the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Last week we discussed the damaging effect of fear on our walk with Christ. This week we examine the building blocks of courage (we will touch on the “color” of courage at a later). Here's the thing: men and women of every stripe are capable of tremendous "generic" courage. However, the power of the Holy Spirit is required to maintain resolute obedience to Christ over the long haul.
The apostles - Peter in particular - showed a momentary flash of physical courage when the mob arrived to arrest Jesus. Though outnumbered, Peter drew a sword and slashed the ear of the high priest's slave (John 18:10). Yet, once the adrenaline dissipated, Peter took to his heels with the rest of the apostles (Matthew 26:36). Later, he screwed up his courage, and in the company of John, followed the procession at a distance to see what the outcome would be. In the end, Peter's courage faltered, he denied Jesus and fled the scene in tears. Not exactly a picture of bravery.
We know godly courage is expressed as obedience to the Lord in the face of opposition by the examples presented to us in Scripture. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous in the context of war. The proof of his courage was discovered in the crucible of battle.
Jesus told the apostles to be courageous in the context of their Gospel commission. Proof of courage is found in the apostle's submission to Christ in the face of murderous opposition, beginning with Peter's address to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. Indeed, a lack of courage among the followers of Jesus would have frustrated the spread of the Gospel. Imagine if Paul had been a timid man. He never would have made it out of Damascus.
With Joshua and the apostles alike, the key ingredient to their sustained bravery was the Spirit of God (Deuteronomy 34:9, Acts 2:4, 14, 4:8, 13:4, 9 etc.). Without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, men and women are not able to endure the hardship of long term obedience to God. There are no worldly accolades for the true follower of Christ, only tribulation.
So, what might courage look like today, specifically in the context of the COVID-19 hysteria? To begin with, godly courage is wise (cf. Deuteronomy 34:9 etc.) and it takes wisdom to sift through the available information concerning the COVID-19.
The mainstream news media and the civil authorities have promoted panic for three months now. They say their panic is evoked by "the science." However, the wise follower of Christ does their own research (1 Kings 4:29-34). Once you begin to read the opinion of leading epidemiologists, university researchers, "front line" practicing doctors and so on, you will discover that you have been lied to. You have been lied to about the severity of the COID-19, about the availability to effective treatments, about the death toll - really about everything.
Yet, wide reading of the pertinent literature is not enough. The truth is, your ability to read with discernment is predicated by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2). The Bible tells us, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever (Psalms 111:10 see also Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). As we increase in godly wisdom, we will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth (Ephesians 4:14). Therefore, if you neglect daily reading and study of God's word along with daily prayer, you are an easy mark for the lies of the ungodly. So, courage begins with obedience in the "little things."
If you want to exercise courage in this current climate of fear you must walk in obedience to God and prayerfully immerse yourself in his word. You should dig through the pertinent COVID-19 material. Once you arrive at a sound conclusion, act in accordance with the truth. It is in these actions that your godly courage will be actualized.