Character Trait No. 12
Definition: Demonstrating that God is with me, giving strength and firmness of character, enabling me to endure any trial or danger.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them for the Lord your God is one who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you.” (Dt. 31:10)
“FREEDOM-M-M!”screams defiant Braveheart in the unforgettable scene in the popular film about the legendary Scottish super-patriot, Sir William Wallace. He was offered two choices: Swift painless death by beheading if he’d only symbolically accept the tyrannical English King Edward’s legitimacy as Scotland’s lord. Or humiliating, excruciatingly painful torture. Wallace rather chose torture than lie against his conscience. So they hanged, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered him! Like Christ who refused a sedative of wine mixed with myrrh before the crucifixion, Braveheart similarly also refused a mind-dulling drug from the queen before his ordeal.
Five hundred years later, American patriot and founding father, Patrick Henry, also defying the same English as Wallace, said: “GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!” Such heroics spark the fire in every red-blooded male who has any manly spirit at all. Principled men - and women - who cannot be cowed by menacing bullies demanding cringing subservience, inspire people. For instance, when visiting Scotland last year (1999) with my family, I was extremely impressed with the nationwide veneration of Sir Wallace. Thousands visit his memorial monument, a large stone tower about 100 ft. tall, every year. This astonishing building sits on a hilltop overlooking Sterling, where he won his smashing victory over the invading English army on Sept.11, 1297 against incredible odds. Such bravery or courage is a much admired character trait worldwide.
The exploits of the early Christian martyrs also stir our blood. Lions, tigers, bears, gladiators, whippings, imprisonment – none of these could subdue their magnificent courage. Following the noble tradition of the Old Testament greats in the Bible Heroes Hall of Fame in Hebrews 12, (men of whom the world was not worthy), these early Christians:
“...accepted joyfully the seizure of their property ...endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulation, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated ...knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.” (Heb.10:32-34)
Paul also warned the Philippians:
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” (Phil 1:29-30)
Undoubtedly Paul himself was one of, if not the most, courageous man that ever lived. His list of hardships in II Cor. 12 would make the toughest Navy Seal or Marine drill sergeant cringe. Paul was God’s demonstration of how His power can supernaturally embolden and empower a man with extraordinary courage. Exhibit A = Paul!
Peter, in a reverse sense before Pentecost, proved the way the Holy Spirit can change cowardliness into boldness. Contrast Peter’s denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion, to then unflinchingly standing up to the Christ’s crucifiers, the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, and boldly throwing their criminal act right in their faces. Why the change? He had received “power from on high” – Acts 1:8 – as Jesus promised. Resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus gave Peter the gumption. Moses going back to confront Pharoah – “Let my people go!” – is an Old Testament shadow of this. Moses had seen God’s glory in the burning bush. Jeremiah said, “I am but a youth!” Then God told him that he was making young Jeremiah and an iron pillar, a bronze wall and a fortified city. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets were bold men because God had revealed His glory to them, in one way or another.
Just as confidence comes from a right relationship with the Lord, and having a clean conscience, similarly we get courage. Being in the right and fighting for a just and true cause gives a man great boldness. This is moral courage – stronger than steel and as enduring as stone. Its also called righteous indignation. Thus Jesus twice cleansed the temple of filthy black marketing con artists. Our integrity is our strength. Volunteer freedom fighters with strong convictions conquer self-seeking, sniveling conscripted troops of tyrannical dictatorships nearly every time. Our right is our might! Is it not called “the courage of our convictions” for naught!
Paul told young Timothy, when embarking on a highly challenging ministry among the cosmopolitan Ephesians as their evangelist: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” “Timid” Timothy became “Tiger” Timothy, able to “fight the good fight of faith”. (Evangelists have to be good spiritual “war-fighters” as preacher Steve Doty, who is also an ex-marine, often says.) Paul also wrote the Philippians that his imprisonment in the cause of Christ had caused many saints possess “far more courage” to fearlessly preach God’s word. This caused him to rejoice. He also asked the Ephesians to pray for him,
“...that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Likewise we also need the same great boldness to preach. The churches’ mouth must not be shut by paranoid delusional fears. God will never allow His word to be shut down until Christ comes. Right now we have all the courage needed because of Christ, living in us. Assume this, and then open your mouth and speak on Christ’s behalf. Brothers, real courage is shown in boldly preaching the full gospel in the face of all opposition, with the attitude of Esther – “If I perish, I perish, but I must speak the truth of Christ.” Of course, we might not be tortured like Braveheart or crucified like Christ. But we will have some very tough situations with “friends” and even family members, fellow employees and neighbors, and backsliding pew sitters in the church! I just got a call yesterday from one of my friends and disciples, Kwame Afakule,(known by all as “Hammer”), telling me how he was viciously insulted by a juju priest in Togo. He was really hurt by the terrible things this man said. Actually, though, Hammer is truly blessed. (Matt.5:10)
Last month (Feb.2000), the security officer, Vincent Graham, at our American Embassy in Accra warned me to leave Ghana. Why? Since we were attacked Jan.15th by Nigerian armed robbers, death threats were made to my co-worker Kwame Karikari. He was actively involved in investigating and capturing two of these dangerous and well-connected gang. (The judge who granted them bail was just promoted!!) Vincent said,
“These Nigerian guys are ruthless, we had evacuate somebody at night recently who got on their wrong side.” My answer?
“I’ve got work to do. Orphans to tend, lessons to teach, the gospel to preach. I can’t just leave.”
I like Nehemiah’s bold response to threats made on his life while he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem:
“Should a man like me flee? Now, O God, strength my hands.” (Neh. 6:9-11) Am I brave? Well, yes and no. On my own, not at all. But with Christ, I guess I can only say:
“When I am weak, then I am strong.” May all of us be brave and get the truth out to all men before the night cometh in which no man can work. Remember, He will not confess us before the Father if we fail to confess Him before men.
BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!