We’re rounding third base and heading for home on our ELEVATE series. How has it been to evaluate your VISION, your INTEGRITY, your FAITH, your MONEY, your GODLINESS, and your RELATIONSHIPS?? If you’re a bit behind, read through the story of Joseph’s life in Genesis 37-50 and you’ll see why we’ve chosen to focus on the life of this godly man. As you read through this portion of scripture and see all that Joseph faced, ask yourself how your life compares to the teachings of scripture. Ask how you can better emulate godly greats like Joseph (and Jesus, of course). If we’re careful to evaluate our lives (even in the tough areas) and emulate godly greats, we can elevate the level of our living as we work to become more like Christ.

It takes courage to make changes in those areas of our life that need changing. At some point in our lives, every one of us will need to demonstrate faith and courage – but they’re not the same thing. The Bible commands us to have faith; it also challenges us to have courage. These are not synonymous. Joseph was a man of faith and he also exemplified great courage. As we have for the past 7 weeks, let’s dive in and take a look at the lessons we can learn from his life.


We don’t have to look far to see the many examples of courage all around us:

  • Single moms
  • The elderly person living all alone
  • Cancer patients
  • First Responders
  • Soldiers
  • The person valiantly working to overcome addiction
  • A young person not succumbing to peer pressure
  • A married couple working through some major issues

Let’s look at courage and faith defined:

  • COURAGE is the ability to do something that frightens you; strength in the face of pain or grief.
  • FAITH is having complete trust or confidence in someone or something; strong belief.

One way to differentiate between courage and faith is to consider their polar opposites:

  • The opposite of COURAGE is FEAR.
    • COURAGE (stepping forward and doing the very thing that fear says you can’t do) vs. FEAR
      • Deuteronomy 31:6 — Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
      • Josh 1:6 — “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”
      • Fear discourages and debilitates, it robs you. Joshua 1:9 reminds us to “be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
    • Hellen Keller said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
  • The opposite of FAITH is not fear, but DOUBT.
    • FAITH (a strong belief and complete trust in God) vs. DOUBT
      • James 1:3-8 — “…the testing of your faith develops perseverance… If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
    • The testing of your faith develops perseverance.
    • The key to developing faith is to believe and not doubt.

Everyone has fears to overcome. What do you fear? Job security? Family security? Health security? Most fear is bad, but certain types of fear can be good: the fear of God, being hyper-alert when we drive, etc. As a recent University of Minnesota study outlined though, fear can literally be harmful to your health. Fear can lead to:

  • A breakdown in physical health
  • Memory loss
  • A breakdown in how the brain processes and reacts
  • Mental health issues
  • Ulcers
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Anger
  • Addiction

Here’s a recent “Top 10” list of fears people have:

  • Death
  • Sharks
  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Dark
  • Wasps
  • Vampire Bats
  • Being alone
  • Heights
  • Dogs
  • And receiving honorable mention are: snakes in the toilet, rats, zombies, citrus fruit, clowns, jelly fish, vegetables.

Quite a list, huh? How about the “Top 10” fears that hold us back in life?

  • The Fear of Rejection
  • The Fear of Failure
  • The Fear of Uncertainty
  • The Fear of Loneliness
  • The Fear of Change
  • The Fear of Loss of Freedom
  • The Fear of Being Judged
  • The Fear of Something Bad Happening
  • The Fear of Getting Hurt
  • The Fear of Not Being Good Enough

Perhaps some of those hit a little closer to home. The great theologian Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side.Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate lead to suffering.” All kidding aside, the truth is that fear is not good for us. It discourages, distracts, divides, derails, disrupts, dissuades, destroys, disheartens, distorts, diminishes, deceives, depletes, deprives, damages, and defrauds us! God tells us the opposite. He says, “Don’t worry. Don’t fear. Don’t be afraid.” So how do we deal with fear? Once again, let’s turn to the life of Joseph and see how he successfully dealt with it.


