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,

because I am ashamed to confess with my mouth that I want to

honor Christ with my body.

One bold and courageous confession of your Christian

convictions can solve a mass of problems. But because of cowardice,

and fear to speak out, Christians go through great agony in trying to

please both God and the world. Jesus said it cannot be done, for you

cannot serve two masters. Your cowardice will lead you to

compromise with the world. And God will not be pleased, and

neither will you. The world, the flesh, and the devil will be pleased

with cowardice, but God will not, and you will add to your own


Peter turned coward and denied he even knew Jesus. Paul

expresses concern that he not be ashamed if he has to take a stand at

great personal cost. The point we need to see is, every Christian, at

some point in their life, is going to be tempted to be a coward. The

best defense against this is to be aware of the yellow streak that is in

all of us. The fear of pain and suffering; the fear to be rejected and

made ashamed, is common to all. We have enough fears to make us

fail in almost any trial. We are wise if, like Paul, we admit our

weaknesses, and recognize our limitations. It is not being honest

about our potential cowardice that will lead us to make the very

mistakes we most fear.

This happened to Beethoven. He was ashamed to admit he was

going deaf. Everyone else knew it, and they tried to advise him not

to conduct a performance of Fidelio. He would not admit his

limitation, but went ahead and created a disaster. The orchestra got

ahead of the vocalist, and soon there was total confusion. He threw

down his baton, and rushed from the building. He was later found

on a sofa with his head between his hands shaking with sobs. It was

a painful experience from which he never fully recovered. He died

with hope, however, for his last words were, "I shall hear in

heaven." It was his cowardice and fear to face his handicap,

however, that lead to failure in time, and it was unnecessary

suffering. He could have been spared this burden had he been

willing to acknowledge his weakness.

If Peter would have said, "I have a fear of being accused of being

guilty. I feel shame when I am identified with a failing cause. I had

better stay back and see what is happening," he could have avoided

his cowardly denial. But oblivious to his weakness, he stomps right

into the presence of Christ's enemies, and is forced to reveal his

yellow streak. We do not always have a choice. Paul did not, for he

was a prisoner. But we often do, and we need to avoid situations

where we know our weaknesses will lead us to be cowards. If you

are a chicken to say no, then you just don't go to places where you

will be asked to do what you know is not God's will for you. Be

honest about your potential cowardice, and you will be better

prepared to either avoid it, or be courageous to make the right

choice. Paul faced his potential cowardice, and was confident he

could control it, and when the test came he could exhibit courage.

Let's look at his-


The primary focus of Paul is on boldness of speech. The area

where most Christians become cowardly is right here on this issue of

speech. Christians can boldly boast of their love of sports, or their

love of the theatre, or any number of loves, but when it comes to the

love of God, and the love of His Word, they freeze up and turn as

yellow as a dandelion. You would never dream that Paul would ever

struggle with this, but the fact is, a verbal defense of the Gospel,

when it can hurt you, and embarrass you, calls for the same kind of

courage as that of the soldier who is ordered to advance when

machine gun bunkers are just ahead. It takes heroic boldness.

The Greek word Paul uses here is PARRHESIA. It is a word the

Greeks loved, for it represented one of the essential characteristics

of their democracy-freedom of speech. A Greek citizen had the same

rights as you and I have in our democracy. They could speak out

and disagree with the leaders of the land. If we do not like a policy of

the President, we can boldly go on T.V. or radio, or write to the

editor, and say in public that we think it is all wrong. We can be so

bold because it is a right, and the President cannot send police to

shut us up, as is the case in some countries where there is not such

right. The Greeks said, bring your complaints to the officials with

PARRHESIA, that is, boldness, and with a spirit of courage rather

than cowardice. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all saw this as a key

virtue of their society. This sense of freedom to speak boldly. They

also wrote of its abuse where people insult and say shameful things,

and use their tongue as a cruel weapon to do harm. Like every

virtue, it can be misused, and become a vice.

In the New Testament this word is used over and over to

represent courage and boldness in speech. Jesus said to the High

Priest when he was arrested, "I have spoken openly to the world, I

always taught in synagogues or at the temple...I said nothing in

secret." John 18:20. The word PARRHESIA is here translated

openly. Jesus was saying that he taught boldly in public, and not in

cowardly secrecy. Jesus did not go about like a secret society with

whispers and code language with hidden messages. He spoke openly

and courageously, and not behind anyone's back. This is what Paul

wants in his life. He wants the ability to come right out and boldly

speak forth his faith in Christ, and not become weak, and back off

denying that he knew Christ, as Peter did in his weakness.

Paul was aware that he was a model for other Christians. He was

the first Apostle to the Gentile world. He would, by his behavior, set

the precedent for all future generations of Christians. George

Washington was in this same boat as the first President of the U.S.

He was fully aware of how his behavior would effect the rest of

history in this nation. He wrote, "Few who are not philosophical

spectators can realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in

my situation had to act....I walk on untrodden ground. There is

scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn

into precedent."

Washington was not only courageous on the battlefield, but also

in the life of his country. He set the pattern for the leaders of our

nation. He was a firm believer in Christ, and a man of prayer who

sought God's guidance in his decisions. This bold faith of his made

it impossible for an ungodly man to ever reach that high office. Had

he been a wimp of a Christian, or no Christian at all, the whole

history of our nation's leadership could have been different. He

boldly lead the way, and though you may not agree with the faith or

the methods of the leaders of our land, you will note that there are

none who dare to deny the Christian faith. That is why Washington

is the subject of millions of sermons, and why thousands have taken

on his name. Some of them have been very famous, such as George

Washington Carver, and Booker T. Washington. According to the

Smithsonian, "In 1800 "Federal City" became formerly known as

Washington, D. C. By 1932, the bicentennial of George

Washington's birth, his name had been conferred upon one

American state, 32 countries, nearly 400 cities and townships, ten

lakes, seven mountains, and a host of schools and colleges. Streets

and highways, parks and monuments."

