In March, I had the honor of speaking at the youth girls retreat at our church. The focus of the retreat was how we need to let go of the chains of this world and learn how to live life chained to Christ. It was an amazing weekend and the Lord moved in these young girls' lives in a BIG way. Below is a version of what I shared that weekend about how to be fearless in Christ. Hope you enjoy! One night when I was in college, I went to the movies with my roommate and one of our suitemates. We went on a Tuesday night because that was college night and we could get cheaper tickets. The movie that we went and saw was “The Ring” – it was that scary movie of the girl that was in the well and was it was about a mysterious videotape which seemed to cause the death of anyone who watched it in a week of viewing it. Now, I strongly dislike scary movies. I don’t like the feeling of knowing that in moments I am going to get so afraid that I am going to scream. Of course, that is what we did the whole time in the theater because that movie was so scary. When the movie was over, we headed back to our dorm only to discover that the whole quad had a power outage and the lights were off in all of the buildings. When we finally made it up to our dorm room, everything was still pitch black. We couldn’t see anything but we all had to use the bathroom after being at the movies for two hours. So, we are feeling around our room, trying to make it to the shared bathroom. Finally, we feel the door handle and swing the door open. Through the light of the window, we see this girl sitting in the bathroom that looks just like the girl in the movie. The hair, everything. Of course, we all scream bloody murder at the exact same time. We feel like we are in the movie now and we are totally freaked out! Upon closer glance, we all realize that the girl isn’t the girl from the movie, but it was in fact our other suitemate. She had stayed home that night and decided to sit in the bathroom where she had light to see while she waited on the power to come back on. We all got a good laugh afterward, but still to this day that moment was one of my scariest.
Do you remember a time when you were so scared and afraid? I want you to think for a second what being afraid feels like. What are some words that come to your mind? When I think about times that I was afraid, I think of the word fear. Fearing the worst. Fearing for my life, my future, my family. Fear that I won’t be good enough at what I dream of doing or fear of what others would think about me. The dictionary says that fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain. Whether the threat is real or imagined; it is the feeling of being afraid. So often, when we are afraid, we are bound to that fear. The fear takes a hold of us and restrains us; we become a slave to that fear. That, my friends, is being chained. Fear chains us from being who God called us to be. What is the opposite of fear?
Bold. Confident. Fearless.
That is why we are here today. It is our goal for all of you to become fearless young women. We want to stop being chained to matters of this world and start living our lives for Christ and by Christ alone. This whole weekend, we have been focusing on Paul’s message about being in chains for Christ. Now, we are going to focus in on Philippians 1:13-14, “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Before you leave today, I want to encourage you to let go of your fears and be confident as you go out into your daily life. Today, we are going to learn how to be fearless in our friendships, our futures, and our faith.
Fearless in Friendships:
So often, as Christians, we try to act like everything is perfect. Girls, I want to challenge you to rip the mask off your face and be real with those around you. People want to see authenticity. They don’t want to hear a fake response; they really want to be able to relate to you. In order for us to be real, we have to be fearless of what others are going to say or think about us. This is a risk…it is putting yourself out there, not hiding behind a veil. But, in doing this, we show those around us that just because we are Christians doesn’t mean our lives are perfect. It shows them that we have flaws and we have sins. But it shows them that we aren’t chained to those imperfections, we give our imperfections to Christ and are bound by His unending love for us. When we recognize that we are imperfect but perfectly loved, we begin to show that love more to others. I read a quote that said, “In a world that consists of fake lives and false promises, Jesus is authentic, and He died on the cross to prove it.” Girls, like Paul in Philippians 1:8 we need to long for others with the affection of Christ Jesus. This longing is a deep, intense, compassion towards the people around us. It is loving them regardless of who they are or what they have or have not done.
