Summary: Courage moves us to risk ourselves for the sake of others or a higher cause. Faith and risk are inseparable.
Philippians 1:20-27 “Humble Courage”
Courage is not often connected with the Christian life. It isn’t listed in the fruits of the Spirit i.e., love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Jesus doesn’t instruct his disciples to be courageous, though he did encourage them to “take heart,” and “don’t fear.” Courage may not be talked about a great deal in the Scriptures, but I think that most of us have discovered that some level of courageousness is necessary to live out our faith in Jesus Christ.
When we talk about courage, it is first necessary to ascertain what we mean by courage. What are some pictures of courage that come to your mind?
• The New York firefighters on 9/11
• Pat Tillman volunteering to go to Afghanistan
• Mother Theresa working in the slums of India
While these are great illustrations of courage, they are a little too big for us. We have difficulty picturing ourselves as being courageous in light of them. Courage, though, is something that we need as we live out our daily lives following Jesus. I think we have many examples of courage around us.
• Stepping out and serving those people with whom we may be uncomfortable such as those in health care facilities, prisons, the poor or homeless, or even a local high school.
• Taking a step of faith and doing something before we have all the answers and loose ends tied together
• Taking a stand that is against public opinion
• Loving someone who will not return our love or may even hate us.
• Tithing; believing that God will provide sufficiently for us even if we give to others.
Courage doesn’t need to be confined to great leaps of faith. Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one. It will take acts of courage both large and small ass we open our hearts and lives to being transformed and able to live a life without limits. This being the case, it is most helpful if we learn how we might be prepared to act courageously.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, in which your Scripture lesson is located, he was in a Roman prison. He was soon to go on trial where his fate would be decided. He would either be freed or executed for sedition. Paul shows a humble courage in this letter.
Part of his courage is his ability to let go. He didn’t know what his future held, but he believed that God held his future in God’s hands. He didn’t worry about the trial, but rather he experienced that peace that passes understanding as he rested in God’s hands.
Courage comes from resting in the hands of God. We live in faith that God wants the very best for us and that God is moving in our lives to enable us to experience an abundant and meaningful life.
Courage comes from giving up control. We really don’t have control anyways, but most of the time we are frantically grappling for control. God is in control—that’s his job. We are obedient and faithful servants.
LIVING FOR JESUS
Several times in this passage Paul writes about living for Jesus. In verse 21 he writes that, “For me living is Christ and dying is gain.” Earlier he writes that he hopes that by his speaking with boldness Christ will be exalted.
A courageous life is a life centered on Jesus. There is a singleness of purpose to such a life; a theme that runs through every aspect of that life.
One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King is when he said, “A person doesn’t have much of a life unless they have something bigger than themselves for which they will die. It is difficult if not impossible it be courageous when we are trying to either live for ourselves or live for many things. Instead of being courageous, we find ourselves simply trying to maintain the status quo, or to keep from being overwhelmed by life.
Jesus calls us to a singleness of purpose. If we desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Jesus says that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Certainly we can receive salvation without courage. We are saved by grace and faith. But if we are going to be disciples of Jesus Christ it is necessary for us to follow courageously.
Paul lived courageously because he believed that his life consisted or fruitful labor. If we think that Paul could look back on his life, in prison, and see all the congregations that he started in Asia Minor and Greece it is easy for us to see why he would say his life was filled with fruitful labor.
However, that was not the true situation. In many of the congregations that he started there was strife and turmoil. Several congregations were being infiltrated by false doctrines by the “Circumcision Party,” who taught that Christians needed to be Jews first and that righteousness was tied up in the law rather than grace. There were also all of the imprisonments, floggings, ship wrecks and other hardships that he and his companions endured. It was not a rosy life.