Summary: It is the awareness that we are in warfare that will bring out the courage of the Christian. It is because we sense no urgency, as those in battle, that we get complacent and indifferent, and feel no call to be bold for Christ.
Max Lucado in his book In The Eye Of The Storm tells the true
story of poor Chippie. Chippie was a pet bird just peacefully
perched in his cage when all of the sudden life was changed into a
living nightmare. It all began when Chippie's owner decided to
clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. She had just stuck the end of
the hose into the cage when the phone rang. She turned to pick it
up, and as she said, "Hello," she heard a strange sound in the cage.
She looked, and Chippie was gone. He had gotten sucked into the
vacuum. She gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum,
and opened the bag. There was Chippie. He was alive but stunned
by his involuntary flight into utter darkness.
He was covered with dust, and so she grabbed him and ran to the
bathroom. There she held him under running water. When she
realized he was soaked and shivering she got her hair dryer, and
blasted him until he was dry. Now you know what I mean by poor
Chippie. He never knew what hit him. In a matter of minutes he
had been through more trauma then most birds see in a lifetime. A
few days later the owner was asked how the bird was doing, and she
replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore. He just sits and
As we look at Paul, the jail bird, we are looking at a man who has
been through great trauma as well. He has been sucked up into a
vast legal system where he is a mere pawn between the major players
of Judaism and Rome. To make matters worse, it is not just
his enemies he has to put up with, but his friends are also trying to
take advantage of his imprisonment to further their own careers.
But unlike Chippie Paul is not singing less, and just staring at the
prison walls. He is rejoicing, and looking ahead to a greater life in
time, and a glorious life in eternity. Paul is an incurable optimist
because he cannot lose. For him to live is Christ, and to die is gain,
and so no matter which way the ball bounces, he wins. No matter
how much Paul was put through the mill, he never stopped
rejoicing. He said to others, "Rejoice in the Lord always," and he
practiced what he preached.
Paul was honest about his emotions, and he tells us in verse 20
that he did have some fear that he would fail his Lord, and be
ashamed to stand fast if it would cost him his life. Paul was not a
computer program to smile even when the roof was caving in. He
was a man, and he had his weaknesses, and though he expected to
pass the test, he knew it would take a lot of courage. Paul was going
through what we all do when we think of being put to the ultimate
test of our faith. What if a gunman said, "Deny Jesus as your Lord,
or I will pull this trigger." We all sweat with self-doubt as we ask,
"What would I do?" Would I have the courage to die for Jesus, or
would I hang my head in shame as I denied Him? Cowardice or
courage-which will it be? Paul says that he hopes he would not be a
coward, but have the courage to exalt his Lord by either life or
We do not face the same pressure as Paul did, but the fact is,
everyone of us faces the alternative constantly between cowardice or
courage. Let's look at these two forces that hinder or help us to be
what God wants us to be. First consider,
Shakespeare said, "Cowards die many times before their death.
The valiant never taste of death but once." His point being that the
fear of death that cowards feel makes them taste of death over and
over. The courageous, however, only have to taste it when it
actually comes. Cowardice is a paradox, for the cowardly fears to
suffer, but by so doing he suffers far more than the courageous. By
trying to avoid suffering he actually multiplies his suffering.
Cowardice brings on itself more of the very thing that it fears.
For example: If I do not have the boldness to tell my peers that I do
not take drugs because of my Christian conviction, they will keep
bugging me to do so, and I will have to go through the cowardly
agony over and over of figuring out how to avoid it. I have to keep
faking excuses, and being hypocritical. I add to the problem more
misery than anybody seeks to lay on me, but it is all self-inflicted,