Summary: Courage is critically important, because it is at the center of all the other Christian virtues. What convictions undergird and strengthen our courage?
This morning, I’d like us to consider the topic of "courage". Not merely courage in a general sense, as an admirable character quality, or as a moral virtue that we should seek to cultivate. But specifically, as an aspect of Christian faith. I’d like for us to consider what part courage plays in our daily lives as Christians. And then we’re going to look at how we can increase our courage; how we can live courageously to the glory of God, as did our teacher and lord, Jesus Christ.
First, let’s consider what we mean by "courage". It may sound strange to talk about courage being a part of our "daily" lives as followers of Christ, because we tend to equate courage with heroism - firefighters running into a burning building; soldiers preparing for battle; police arresting an armed criminal. Or we think of extreme sports like bungee jumping, or free climbing; activities that involve a great deal of risk to one’s health. In short, we think of courage as something extraordinary, something unusual; something people are called upon to exhibit only in dangerous, life-threatening situations. But most of the time, we don’t think we need it. Most of the time, we view our lives as being governed by more mundane character qualities, like honesty, and integrity, and faithfulness. We just don’t see "courage" coming into play very often. But that point of view is mistaken. Courage is not the same thing as heroism. Courage is not just for extreme situations. In fact, courage is basic to the exercise of every other virtue.
Take honesty, for example. Why do people lie? Why are we often tempted to shade the truth; to evade, to make excuses, to cover up? Why don’t we just state the truth, clearly and completely? Often, it’s because we fear the consequences. We’re afraid of what people might think. Or we’re afraid of losing something - money; our hopes for a promotion at work, our reputation, our mate’s trust and confidence, the respect of our family members, our position as a deacon at church. And so we fail to be completely honest, because we lack courage. Confession, as they say, is good for the soul, but it can be bad for the reputation.
Or take generosity - freely giving to the church, or using your financial resources to meet the needs of others who are less fortunate. Why is real generosity relatively rare, even among Christians? It’s not necessarily due to greed. Often, it’s because people are afraid of not having enough for their own needs. They fear becoming destitute and having to depend on others. "What if I lose my job? What if my 401K loses value? What if my company goes bankrupt?" And so, instead of trusting God for their future and giving generously, they hold tightly onto everything they get. They hoard, and store away, and save far above what is really necessary. They may do it under the guise of "prudence" and "responsibility," but often it’s really just fear. They lack the courage to depend completely on God for their financial well-being, and so they seek to accumulate enough money and possessions so that they don’t have to.