Note: Much of the information in this sermon was taken verbatim, from sermons on the www.sermoncentral.com Web site as follows: A Call to Courage (David DeWitt), Be Strong and Courageous (James Galbraith), Turning Chains into Courage (Dana Chau), Valuable Lessons for the Day of Battle (William Morris), Am I a Soldier of the Cross? (Paul Etterling), and Remembering our Freedom (Damian Phillips).
Prayer: Dear Lord, we ask you to help us today to remember and honor the current and the fallen soldiers and the courage they have displayed in protecting our nation. We ask that you help us to display that same kind of courage daily in the lives that we lead. Amen
Joshua 1:9: In which Jesus was reassuring Joshua who had taken the place of Moses and was leading 2 million Israelites into a new land - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go."
Psalm 139: 7-10 - In which David spoke of God’s omnipresence - "Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Memorial Day is tomorrow, and during this time we honor and remember those courageous men and women who are serving and who have died to keep our country free. President Bush just spoke along side the new WWII memorial in Washington D.C. to remember those lost. Over two and one-half million have given their lives in wars in the last two centuries to preserve our freedom. In the 1900s there was WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf war, and now the war in Iraq.
Jesus said in John 15:132, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." The soldiers, who died to keep our country free, also died out of love for their friends and family. We must never forget the sacrifice that they made out of love for country, and for family and friends.
These soldiers displayed courage and today, I want to talk with you about another kind of courage. In a sense, we are all soldiers of the cross and in this role we serve Christ in fighting the battle of faith, in defeating Satan as our foe. And as we remember those who have fought, maintained, and served our nation in defense of freedom and democracy, so we must remember on this day that we are also called to serve, that we have obligations to fight a different kind of war.
The war that we fight may not look like the war in Iraq, because it is a spiritual war. As the bible says in Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. " I want to talk with you today about how to have courage as a Christian soldier. This role is just as important as the role of our soldiers when they fight our physical wars.
What is "courage?" It is doing what you know is right when it needs to be done, regardless of the difficulty. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is having fear but moving forward in accomplishing what you have to do knowing that God will be with you.
So, how do you serve as a Christian soldier with courage? (three things)
Let God be in control
Accept that bad things happen to good people
Focus on the outcome of your service, not the process
First, Let God be in Control
You must acknowledge that "God is in control," and be willing to do what he has called you to do.
Many persons think that if we are courageous we grow closer to God. They see virtues like love and courage and wisdom as a path to God, and they believe that as we live out these virtues we become more and more the persons God wants us to be. We do not earn our way to God through the practice of virtues like courage; rather we grow in virtues like courage when we give ourselves to God.
Courage grows in us when we do the things that require it. As we strive to let God work through us, and there are opportunities every day; we will grow in the courage it takes to do these things.
We are never alone when we attempt to accomplish what God wants us to do. He stands with us. As the scripture I read from Joshua says: "…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go," and from Psalms: "…your right hand will hold me fast" God instills the courage that we need to make things right in this life. It is impossible to follow God and not grow in courage. If our courage is not growing, it is likely that we are not doing what God has called us to do.
Courage moves us beyond our limitations by taking us to a higher level. It allows us to grow by making us stretch beyond what we are now. It allows us to serve God to the best of our ability and reach the potential that he has placed in our life.
Second, Accept that Bad things Happen to Good People
Having God’s power to give us courage does not mean that bad things won’t happen to us. Bad things happen to good people and even to God’s people; for example, from the bible we know that:
Job lost his family and health.
Christ was betrayed, beaten, and crucified
Paul was imprisoned and later beheaded
God does not provide a trouble free life, but he does offer solutions to life’s problems. Being a Christian allows us to tap into the powers of Heaven in order to face the pains on earth.
Third, Focus on the Outcome of your Service
We must focus on the outcome of our work in fulfilling God’s purpose in our life rather than the process we are going through. The prospect of joy can give us courage. Even Jesus allowed himself to be crucified at the prospect of joy, knowing that sinful people would be reconciled to their God and the fellowship of God and humankind would be restored. The prospect of this joyful end allowed Jesus to endure the cross with courage.
Often when persons encounter difficult situations they say "why me?" This is not helpful and will lead to a victim mentality. A pastor once said to someone who had been complaining about difficulties they were having to face: "Why not you? Everyday the world rolls over someone who was just on top the day before." In other words, he was saying: "What makes you immune to the tragedies of life?" God never promised to make Christians immune to cancer, to financial problems, to hardships. In fact, Jesus promised that we would have tribulation or hardship in life.
Instead of asking "why me?" when you face difficulties in life, ask, "What does God want to learn or gain from this situation?" or "What outcome does God want from me in this situation?" Focus on the purpose God has for you, not on the pain you are experiencing. Then along with God’s help, take action to fulfill the purpose God has for you. From the outside, others will see your courage flowing out of you and your actions, because from the inside, you are looking at the prospect of joy at the completion of God’s purpose for you.
In your prayer, ask God what purpose he has in this hardship?
It may be that God intends for us to be the lesson of God’s love or strength for another.
We may be in our difficulty because our character is being refined.
Maybe only in our weakness can we see God’s strength.
"Courage is knowing that you are indestructible, until God’s work is done in and through you."
When I recall the story of Tommy Hamil I think of courage. He is an American civilian worker who was a POW in Iraq for a period of time and recently escaped. When Tommy talked about his ordeal, it was clear that he had let God be in control, he understood that bad things happened to good people, and he was focusing on outcome. He described trying to escape several times, and failing and he didn’t say "God why have you forsaken me?" He said: "God, I guess you didn’t want me to escape then." When he thought he was going to die, he didn’t say, "Why are you deserting me God?" He said: "I guess this is my time Lord." He was not afraid because God was with him. He tried to stay in constant contact with God’s purpose and that is what gave him courage and kept him alive and brought him home safely.
Courage is something that we all need to grow in, for we will all face situations where doing what we know is right will be difficult, even impossible on our own. In those times, our relationship with God can make a difference in how we conduct ourselves, and it will allow us to grow.
Dear Lord, we honor and remember those courageous men and women who currently serve and who went before us in name of country and loved ones. We ask you to give us strength to be courageous too in whatever way you intend to use us. Amen