The most interesting stories in Reader’s Digest are those of the heroism of “average” people in life-threatening situations. People can rise to occasion and demonstrate enormous courage, ore than they realize. How much moral courage do you have? How can you know unless it is tested?
- The soldier lives for the day when his courage is tested. He prepares for the time of the battle when everything is at stake.
- In the same way, the spiritual soldier needs courage. He also needs his spiritual courage to be tested in the battle.
I. Faith and Courage: Sometimes doing the right thing requires physical courage. Those who are unwilling to suffer pain or be discomforted will seldom remain faithful to God. The writer of Hebrews speaks of those who were faithful being “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:35-38) In fact, our faith may require us to give up our physical lives. “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11).
A. Throughout the O.T. account of Israel’s conflicts they were called upon to trust in God and be brave in the face of danger. God speaks to Joshua as he takes over for Moses: Josh 1:3-9 – Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
1. If I understand this correctly, there were two types of courage being cosndered here. They were to be physically courageous and not fail to engage the enemy in battle. But their willingness to do that rested upon their faith (or moral courage) in God’s work.
2. I often think of Peter (whom we viewed this morning) in this context. He was willing to express physical courage: John 18:10 – 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. This was no small matter. He risked his life. But just hours later he emphatically denied the Lord before the threats of a small girl. Paul says that he refused to eat with the Gentile Christians in Antioch because he was afraid of ridicule or censure of his Jewish brethren (Gal. 2:11-14)
B. The need for courage among us: As soldiers of Christ we need courage. We can be assured that God will allow Satan to engage us in spiritual battle so as to test our courage. Satan knows very well the kinds of things we are most afraid of: Embarrassment; Being “labeled.”; Unfriendliness; Minority status; Loss of social esteem; Rejection and hostility.
1. We fail often in these battles. There is little physical danger, but the pressure to not do the right thing is intense. There ought to be some encouragement in the fact that we are not called upon to give our lives. Heb 12:3-4 – 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
2. If we give in to such pressure and deny Christ, we place ourselves among those who “confess” Christ only when little is at stake. Jesus tells us that He will deny us before His Father in heaven if we do not have the courage to confess Him before men. “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Lk. 12:8-9) There is a lot at stake in these individual battles of faith.
3. Last week we referenced Daniel’s 3 comrades, Sharach, Meschach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3. They did not disappoint God. Their physical courage to not give in at anytime in this event was tremendous, but it is this moral courage that carries the day. They were not anticipating God to rescue them. It did not matter one way or the other.
a. How hot was that furnace? It was so hot that the men who cast these 3 Israelites into the furnace perished in the act (v. 22)
b. God responded to these courageous servants by delivering them: Dan 3:24-25 – 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. They did not even smell like smoke. What is the lesson here?
- The power of God: God completely reversed their circumstance. He delivered them completely.
- The impotence of Satan: He has no answer to the faith and courage of God’s people. He could not force them to do evil. So sin cannot stain us or influence us unless we give in.
4. Paul’s courage rested in his trust in God’s purposes. He placed confidence in what he did not see o know. Acts 20:22-24 – 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. All he knew for sure was not good. But none of those things move him.
- Paul describes himself as “bound in the spirit” to go to Jerusalem. The word for “bound here commonly refers to a physical binding as with ropes or chains. It is the word in Acts 9:2 used to describe how Saul of Tarsus (this same Paul) was going to bring Christians back to Jerusalem years earlier
- It was as though he was being taken against his will, but was actually indicative of his captivated will.
- This may refer to His apostolic commission. But more contextually it seems to describe his unwavering commitment of heart (spirit) to the purpose God has for his life. He will not turn back. If he was to finish the course he could not hold his life as dear to him. This is the sacrificial attitude that is an integral attitude of courage in the Christian. His courage is not based upon selfish confidence of physical deliverance, but a willingness to give up even one’s life or the cause of Christ.
II. Spreading Courage Among us. How do you instill courage? We have a word for that- en-courage. We are called upon to be encouragers. In Acts 4:36 we meet Joses, a disciple in Jerusalem. He has a nickname given by the apostles, Barnabas or – Son of Encouragment. He lives up to this name by strengthening though deeds and words.
- He was a generous man, and encouraged others through his willingness to sacrifice for the Lord. having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (4:37)
- In Acts 9 , he personally risked his reputation by speaking up for Saul of Tarsus and recommending him to the Church. (27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. )
- Later, when he and Paul disagreed over the stability of Mark, Barnabas courageously took a risk on Mark and took him with him to Cyprus. It seems this was the encouragement that Mark needed. Later he was deemed useful by Paul himself. (2 Tim 4:11)
A. Words can instill courage. Look at the words of King Hezekah in 2 Chronicles 32:6-8 – 6 Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
- Sennacherib attempted to instill fear and ridiculed Hezekiah faith, and even God. But Satan was powerless to change the heart of Hezekiah or make him afraid. Later God’s angel destroyed the Assyrian army in a single blow.
Conclusion: Are you afraid? Why would we ever be afraid? Courage is our birthright. It is the fruit of a humble faith. It is what we need for the day of battle.