Most of us have heard the story of Washington and the cherry

tree, but I want to share the details, for they illustrate the courage

that Paul is writing about. Mason Locke Weems wrote the

biography of Washington that was read by millions in the early

1800's. The story that has become legendary is the one of 6 year old

George damaging one of his father's favorite trees. "George," said

his father, "Do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree

yonder in the garden?" This was a tough question; and George

staggered under it for a moment; but...with the sweet face of youth

brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, he

bravely cried out, "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I

did cut it with my hatchet." "Run to my arms, you dearest boy,"

cried his father in transports, "Run to my arms; glad am I, George,

that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold.

Such an act of heroism in my son is worth more than a thousand

trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."

The courage to be honest when this could be what leads to

personal pain is what Paul hoped to demonstrate, and this is what

we see in Washington as a boy, and all through his life. He lived and

died a courageous man because, like Paul, he could say, for me to

live is Christ and to die is gain. Courage is based on certainty. If

you have no assurance about the future, it is hard to take any kind

of risk. Uncertainty makes cowards of us all. A Night to Remember

is the story of the supposed unsinkable Titanic. The author, at the

end of the book, says, "People have never been sure of anything

since." When the Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff at the

Kennedy Space Center, a lot of people went through this Titanic

syndrome again. How can you be sure of anything? Life is just full

of risks. This is true, and Paul felt it too as he writes, "I hope I will

not fail my Lord, and be ashamed to stand boldly for Him." Paul

had a twinge of self-doubt, but he quickly recovers, for he is certain

of two things that make it impossible for him to lose-to live is Christ,

and to die is gain.

Paul was certain that if he lived he would be a channel of

Christlikeness in the world, and he was certain that if he died, it

would not be a loss but a gain, for being with Christ can never be

less than even the best this life has to offer. Death is a promotion for

those in Christ. Paul could face the future with a sense of optimism

because whatever his handicap, as long as he is alive, he is a tool

Christ can use. If he died, he is a tool Christ will take to Himself.

This kind of certainty and optimism makes a man courageous.

History is filled with Christian people who had every right to be

pessimistic, for they were handicapped and burdened with loads

extremely unfair. David McKechnie in Experiencing God's Pleasure

tells of some.

Tim Hansel, for example, was a big muscular man who loved to

climb mountains. He fell one day and crushed several vertebrae in

his back. He had to give up climbing with his body, but not his

spirit. In his book, You Gotta To Keep Dancin, he wrote, "My life is

filled with pain." But he adds, "I have learned that pain is either a

prison or a prism. Pain is inevitable but misery is optional." Like

Paul, he chose to not be miserable in his miserable situation. He

chose instead to keep on dancin, for he is convinced Kenneth

Caraway is right when he writes-

There is no box

Made by God

Nor us

But that the sides can be flattened out

And the top blown off

To make a dance floor

On which to celebrate life.

Paul was in prison celebrating life. It was a privilege to be alive

even in his miserable setting, deprived of freedom, because, no

matter what life held, it was a channel by which Christ could make

His presence felt in the world. Can you be that optimistic? Can you

say that life is hard, and there are so many burdens to bear, but as

long as I am alive this body and mind are tools Christ can use to

make a difference. Just the way we handle our pain and frustration

can bear witness, just as does Paul's dealing with his burdens.

Shakespeare in Othello has the evil Iago say to Cassio, "He hath

a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly." We should feel some

of this when we look at Paul's life. The beauty of his courageous

commitment should make us feel at least homely in comparison, and

motivate us to examine our lives to see if there is any measure of

truth for us to say, "For me to live is Christ." History is filled with

acts of great courage, but most of us feel like we will never have the

chance to show such courage. Sir Irving Benson, for example, tells

the story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick in his book The Man With

The Donkey.

John was a plain private in the Australian Army in World War

I. The allied forces suffered heavy casualties landing on Gollipoli.

Wounded men were left to die because there was no means for

transporting them. Kirkpatrick found a donkey and got the idea

this animal could be an ambulance. For 24 days and nights he went

up and down the shrapnel-swept gully putting wounded men on the

donkey. He saved hundred lives. The Indians called him Bahadur,

which means the bravest of the brave. It was inevitable that he

would get killed, for he was in dangerous territory, and he did. In

Melbourne, Australia you will find a statue of John and his donkey

with a wounded soldier on the donkey's back. He was a man of

great courage, and a hero.

The problem with this kind of courageous hero is, he makes the

rest of us feel so inadequate. We cannot do what he did, for we will

never have the chance, and so it is with hundreds of such heroic

stories. But we are mistaken if we think that is the only way to be a

courageous person. There is more than one kind of battlefield, and

the warfare with evil is just as real as the physical battle. Paul was

not wielding a sword, and cutting down Roman soldiers, and freeing

captives. Paul was showing courage by taking a stand for Christ,

and making every situation in his life a chance to witness for Christ.

This is the kind of hero the kingdom of God needs.

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. We lose the sense of living in crisis, and so we

feel no need for courage. Two of the greatest men the world has

ever known were born in our country in the same month. The key

to the greatness of Washington and Lincoln was that they were both

engaged in warfare. They fought the Revoluntionary War, and the

Civil War. Warfare is a setting that produces heroes. They were

very different men, just as Paul was very different from most men,

but they had this in common, that in their warfare they were

determined to be courageous for Christ.