It is my goal to read my Bible every morning. Some mornings, that is hard to do – in between the girls banging on the piano keys of their walker and one of our dogs begging to go outside and then scratching to come inside – but it is the way that I try to start my day. The Bible that I read out of each morning is the Daily Walk Bible and it is broken up so you can read the Bible in a year. Well, lately, I have been reading all of the stories right before Psalm. I’ve read about all the kings after David and Soloman, my heart has longed to be a woman of noble character like Ruth, and I have been totally relating to poor Job. But, one book has stuck out to me and it is the story of Ezra. The book of Ezra is squeezed between 2 Chronicles and is two books before Esther. It is during a time that a lot of Jews are still in exile after Nebuchanezzar came and destroyed the Holy City. Ezra was a Jewish leader living in the land of Persia and God put it into the king of Persia’s heart to send Ezra back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Lord’s Temple. Our story is going to pick up at the beginning of Ezra Chapter Nine. The exiles had just returned from captivity and they sacrificied burnt offerings to the God of Israel. Ezra 9:1 says, “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness. When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.”
Ladies, I was your age not too long ago. I know that some of you in this room are like the countrymen and are doing things with boys that are unpleasing to God. Girls, now is the time for us to break those chains. It isn’t going to be easy, but you know how you are going to do it? By having courage and being fearless. It is making decisions that align with God’s intimate love for you. It is having the courage to say no and not being scared about what that boy is going to think about you. It is being fearless after people are gossiping about you because you know that you aren’t bound to those chains anymore. I know this is scary and I know you think that what is done is done but I promise you that a new beginning is waiting for you. You just gotta give it to God.
And, for those of you in this room that have friends in this situation, I pray that you be like Ezra. Let’s jump to the beginning of Chapter Ten. “While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites – men, women and children – gathered around him." Skip over to 10:4. They said, “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” Ladies, when we see our friends going down the wrong path, we need to be fearless in our friendships and help a sister out. We need to have courage to speak the love of Christ to our friends and help them get their lives back on the right track. We can’t be afraid of confrontation – but we have to do it out of love and respect the other person. Friendship is helping one another out and we can’t just stand by and watch someone dragging their feet in their chains. We need to help them lighten their load, cut those chains, and start living a pure life in Christ. We have to be fearless in our friendships.
Fearless in our Futures:
The next point that I want to touch on today is becoming fearless in our futures. One of the hardest lessons that I have had to learn over the years is I have little control as to what is going to happen to me in the future. Yes, I can plan and yes I can make decisions to move me along my path but at the end of the day only God knows what is going to happen to me in the future. So, instead of worrying and analyzing over what is to come, I need to simply give it to Him. Girls, that is so hard to do! I am totally Type A and have a problem letting go. The reason I have a problem with letting go control over my future is my lack of trust in God. The less I trust Him, the more I worry. My mind begins to wander and I either think of the worst or what I really want to happen. I start playing make-believe in my head and ask myself What if??? Girls, this is living in fear! Fear of the unknown and fear that my life isn’t going to turn out as planned.
Well, this past year, I learned a hard lesson when it comes to life’s plans. As most of you know, Raleigh and I have beautiful twin girls, Adeline & Maralee. Last April, everything was moving along just fine. I was in perfect health and was preparing to have our babies in late July. On April 20th, I had my doctor’s appointment and he assured me everything was going just how it was supposed to. One week later, on Friday, April 30th, I delivered our girls three months early. Our girls were born weighing two pounds each and had to be rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. During those first couple of days, we weren’t sure if they were going to make it. Ladies, I have never been more fearful in my life. I was so scared that our babies were going to die. I couldn’t understand why they came so early; I had done everything that I was supposed to do. I cried out to God in confusion and pain. I wondered why He would have such a terrible thing happen to them. Our girls stayed in the NICU for 81 days and fought several infections. Those 81 days were such a struggle to me but they were also a time of growth. In those three months, I went through a spiritual warfare. Satan would whisper in my ear that Maralee was going to die. He would cause me guilt for delivering the girls so early. I was scared and had so much fear in my heart.
The only way that I received peace was from the love of Jesus Christ. I would spend my quiet moments reading about how God cast out fear. My battle cry was Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Girls, that verse brought such comfort to me in my times of fear. Jesus carried our family through that trial and I learned to be thankful for life not going as planned. I want y’all to realize that sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned but there is a reason for hard times. The reason is for us to thank Him for our problems. I love the devotional Jesus Calling. In it she writes, “Trust keeps me from worrying and obsessing. Thankfulness keeps me from criticizing and complaining.” Girls, we have got to have trust and thankfulness. They are like peanut butter and jelly for our souls.
