Summary: Sermon Series on the Book of Acts, this sermon just happened to be preached on the 4th of July weekend. It deals with courage as a Christian and having courage in time of peril.
As we go into the coming week we will be celebrating another Fourth of July here in our country. The fourth is the day we celebrate our independence from those who oppressed us so many years ago. This year I think it will have as much or more meaning than the Fourth that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As we have journied through Acts I have wondered how I was going to tie the holiday in with the message. The Lord in his divine guidance gave me the answer. Our key to how our forefathers and even modern Christian have used this Book of the New Testament in their lives can be seen in verse 13. Let us journey into the scriptures and the lives of Christians to see how courage has been a key to the Christian life.
When we read from Acts 4, verse 13, we see that the leader who Peter and John appeared before were amazed at the courage that Peter and John possessed during their trail. It was amazing to them because this very man, Peter, who had denied Christ not once but three times. Now he is considered one who is full of courage by the same people who had ordered the death of Christ. What had caused this change?
Let’s review on the day of Pentecost, Peter and others were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. When we read on from there we hear Peter’s life change. He starts to preach, heal and give witness to Christ. In short we see an amazing transformation of Peter. We see one of the world’s greatest definitions of courage unfold in front of us through these scriptures.
C. S. Lewis tells us that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Courage is a gift from God through his Holy Spirit. It has been a gift that has been present from the beginning, if the hand of the Lord is upon a godly person. Who gives us this gift? How do we and others live a courageous life in Christ? What kind of courage did Peter and John have as compared to other types of courage.
Where does this gift come from? It has been a gift that Godly people have received over the span of time. In Ezra 7, verse 28, it reads “Because the hand of the Lord was on me, I took courage….” (NIV) Here is a man who knew what lay ahead of him, yet he took courage because God had placed his hand on him. Ezra, Peter, and John had what William Barclay called a “Higher cool courage” That courage is the courage “that knows the peril in which it stands, but refuses to be daunted.” How do we get that higher cool courage that Peter, John and others have had for ourselves? It involves a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A dymanic relationship that encourages God’s total presence in our lives. Peter, John and people like Todd Beamer have demonstrated to us what it means to have true courage that only comes from God.
Who is Todd? He is the young man, along with others, who gave their lives so one of the planes on 9-11 did not crash into a building like the other three planes did. He was a man who had a deep faith in God. He was a Christian who had a deep sense of courage, that kind that God gives to us in times of peril. We know that from the testimony of himself, the operator who received the phone call and his family and friends just what kind of person Todd was. It was because at the time this young man needed courage, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
We read this morning, the Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. All of us have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptisms. What is Peter talking about here? Our key goes back to Matthew 10: 19-20 “When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” This refers to the moment of “special inspiritation where our relationship with God in our inner spirit raises to the world of action.” All of us have a relationship with God, that is to be understood. However, what happens when that relationship is under fire. What I think happens and has been proven in scripture and in today’s world is when we draw so close to God that his courage and our courage become one. That relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is important. Christ told us that he would leave us the Holy Spirit as a gift for us. That wonderful gift helps us draw closer in times of peril and in the good times. The Holy Spirit’s presence is always there, but can be seen when we need God the most. That is not just all there is to having Christian courage!