  1. FACE your fears and don’t give up.
    • Joseph clearly couldn’t ignore his fears. They were all over him:
      • Targeted in an assassination plot (37:20)
      • Used as bait for wild animals (37:21)
      • Thrown into a cistern (37:22)
      • Sold as a slave (37:27)
      • Accused falsely and had his reputation impugned (39:17)
      • Imprisoned unjustly (39:20)
      • Forgotten in prison (40:23)
      • Failed as COO/Secretary of the Treasury during an economic crisis (41:46)
      • Dealt with grief and heartbreak regarding his brothers (42:24)
      • Had the courage to confront his family and then forgive them (50:20)
    • Experts tell us that the way many people (and animals) deal with fear is “fight or flight.” Either fight the source of fear or flee/run.
      • Jonah ran from his fear and ended up in the belly of a whale.
      • How about us? Do we run from God, from addressing a problem, from the hard work of fixing a relationships, from caring confrontation, from making a necessary change, from fixing our finances, addiction, marriage, habits?
      • Joseph did not run or cower or cave. He didn’t ignore his fears, he faced them by understanding there are two parts: God’s part and our part.
        • OUR PART: I will do what I can to not fret and to find strength in the Lord, to move forward and not give up.
        • GOD’S PART: I will trust Him and He will give me the strength I need.
    • Joseph did not let fear define him or destroy him. He faced his fear and replaced it with courage.
      • Where there was fear he inserted courage.
      • He knew there was nothing he could do about his circumstances by way of changing them. What he could do was change how he faced his fears – and he lived to fight another day.
    • Facing our fears and fighting forward are two sides of the same coin. We face and fight, not fight or flight.
      • We face it head-on at every turn and deal with it; we DO NOT GIVE UP.
      • Being afraid is one thing. But adversity and fear do not have to equal defeat. Adversity can be the springboard for victory. We can face and fight.
    • A recent Healthstatus.com article gives us some great actions steps:
      • Don’t ignore your fear. Face your fear and get the facts. Denying problems or acting as if they don’t exist is not wise.
      • Do not turn to alcohol or drugs to escape fears and worries.
      • Turn off the TV.
      • Consider your actual odds. This is standard advice for people afraid to fly but not afraid to get in their car and drive around. Airplane travel is much safer than car travel. Get online and find your actual risk for the thing you fear.
      • Take some positive action. If everyone around you is sick with the flu, don’t worry about catching it. Instead, wash your hands more, etc. If you’re worried about safety, take self-defense course, get new locks and windows, get a new home security system, etc.
      • It’s interesting that in a secular article, they mention that you should “Pray, and trust God with worry and fear.” Sounds good to me!
      • Don’t dwell on past mistakes.
      • Keep things in perspective. Bad events don’t last forever.
      • Check yourself.
    • Judy Blume, the kids/youth book author, 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 omitted by the fear of it?”
    • In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien writes, “Go back? He thought. No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible. Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go! So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
    • How about you? Face your fears – and don’t give up!
  2. FOCUS on your faith more than your fear.
    • Clearly Joseph didn’t sit in the corner of a prison cell and fret and fuss all day over his situation. He wouldn’t have been the man of faith that he was if he did. He focused on God and determined he would not doubt God but would fight fear through faith and, when possible, would act and step out in courage. I learn a lot about Joseph’s faith by verses like:
      • “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5).
      • “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:8)
    • Focus on your faith more than your fear. What we focus on dominates our heart, mind and life.
    • Facing our fear and focusing on it are two different things.
      • I believe most people focus on their fear. Courageous people, however, focus on their faith.
      • We grow in Christian maturity when we face trials and our first question is, “How do I traverse this situation with Christ?” It doesn’t make the fear or trial disappear, it just puts our hearts and minds and focus in the right place.
      • How about you? It’s way more productive and beneficial for us to focus on growing our faith rather than becoming debilitated, dominated, destroyed, depleted and deceived by our fears.
    • Where we look (focus) matters:
      • Peter looked down at the water.
      • Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and Gamorah.
      • Achan looked at the devoted items.
      • Adam and Eve looked at the forbidden fruit.
      • Ananias and Sapphira looked at their balance sheet.
      • David looked at another man’s wife.
      • Judas looked at self-preservation.
      • But Joseph kept his eyes on the prize. He looked not the object of his fear, but rather at the object of his faith.
    • Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) said, “Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.” That’s exactly what Joseph did.
  3. FASTEN your heart and mind to the facts not your feelings.
    • Genesis 50:20 is perhaps the quintessential verse in the life of Joseph: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”. While Joseph felt all the fear and pain and adversity, he courageously fortified his heart, his mind and his spirit by cultivating the right kind of belief system.
    • Our feelings are important, but they can be unreliable. Facts are typically more reliable. There are the facts of your circumstances, but I’m referring mostly to the facts of our faith. For Joseph it was as it is for you and me:
      • I didn’t ask for this or deserve this, but bad things happen to good people.
      • This doesn’t mean God has given up on me – and I am not giving up on him.
      • God has a plan in this and every situation.
      • God can turn evil into good.
      • I am a work in progress and God is going to work in me and through me.
      • God is not the author of evil. We live in a fallen, pain-filled and fear-filled world.
      • Jesus loves me…this I know.
      • The Bible is my source of wisdom, guidance, strength and encouragement.
      • As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The Church of Jesus Christ is my anchor point.”
    • It’s as if Joseph practiced positive self-talk. When the devil tried to take him down, he would continually think of how God would lift him up.
    • Satan is the father of lies. He wants to create doubt, deception, fear and hopelessness. He wants to defraud you.
    • FEAR is just False Evidence Appearing Real.
    • You see the evidence of your circumstances for what they are, but that’s not the whole story. The bigger part of the story is how you will face your fears with courage and faith and allow God to help you overcome. Let the facts of God’s Word be the engine that leads the train cars and caboose of your feelings. Not the other way around.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared to act instead of react.”
    • Fasten your heart and mind to the facts not your feelings. Jesus will not fail you and He will not bail on you.
  4. FORESEE your present and future with Christ at the center.
    • You are never alone. Never. Christ is with you and in you.
    • Joseph knew the Lord and knew the Lord was with him.
      • Joseph was raised to know and serve the Lord. (Genesis 46:2-3: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)
      • Jacob blesses Joseph and his sons. (Genesis 48:15-16)
      • Jacob assures Joseph. (Genesis 48:21: “God will be with you.”)
      • Jacob blesses all of his sons and says in Genesis 49:22-26 that Joseph will be fruitful (vs. 22), that God is Almighty (vs. 24), that Joseph will be prince among his brothers (vs. 26).
    • Jacob’s blessing took place at the end of Joseph’s life but it was a reminder of God’s hand upon Joseph all throughout his life. Joseph lived his entire life knowing that God was with him in the past, would be with him in the present, and would be with him in the future.
    • Life might be extremely frightening, scary, uncertain and dreadful for you right now. At times it was for Joseph, but everything about his life tells me that he was believing God for a better day, for a less fearful day, and for a more certain and more promising day.

Nelson Mandela said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear.” Experiencing fear is normal but we don’t need to let it beat us. Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us that “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I’ve lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” How about you? Are you ready to win over fear and doubt? Live your life with Christ at the center and remind yourself often that He is always at the center. He will not fail you and He will not bail on you. That’s not my promise to you, it’s His – and it’s one you can hold firm to.