I know many of you spend time obsessing about your futures. As girls, we stress about where we are going to college or passing our Calculus test. We worry about soccer tryouts or getting the lead part in the school play. We wonder if our boyfriends really love us and if we are going to marry them one day. Our minds are like an I-Pod, constantly on shuffle. Girls, we need to clear our minds and focus our hearts on Jesus. When it comes to our futures, we need to be like Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Girls, discouragement is from the devil. It is his evil way of manipulating our minds into believing that we won’t get our dreams. He wants us to think so low of ourselves that we aren’t good enough to reach our goals. If you look closely, you will notice that the key word in discouragement is Courage. We need to clothe ourselves in Courage. Be strong and put our trust in God. He is right there just waiting for us to clasp our hands in his so He can show us His will for our lives. Young friends, we have got to stop planning our futures and start listening to God’s will for our futures. We each have a purpose but we are never going to find out what that is if we don’t LISTEN. The Message speaks Ephesians 3:20 so clearly regarding this. It says, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his spirit deeply and gently within us.”
Fearless in our Faith:
Finally, before we end today, we need to learn how to be fearless in our faith. Now, I’m not talking about being street-corner evangelistic fearless, but I am talking about letting go of everything in our lives that is holding us back from receiving the fearless love of Jesus Christ. That man DIED on the cross for our sins and our purpose on this earth is to share that love with others. Paul says in Ephesians 6:19-20, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Girls, like Paul, when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as our personal savior, we are His ambassadors here on this earth. Romans 1:6 says that we are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. As one of the commentaries that I read said, “The word “called” denotes not merely an eternal invitation to privilege, but it also denotes the “internal” or “effectual” call which secures conformity to the will of him who calls, and is thus synonymous with the name Christians, or believers. To carry this back to Philippians, Paul boldy states in chapter one verse 21 that, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What he is saying is, My life IS Christ. Capital I, Capital S. For us to live our lives with that kind of IS, it allows us to have continual joy. We are meant to enjoy Christ. Like Paul in jail, we should draw comfort in Him, even in our darkest moments. As a result of our enjoyment in Christ, that love extends to us wanting to know as much as possible about Jesus and us wanting to make him the model of our lives. In doing that, we have this joy that is overflowing and we just want to share it with others.
Girls, life is too short to live in fear. We have got to stop being scared and start living our lives fearlessly and victoriously through Jesus Christ. We can’t hold back. Just recently, I read a quote that pretty much sums up the past two years of my life. It said, “If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Jesus work through you.” Sweet friends, I have spent the majority of my life being scared. I’m not a thrill-seeker, I hate rollercoasters, and as I mentioned earlier, I can’t stand scary movies. I’ve been a scaredy-cat, tip-toing along life’s path, playing it safe. Two years ago, I prayed to God to use me and I prayed that I would be brave enough to accept His calling on my life. After praying this, my eyes were open to God moving my life in a direction that wasn’t safe. Far from it. He was moving my life to the edge of a cliff. One day, standing at the edge, I had to make a choice: jump or stay. I knew that if I jumped my life would never be the same but if I stayed I would never fully know what it feels like to live my life completely for Christ. Inching myself closer to the edge, I could feel the wind whipping through my hair. Taking a deep breath, I made a choice. I jumped head first into the unknown. Friends, since I made that jump, I finally learned what it means to be fearless.
Being fearless doesn’t mean never feeling fear or being scared during life situations. To be fearless is to live life trusting Christ. Being fearless is letting go of control and walking hand in hand with our Lord and Savior. Fearlessness is not caring about what others think and it is speaking and living in the love of Jesus. It is believing in His truth and not being scared to fulfill His purpose for you. Being fearless allows us to break our chains from this world and begin to be chained to Christ. With those chains comes new joy, fresh hope, and a steadfast love that will carry us through this crazy thing we call life. I pray that if you want to break your chains, you do it right now, today, and jump off that cliff. I pray that when you jump, you feel the Holy Spirit grab you by the arms and you know that He is living through you. I pray that when you walk out of this door, you hold your head high and face your world with a new spirit of courage.
Go. Be Bold. Be Fearless.
If you would like for Christen to come and speak at your local event, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Till next time, let your light shine!
Toby McKeehan, Jesus Freaks.
Sarah Young, Jesus Calling.