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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”

Hebrews 4: 1

Some have taught the doctrine that once one is in God’s grace, it is impossible to fall away. But our text contradicts that error, for if true, how could the Apostle teach that such as have the promise could come short of it. Furthermore, he shows in Hebrews 6: 4-6 that falling is not only a possibility, but that some once in grace did fall away and the impossibility of renewing them. Thus our text and numerous other passages teach the importance of the grace of cautiousness.

Cautiousness implies two thoughts: (1) carefulness as to real or supposed danger or its possibility; and (2) safeguarding oneself against such.

The Ingredients of Cautiousness

The ingredients of cautiousness include:

(1.) Apprehensiveness, which is a sense of the existence of present or prospective dangers or probabilities of evil.

(2.) Alertness, by which, as one senses the presence or threat of danger, he becomes aroused to look for it as a threat.

(3.) Attention, which fixes the mental and/or physical eyes upon the danger as present or future, so that he can become well acquainted with it, and thus prevent its overtaking him unawares.

(4.) Challengesomeness, which, at the threat of danger or the possibility of danger immediately challenges the danger.

(5.) Incredulousness, which requires proof of the harmlessness of the conditions or dangerous persons, and does not accept in blind credulity unproven assertions of safety.

(6.) Examination, or scrutiny, which tests the proofs offered of the safety of the condition, person or principle.

(7.) Decision, which must be reached based upon the findings of its examination, so that it knows how to proceed.

The Exaggeration of Cautiousness

Like every other grace of character, cautiousness can, and frequently is exaggerated. Exaggerated cautiousness is an evil which takes on various forms. We will consider them from least to most exaggerated:

(1.) Anxiety is the result of overdone fear for loved ones, property or reputation, present aspects and future prospects for health and life, for country and religion, etc. The heart becomes filled with worries, and therefore becomes distressed, unhappy and discontented.

(2.) Irresolution, the result of overdone fear, sees so many dangers, believes in so many possibilities of failure, overrates difficulties and imagined difficulties, sees hindrances and hinderers in all sorts of imagined conditions, that it robs the individual of his powers of decision, and therefore leaves him in doubt, uncertainty and inaction.

(3.) Procrastination is the direct result of the indecisiveness of too much fear. It causes one to put off doing things that should be done now, to make excuses for present inaction and for delaying things calling for action now. Procrastination steals one’s time, development, success, usefulness, happiness and life to come.

(4.) Timidity is characterized by the fear of almost everything, fear to undertake new things, hesitation at the most common duties and affairs of life and living in constant restraint lest they make a failure of things that they are capable of.

(5.) Cowardice is marked by the one who examines his foes, and then trembles at, and flees from them.

(6.) Terror paralyzes one, fills his heart with panic and results in entire defeat by his enemies.

Overcoming Exaggerated Cautiousness

All six forms of exaggerated cautiousness, however, can be curbed: (1) anxiety can best be cured by exercising faith: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56: 3); (2) irresolution can perhaps best be cured by prompt obedience to the Word, spirit and providences of God pertinent to the matter on which the indecisiveness is exercised; (3) procrastination can also be best cured by such obedience; (4) timidity may be overcome by filling the mind with Bible passages that expel the fault and cultivate the opposite grace, and then yielding oneself to the influence of such passages; (5) cowardice may be overcome by contemplating the mischief that it works, such as when Peter denied the Lord and when all the disciples forsook Jesus at the time of His arrest. Another good way to overcome it is to cultivate its opposite, courage, which can be done by contemplating Bible examples of it and by acting in harmony with those examples; and (6) terror may be overcome by the methods suggested under overcoming timidity and cowardice.