Slay the Dragon!
August 17, 2015
by Peter Amsterdam
Slay the Dragon!
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.1
Throughout our lives, we encounter situations and opportunities that have potential to open new doors of service and influence. Sometimes it’s very clear to us that the Lord is opening a door; other times we simply have a sense in our heart or spirit. That “sense” tugs at our attention, as if the Lord were trying to pull us in a certain direction. There’s often an accompanying feeling of excitement and positive anticipation that calls us to advance into unfamiliar territory.
After years of following God, many of us are pretty experienced in sensing God’s leading and checking in with Him to confirm His will. Therefore, we might feel pretty solid on some new plan and we’re on the verge of making a decision and taking action. Everything is set; we’re ready to start.
But then what happens? Why at times do we delay making the decision or avoid taking the needed first steps?
Often, the culprit is fear. I hate to admit it, but in my own life, fear shows up in many ways and it can be paralyzing. When I stop to think about it, I recognize there are times when I’m afraid of failing or of making a mistake or of what something might cost me in terms of hard work and sacrifice.
Those are not the only kinds of fears that hold us back. Sometimes taking the next step involves asking for something we need—someone’s advice, financial help, or permission. In such instances the fear of rejection comes to the fore. Even if we don’t take the time to analyze and identify our emotions and put these fears into words, they’re there and they hold us back. So, what do we do about that?
God’s Word says: “There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.”2
When we have faith in God’s goodness toward us and we believe He is leading us and He wants to bless us, we are on the path to overcoming fear. But this victory over fear can’t just be in our thoughts; it’s not just a philosophical or spiritual matter. The Lord often expects us to face our fears and take action and move in the direction that He is leading, and through such steps of obedience, no matter how difficult, the Enemy will be defeated and we will overcome our fears.
Facing your fears robs them of their power.—Mark Burnett
David, our founder, spoke on the topic of fear in the Letter “Attack”:
Fear is a very interesting subject. And you don't realize so much of it is subconscious until you try to put it in words and try to analyze it. I suppose my being afraid to talk about my fears is one of the worst fears of all, because to confess your fears is really to expose your innermost self—the part you hide from everybody—even those dearest to you. In fact, the part you're even trying to hide from yourself, because you're afraid to think about it. You don't even want to confess to yourself that you're afraid, because that would be admitting you're a coward, and you don't want to confess you're a coward for fear of being exposed.
So it not only pays to face your fears and to acknowledge them, even confess them, but to take a positive stand against them, especially in the power and Spirit of the Lord with the promises from His Word.3
We have to come to grips with our fears and overcome them so that we can be free to pursue God’s calling and design for our lives—so that we can have the full experience that He intends for us. Judy Blume put it well when she said:
“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
Here’s another good quote on facing fear, this one by Rick Warren:
“The greatest failure is the failure to try. When I die I want four words written on my tombstone: ‘At least he tried.’ For the glory of God. You’ve got to take risks. That’s what brings abundance. That’s what brings success in life. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is.”4
In order to take a stand and face our fears, there are practical steps we can take. I’ll touch on a few here, and you might have learned other tactics that work well for you.
Let’s say you have written a book and you’re looking for a publisher. In the meantime, you’ve decided to personally market your book by going to local bookstores and libraries. So you take your 200 printed copies and off you go to pitch your idea to store managers and those who have the authority to help you. But lo and behold, it’s not as easy as you thought it would be to ask them to promote your book. In fact, it’s so hard you don’t make a single request, and you toy with the idea of quitting. You procrastinate. You go to the bookstores, but then walk out again, telling yourself, “It’s not the right time; they’re too busy today.” Eventually you pull the books out of the trunk of your car, thinking that maybe after the school year (or holiday or summer or whatever) will be better timing.
This same scenario of procrastination that leads to inactivity can show up in any number of situations or circumstances. Other examples might include the following: you want to ask for a raise at work, you’re seeking a scholarship for college, you need to approach a donor for sponsorship for a new aspect of your mission work, you want to ask someone out on a date, you want someone to be your mentor, you want more meaning and intimacy from a relationship, you want more responsibility in your place of employment, etc.
If we have a dream, waiting will not help us achieve it. Telling ourselves that tomorrow is better for X reason is usually just an excuse. We’re afraid, and instead of admitting it and taking a chance by taking a step toward that dream, we talk ourselves out of it and then justify our lack of action.
Waiting to develop courage is just another form of procrastination. The most successful people take action while they’re afraid!—Unknown
The best way to change your situation is to do something different. You have likely heard these two familiar sayings:
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. The definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior and expecting different results.”
