Summary: Let us stay engaged in the battle waging around us. Let us be filled with the courage to declare. Amen.
“The Courage to Declare,” I Thessalonians 2:1-8
A soldier in one of the regular batteries of the army of the Confederacy had displayed conspicuous bravery in a dozen engagements while serving with his gun as a cannoneer. At the battle of Chickamauga he was assigned the duty of a driver only, and instead of participating in the excitement of loading and firing, had nothing to do but sit quietly on his horse, and watch the havoc created around him by the enemy’s shot. He soon became seized with a terror which completely unmanned him, and after the battle, implored his commanding officer to send him back to his gun. His courage leaked away when he had nothing to do.
I am tremendously concerned that far too many Christians have become just the same way. There is a spiritual battle that is waging all around us and because we do not have a sense of what our war time assignment is, we lose heart and are filled with fear because we have become disengaged from the battle. Rather than finding the courage to declare Christ to the world around us, we find ourselves watching the battle rage; filling us with all sorts of fear, anxiety, and disillusionment at our own ability to wage war on the enemy of our souls; the devil.
I say often that it matters not whether you are 2 or 102, 5 or 55, God has a vision for us all to fulfill, at every stage in our lives, and in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at a given stage of life. We have war time assignments in the spiritual battle that rages around us; God has called each of us to the spiritual trench where we stand in our families, friendships, and community.
“People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage – so long are you young. When your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and only then are you grown old.”
This morning we will discuss what it meant for the Apostle Paul and Silas to have the courage to declare Christ. Also, we will discuss what it means for us to have the courage to declare Christ in the here and now of our lives. Each one of us has been gifted uniquely to declare Christ in our corner of the Kingdom of God. Each of us has a mission field, whatever and wherever it may be.
In today’s Scripture reading the Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica, refers to he and his travel companion, Silas, having previously suffered and been insulted in the Philippi, on their way to Thessalonica. The Apostle Paul is referring to an event which is recorded in Acts 16:22-23:
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” (NIV)
This event occurred during Paul’s second missionary journey as he traveled through Philippi and then to Thessalonica, across the northern portion of the Mediterranean Sea, in Macedonia. This is the account familiar to many of us as the indecent of the conversion of the Philippian Jailor. After Paul and Silas were stripped naked in the public square, they were placed in prison. Later that evening, while they were singing hymns and praises to God an earthquake was sent by God which caused the doors of the prison to open and everyone’s chains were loosed. Paul and Silas had faithfully declared Christ and God was faithful to deliver them.
After leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas continued on to Thessalonica where they continued to declare Christ with boldness and great courage. They knew their mission and they knew their task but that was not the source of their boldness; I am convinced that their ultimate courage came in knowing that God was with them in their journey. They did not travel alone and neither do we. We are empowered by the same Holy Spirit which indwelt the Apostle Paul.
In Romans 8:14-16 Paul writes, “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (NIV)