Summary: Discover the three componenets to courage in this message from the life of Joseph.
“Footprints of Courage”
Could I have all the men in the room stand? Let’s be honest men – being a man takes a lot of courage. It doesn’t require much to be male, but to be a man – God’s kind of man – takes much courage. As those seated look around, I hope they are seeing a collection of courageous men, not just cool-looking males. Thanks, you can be seated.
Consider 9/11, 2001. Lots of males were there, but only courageous men went in to those burning towers.
Consider the tsunami of 2004. Lots of vacationing males ran away from the water, but the courageous men went towards the water to find the innocent and helpless.
And consider Joseph of the first Christmas. He was definitely more than male! His entire experience with Mary took courage. After all, it was filled with hard decisions. Decisions that required lots of internal fortitude; deep down guts. In a word, courage. That’s the stuff men, not males, are made of. And that’s the footprint Joseph leaves for us – a footprint of courage.
• It took courage to resist the plunge towards public vindictiveness. (Matthew 1:19)
• It took courage to listen the voice of God and not the pseudo-wisdom of society. (Matthew 1:20-23)
• It took courage to remain true to Mary in the face of societal pressure and disdain. (Matthew 1:25)
• It took courage to abstain from sex until after the birth of Jesus. (Matthew 1:25)
But where does courage come from? What things come together to produce courage? This morning I want to walk you through the passage in Matthew and provide some insight from Joseph’s life about courage and how we secure it.
1. Practice personal integrity regardless of public pressure. (Matthew 1:18-19)
Do you see the phrase, “Joseph was a righteous man”? This indicates something about what was already going on in Joseph’s life. It tells us what Joseph was already doing: the right thing! Yes, this means he had a heart of belief and was “positionally” righteous, but it also means he was involved in practical righteousness – he tried to do the right thing. In fact, this is the root of the word “righteous” – right! It simply means Joseph did things right. Even when they were hard. Yes, Joseph had a personal zeal for righteousness that was rooted in a passion for God and a thirst for the “right thing.” When you start realizing this, you begin to see that courage is something forged within a person, not forced upon them.
When this becomes your guiding principle – your north star – then it doesn’t matter how difficult or easy the task is. Only one question matters: “What is the right thing to do?” This is how courage is forged for the difficult times – through doing the right thing over and over in the not-so-difficult times. That’s right – when you do what’s right everyday in the little things, you discover that doing the right thing regarding large matters is normal operating procedure.
We often call this integrity. Principled living. Ethics. Character. This is what enables you to make the hard decisions. Because you have settled some things personally, you are able to make tough decisions in the face of pressure. Inwardly, you have “wrestled with the angels” and come to grips with what God is asking of you. And so when the need for courage arises, you’re ready. So while courage is revealed in our difficult opportunities, it is produced through integrity in the everyday occurrences.
In the movie “Cinderella Man,” we meet a man like Joseph. He is a boxer who has lost everything and whose family is starving. His son steals a loaf of bread to help his starving family. The father rebukes his son and makes him apologize to the storekeeper from whom he stole it. This God-fearing father may not have been able to fill his children’s stomachs, but he nurtured their spirits through his integrity.
Let me literally spell out some of the places where we need to practice personal integrity every day. Here’s a list of the small things that actually prepare us for the large things:
• k-i-d-s demand integrity. Do you keep your word to your kids, listen when they talk, and model the kind of lifestyle you want them to live?
• w-o-r-k demands integrity. Are you on time even when no one else will be there that day? Do you fulfill your agreements? Are you supportive and loyal to your boss in your words and actions? Are you honest in your reports and fair in your responses?
• f-a-m-i-l-y demands integrity. Is there duplicity in your lifestyle? Does your family see one thing on Sunday and another on Monday? Do they always see you making excuses when it is convenient for you? Are you honest in your answers about where you’ve been? What you’ve spent? Who you’re with?