Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Paul Coughlin's book, Unleashing Courageous Faith: The Hidden Power of a Man’s Soul, (Bethany House, 2009).
Living faithfully as a man means much more than just trying to be a nice, polite guy. Although that may be all your church seems to expect, God has more in mind for you. God has placed the potential for great power deep within you – the power to live with courageous faith that can transform you and the world around you.
Here’s how you can unleash courage in your life:
1. Use anger as a creative force. Anger isn’t necessarily bad; it doesn’t have to be directed in destructive ways. Allow yourself to feel anger whenever you encounter problems in our fallen world that God wants you to take seriously – like injustice, or a lack of mercy. Let anger help you see how your own life falls short of God’s best and how other people need help with their problems. Decide to use your anger for good by letting it motivate you to stand against sin and social ills and work to combat them.
2. Discard your small life for God’s larger life for you. Recognize the limits to your own power and choose to rely on God’s unlimited power flowing through you each day rather than trying to handle situations on your own. Keep in mind that you have a responsibility to a power greater than yourself – to God – and that all your strength ultimately comes from Him. Ask God to show you where you should direct your energy every day so you don’t waste it and can use it to accomplish good purposes. Take an offensive approach to life instead of a defensive one, since both demand energy, yet being proactive will help you direct your energy in the best ways possible. Stick to your tasks with fortitude, refusing to give up. Don’t be afraid to disturb others when you’re working toward good goals; some trouble is life-giving trouble that’s necessary for growth to occur. Whenever you suffer, do more than just endure it. Learn from suffering and ask God to use it make you into a better person. Be willing to make the sacrifices God calls you to make to live courageously as leads you. Let your courage connect you to God’s causes that transcend your own life. Remember that life isn’t about you – it’s about God’s work in the world. Decide to join God in His work and use noble force to fight for truth and love.
3. Choose noble “thumos” over shadow “thumos.” Thumos is a courageous faith that wields great power and can either be used for noble purposes or to fuel sinful behaviors. When you link your courageous faith to causes greater than your own ego and appetites, you can direct it in noble ways. Choose to serve God’s causes and become a vital part of His redemptive work. Reject negative, “shadow” forms of expressing courage (such as through hate, disdain, pride, terror, and supremacy) and direct your courage instead into righteous indignation that will motivate you to take redemptive action. Look to Jesus as your model of expressing courage; He didn’t hesitate to cause disruptions whenever necessary to tell the truth.
4. Break out of the status quo. If you limit your faith only to what makes you feel comfortable and safe, your faith won’t grow. Pursue adventures with God regularly. Accept His challenge to take risks and make whatever changes you need to make in your life to grow. Remember that God will always help you fulfill whatever tasks He calls you to undertake. Look beyond the world as it is right now; ask God to help you see what it can and should be. Then decide to do whatever you can to make the world a better place, no matter how uncomfortable you and others may become in the process.
5. Avoid spiritual abuse. Stand up to people who want to heap guilt and shame on you when you’ve already confessed and repented of your sins before God. Focus on God’s mercy and grace. Don’t waste your time or energy trying to project a certain image to others; instead, just be real with them. Resist pressure to smile when you don’t feel happy; feel free to express your true emotions honestly, even when that makes other people feel uncomfortable. Forgive people who have spiritually abused you, and move on to freedom in your life.
6. Resist materialism. You can’t serve both God and money. So choose between them. Make the ultimate goal for your work to be serving God rather than just trying to make money. Build your lifestyle around your relationship with God – your top priority – and let everything else fall into place around that. Instead of focusing on what you can consume to meet your own desires, focus on what you can contribute to make the world a better place because you lived.
7. Overcome cynicism. Instead of just cursing the darkness around you, step out and try to shine some light onto it. Rather than complaining about problems, help solve them. Put your faith and love into action by serving others. Be alert to times when you’re especially vulnerable to cynicism creeping into your life – when you’re tired, disappointed, discouraged, and afraid. Guard against cynicism during those times by seeking encouragement from the Bible and people who care about you. Look beyond bad circumstances and focus on the reality of God’s goodness to remain hopeful.
8. Face suffering. Whenever you have a choice about whether or not to suffer – and suffering can help bring about a greater good – choose to suffer so that good purpose will be accomplished. Be willing to make sacrifices as God leads you, and He will use you in powerful ways.
9. Embrace wonder and mystery. Go beyond the concrete aspects of faith (like biblical principles) to explore more about God. Don’t try to fit God into a box so you can understand Him. Realize that He will always be beyond your complete understanding, but there’s always more you can learn about Him as you pursue Him.
10. Deal with grief. Don’t ignore your grief or try to numb it. Instead, be willing to fully feel your grief and move through it to allow it to transform you into a stronger person in the process. Share your grief honestly with other men instead of trying to stamp a smile on your face when you’re feeling bad. Discuss your struggles, reveal your weaknesses, and encourage each other.
11. Say “no.” Don’t hesitate to set clear boundaries with people to protect your priorities. Saying “no” sometimes will free you up to say “yes” to what will make the best possible use of your time and energy.
12. Pursue integrity. Be alert to when you speak and act in cowardly ways. Then confess it as sin and commit to words and actions that express courage. Keep praying for fresh doses of courage, and trust God to answer your prayers and use your life to fulfill good purposes in powerful ways.
Adapted from Unleashing Courageous Faith: The Hidden Power of a Man’s Soul, copyright 2009 by Paul Coughlin. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.
Paul Coughlin is an international speaker and hosts a radio talk show in southern Oregon. He is the author of No More Christian Nice Guy, Married But Not Engaged, and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. Paul has been interviewed by Newsweek, Good Morning America, Nightline, C-SPAN, The New York Times, and The LA Times, among other media. His articles have appeared in many publications, including New Man, Faithworks, Today’s Christian, Today’s Christian Woman, and Ministries Today. He has also been editor of a weekly newspaper and a radio station program director. Paul is a happily married father, and is a contributor and blogger for Crosswalk.com. The Coughlin family lives in Medford, Oregon. Visit Paul’s website at PaulCoughlin.net.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at:email@example.com send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.