When we feel that nudge in the spirit and we have a pretty good idea that God wants us to do something, we have to take the first step. He can’t do that for us. Often, the longer we wait, the more nervous we get.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.—Dale Carnegie
We are creatures of habit, we get used to things the way they are, and consequently it’s hard and scary to change; it’s uncomfortable.
Growth and development require some discomfort. As one young skiing enthusiast [said], “If you want to get good at skiing, you’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
[Many of the things we need to do to reach our goals] may all be things that are uncomfortable at first. So what! Do it anyway! One of the ways to get through the discomfort is simply to do the thing you are uncomfortable doing.5
An important aspect of getting out of your comfort zone has to do with starting before you feel ready. If you wait until you feel like you’re “ready”… well, we know what that leads to—procrastination, distraction, perfectionism, and sadly, often total inaction. Realistically, you may never feel like you’re ready. So if we can muster up the courage to just start, even if we don’t feel ready, we’ll be miles ahead.
Winners are those people who make a habit of doing the things that [others] are uncomfortable doing.—Ed Foreman
Let’s apply the wise advice of Napoleon Hill:
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
The sooner we take the plunge and endure those terribly uncomfortable first steps, the sooner we’ll get past that scary stage and start to have a lot more fun and success. It’s a predictable cycle: Decide what you want to do, be confident of God’s blessing in the matter, make a plan, commit to a plan, begin, do it again and again, and with time you’ll get better and better!
If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.6
As hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”
When you are faced with doing something that’s difficult for you, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” When you answer that question and then deal with it until you determine that you’d be able to handle that worst-case scenario, it will relieve the tension and help you to face your fears.
Also, if you’re embarking on a new project or challenge that makes you feel uneasy and scared, it helps if you give yourself permission to be awkward and to stumble and to not be perfect. Realize and accept that you’re not going to be good in the beginning. In fact, you might fail at first, and that’s okay.
There’s nothing wrong with being awkward while you’re getting the hang of something new, so go ahead with whatever the challenge is and just say to yourself, “I’m learning, I’ll be okay. It’s perfectly fine that I’m not very good at this yet. I’ll get better. I’m going through the steps to greatness.”
When you lower your expectations for immediate success, it makes it easier for you to actually make the first move toward a new challenge. With this attitude, the “firsts” that we’re afraid of can become gateways to amazing progress.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.—Eleanor Roosevelt
Here’s a true story that we might all relate to, as told by Rory Vaden:
I once heard a true story of a woman who was trapped in a burning building on the 80th floor. She was terrified of heights and enclosed spaces, and when the fire alarm went off, she refused to follow her colleagues into the stairwell to evacuate to safety.
The firemen did a sweep of the building and found her hiding under her desk, waiting to die. She was screaming “I'm scared, I'm scared!” as the firemen insisted she walk down the stairwell until one fireman said, “That's OK, just do it scared.” He repeated it all the way down the 80 flights of stairs, until he brought her to safety.
We've all faced these moments in our careers—when you know what has to be done, but your fear holds you back. In order to stand out, you must develop the habit of acting in the face of fear. It's fine to be scared—do it scared. It's fine to be unsure—do it unsure. It's fine to be uncomfortable—do it uncomfortable. Just do something.7
I’d say taking that first daunting step is the hardest part. The next biggest test comes in persisting. When you’re not good at something, you encounter a lot of seeming “failure.” Back to the book scenario I mentioned earlier: If you’re not experienced in pitching your book, you probably won’t be that great at it to start with. But if you keep doing it over and over, and learning from others’ reactions and your mistakes and successes, pretty soon you’ll be good, and then great, and eventually find success.
Do the thing you fear and keep on doing it … that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.—Dale Carnegie
You can probably think of some skill or talent that you’re really good at, but when you look back to when you first started, you will recall you were clumsy, scared, and anything but an expert. This could be your ability to witness and win souls, or your skill in teaching Bible classes, raising support, speaking publicly, playing music, teaching or caring for children, leading business meetings, selling a product or service, organization, making appointments or cold calls, etc. But becoming skilled and confident all started with you taking the plunge and stepping out by faith to do whatever you were afraid of—again and again and again. And that is not easy for anyone.
A new challenge can be very awkward for us, even scary, at first. But if we deliberately put ourselves out there and do the very thing that we’re afraid of over and over, inevitably it will become easier and we’ll get better at it. Eventually we will no longer be afraid. That is, in essence, conquering our fears!
1 Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV.
2 1 John 4:18 ISV.
3 “Attack!” June 1972, ML 171:1,12.
5 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, The Aladdin Factor (New York: Berkley Trade, 1995).
6 Ecclesiastes 11:4 ERV.