it from causing us to lose heart?
The first thing we must do is to face our fears, whatever they might be. A small example from my early baseball career illustrates what I mean.
When I was first called up to the big leagues, my first eight to ten days as a San Diego Padre were a nightmare. I struggled so badly that management was toying with sending me back to Triple-A ball. We were in Los Angeles preparing to play the Dodgers, and Jan came up with our daughter, Tiffany, to stay with me at the hotel. After the first game of that series I returned to our room, obviously upset. But when Jan asked me what was wrong, I replied, "Nothing. I'm fine." Of course, deep down inside I was scared to death. Finally I blurted out, "Jan, I'm scared. I'm afraid. Everyone who comes to the plate is like Babe Ruth. I don't know whether I can pitch at this level."
With that, the dam was broken. By facing my fears and openly admitting them, I was freed to move forward as a baseball player to go out and pitch to the best of my ability. And the worst that could happen? We'd return to Triple-A ball in Hawaii, where all our friends were. Strengthened by that new outlook, I took the mound with confidence and went on to a satisfying major league career.
"But that's just baseball," you might rightly be saying. "What about the biggest fear of all—the fear of death?" I discovered the same process works there, too. I had to face my fear of dying, admit it, and go from there. And the worst that could happen? I'd take up residence in heaven, where my Savior Jesus is.
Don't get the wrong idea, however. While it was that conviction that finally won out over my fears, only after a long and intense battle did I see the truth of something C. S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed: "You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you."
The ultimate question was, did I really believe God's promises, such as the one in Hebrews 2:14–15? That text reads:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Did I really believe God when he said:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isa. 43:1–3)
Only after a prolonged and grueling struggle did I at last realize that I really did believe those things. No matter how things turned out, I had the assurance of going to heaven. In that way, my fear of death actually led me into a deeper place with God and I felt his embrace as never before.
I am not the only one to make this discovery. A woman named Margie Norton made the same journey I did, except that her trip took her further than mine has. Today Margie has firsthand knowledge of heaven. Just before she died of brain cancer, she sensed the Lord was about to call her home.
When it was time, she told her husband that she needed to go to the hospital. When she was in the hospital, her children and husband gathered around the bed and prayed for her. As they left her, they said, "Well, we'll see you tomorrow, Mom." She responded by saying, "You won't find much."
As soon as they left, she took a shower and put on her brand-new nightgown. The nurse happened to come in just as she was getting back in bed, and said, "My, how pretty you look! You're all dressed up to go someplace. Where are you going?"
"I'm going to meet my King," Margie replied.
Then she died and did meet her King. That's victory! That's death that has no sting!
Did Margie fear death? I'm sure she did, to a point. But when you know you're going to see Jesus, not even death has the final word. As Amado Nervo has written, "If you love God, you will fear nothing and no one because you can lose nothing, and all the forces of the cosmos will be impotent to take your heritage."
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People in all ages of history have fought their fears in one way or another, but the only thing that really conquers fear is faith in the Lord: "I will trust and not be afraid" (Isa. 12:2). Only he who can say, "The Lord is my strength," can say, "Of whom shall I be afraid?" —Alexander MacLaren
Excerpted from Do Not Lose Heart by Dave Dravecky Jan Dravecky Steve Halliday Copyright © 1998 by David and Janice Dravecky. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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