“The Lord is for me; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6. See also Hebrews 13:5-6)
I read that scripture—especially the Hebrews 13:5-6 incarnation—and smile. Asking “What can man do to me?” is kind of like asking for it, isn’t it? Daring them to “bring it on.” The answer, of course, is that man can do a great deal to you. But the bottom line—and the point of the scripture—is that ultimately, with God being “for me,” it does not matter.
Nothing matters so much as our being one with the heavenly Father.
Can we talk about courage? This is as rare as plutonium these days, particularly among the very people who should demonstrate it most readily, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only two people in the church need courage: the one in the pulpit and the one in the pew.
A. The messenger of God in the pulpit needs courage for a thousand reasons. Here are ten:
1. To preach the whole counsel of God no matter who may disapprove. And to sweeten that preaching when his flesh is involved and wants to “lower the boom” on certain people. Graciousness takes courage also.
2. To withstand the pressures to compromise. And to compromise when he is feeling headstrong and does not want to budge an inch from his inspired position. Compromising can be courageous.
3. To oppose ungodly church leaders. And to support leaders whom he does not necessarily care for or with whom he differs on some matters but who are right on this issue. Recognizing wisdom and standing with it may take great courage.
4. To hold the line on biblical doctrines. And to ease up on emphasizing doctrines that are of lesser importance and on which good people differ. Kindness when you are tempted to be judgmental takes courage.
5. To combat his own fears. And to give in to legitimate red flags his spirit raises. Withdrawing flawed plans can take great courage.
6. To stand up to his own spouse (sometimes) whose fears have taken over and whose faith is wavering. And to hear from his spouse when she is resisting something he really wants to do and he realizes she has a point. Yielding often takes great courage.
7. To believe the Word against many voices to the contrary. And when his voice is one against the many, to consider that he might be mistaken and seek out more information. Listening to the counsel of others can be courageous.
8. To speak truth to power. And to control his tongue when the “power” is simply doing something the preacher does not like but where nothing important is at stake. Silence can also be courageous.
9. To humble himself to wash the feet of the lowliest. And to keep on washing them when his advisors imply that he is tarnishing his image. Ignoring bad advice from people we trust takes great courage.
10. To humble himself at the feet of Jesus every day of his life. And to keep on doing it, day after day, year after year. Few things require more courage than “entering into our closet,” as Jesus said (Matthew 6:6) and placing yourself on His altar time and again.
When you pray for your ministers and missionaries, pray the Lord to grant them great courage to do the right things, no matter what forces are pressuring them to ease up, back down or go away.
B. The Lord’s people—the men and women in the pews—need courage also if they are to do the work God has for them:
1. To put the Lord before all other considerations, to “seek first His kingdom.” And to remember the Lord’s work is not all inside the church building walls but also in the office, factory, schoolroom, and especially in the home. Courage is delighted to speak up for the right.
2. To trust the Lord to meet his needs when giving to the Lord’s work because he has so many other things he could be doing with this money. And to recognize that financial stewardship also means exercising restraint in buying unneeded items or spending frivolously. Courage drives past the places of great temptation without slowing down.
3. To stand up and speak out when a pastor is preaching untruth or trying to lead the church into error. And to support the pastor when the truth he preaches is unpopular and people are resisting him. Courage stands up and speaks out when to do otherwise would be safer but cowardly.
4. To speak up when fellow members are doing damage to the Lord’s church. And to defend the lonely voice of a righteous soul trying to get the church back on track. Courage does not look to see who is standing with it.
5. To say no to a boss asking him to lie or steal or misrepresent or exaggerate. And to be willing to pay the consequence for this, even to the point of losing his job or receiving a demotion. Courage can be costly; not everyone is willing to pay the price.
6. To say no to anyone pressuring him to compromise. And to suffer the ostracism which may result from refusing to go along. Courage can be lonely; only the strong can be courageous.
7. To compromise on inconsequential things when nothing is at stake and the welfare of the team is at risk. And to encourage others who, for the sake of “what I believe,” would sacrifice the entire ministry of the church. Courage does not sacrifice itself for foolishness but for God’s truth.
When you pray for brothers and sisters in Christ, pray the Lord will give them courage to live for Him each day and not just Sundays, the courage to take unpopular stands for right and not just when it’s safe to do so, and the courage to seek out the most vulnerable and defenseless and be their voice.
The Christian life is not for sissies, as they say. That is, not for the cowardly. Anyone doubting that may wish to turn to Revelation 21:8 and see who is leading that tragic parade into hellfire.
“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days. Amen.”