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As we progress on our spiritual journeys, we discover that God has a life purpose for each one of us. We also come to know that this purpose is unique and extraordinary in scope.

Often we can't begin to imagine how we can muster the courage to tackle a God-size life purpose. But the good news is that we don't have to muster anything.

Courage is a gift from God. To receive it, we need only show up and rely on God's complete faithfulness.

The gospel writer Matthew describes the step of taking courage as a directive from Jesus (see Matt. 14:27). That means Jesus commands us to be fearless.

This is not to say that God can never use us to accomplish His purposes if we are afraid. And it doesn't mean that if we take this step of courage all our fears will magically vanish.

Taking courage is a determined act of our will that helps us release our fears and enables us to move forward. Taking courage begins with our understanding that the Lord God has called each of us by name and promises to be with us. The prophet Isaiah explains this concept best when he reminds us that we are precious and honored in God's sight, that we are loved, and that our heavenly Father will never leave us nor forsake us (see Is. 43:1-5).

This encouragement gives me great comfort and peace of mind. Even when I feel afraid, I can persevere because God has promised to be with me.

Jesus vividly illustrated the same message to His disciples while He was with them on Earth. In the darkness of a stormy night, the disciples were in a boat that was being tossed about by violent waves. Jesus appeared to them on the water, and the already frightened disciples became terrified that He was a ghost. How did Jesus respond? He said, "'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid'" (Matt. 14: 27, NIV).

How comforting it is to know that Jesus is the one who encourages us as He did Peter that night. He calls us to step out of the boat and walk on the water toward Him, knowing He will reach out His hand to catch us when we start to sink under the fearful pressures of life.

He is the reason we can be fearless. Whether our fears vanish or whether we press on toward our goal even though we are afraid, we will receive courage as we obey God and experience His faithfulness.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COURAGE
I know from personal experience how immobilizing it is to be wrapped in layers of fear that cause worry. I sometimes see women whose secret fears of flying, abandonment, public speaking, heights, rejection, being attacked and so on have prevented them from being all God designed them to be.

Fear blocks creativity, productivity and relationships. When you face your fears by grasping onto God's courage, you regain your capacity for experiencing these things as you live out your life purpose.

As you obediently take courage, your view of God's faithfulness and power will increase. You see, God wants to calm your fears so that your relationship with Him will be more trusting and intimate.

The more you trust Him, the more you live with the assurance that He is in control. As your relationship with Him deepens, you become more and more willing to be entrusted with bold and difficult opportunities to serve Him.

Here are some fears you can overcome with His help:

Fear of Ridicule and Criticism For years this fear kept me from evangelism. I was terrified that someone would criticize the core beliefs I hold so dear or would embarrass me about my poor recall of Scripture.

But one day I asked myself a crucial question: "Do I really intend to let somebody's comments or criticism keep me from stepping out in faith to do the work God gave me to do?" When I thought about it that way, the answer was, "Of course not!" I wanted to fulfill God's purpose for my life, so I had to choose to take courage and do the work He had given me even though I was afraid.

Fear of Success This can also prevent you from fulfilling your life purpose. It may cause you to torture yourself with thoughts such as: If I succeed, people will be jealous and won't include me anymore. I'll have to live up to other people's expectations of me, and I won't be able to coast anymore. Besides, I really don't deserve to succeed. And success might make me swell up with pride.

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