Courage


 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1: 20, 21

If you or I think that God is caught off-guard or unawares by the struggles that we have in life, then we have missed comprehending the heart of the Father. Should we ever face the issues that lie before us and see no opportunity for redemption in them, we lack a fuller appreciation of God’s commitment to His people. When we feel as if the challenges that those we care about most deeply are insurmountable, whether they are caused by willful disobedience or by situations and actions outside of their control, we need to open our eyes and truly see Christ’s love, grace, and power in their fullness. This world is a harsh and a difficult place to live. There are many traps and pitfalls that we can stumble into, and the landscape is littered with the debris that is the product of broken lives and failed dreams. Yet, God knew all of this before He did anything.

The Father sent His Son as our redeemer. Christ came into the world as a baby, and He left it as a fully formed man, whose life portrayed the intent, will, and power that God continues to pour out into the lives of people that accept His gifts. Christ now leads us into seeking after what has been promised to us from those times before the creation of the world. That is, we are to recognize that all goodness and mercy in our world come from God, and these unworldly qualities are granted to us in full measure through our faith in Christ and by the working of His Spirit in us and in our world. When we face trials, we are to call upon Christ in that faith and expectantly wait upon His understanding and wisdom to provide clarity and direction for any actions that we are to take. These times of prayer and contemplation can seem long when all that we desire is resolution or relief; yet, they serve the purpose of focusing our hearts and minds upon the Lord and taking them out of the naturally self-oriented place where people tend to go in challenging times.

Turning our deepest fears, concerns, and apprehensions over to God can be hard to do. People are generally formed up and function in a manner that is self-reliant and that utilizes our own resources to provide answers to all of the challenges that we face. There is nothing wrong with any of this; however, if we enter into the storms of life with our own skill and capacity as the complete and full set of resources that we have at our disposal, we are missing out on the greatest of all sources for gaining wisdom that overcomes all adversity and for the endurance that we will need to continue a hard journey to its conclusion. Christ can grant us the vision to see beyond the moment and into the glory of God’s redemption and restoration of all that is holy, good, and just in this world. As we place out faith and trust in Christ, He grants us a form of hope that is greater than all adversity, and He fills our weary hearts with a form of peace that id based upon His unfailing and eternal love. 

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3: 6-8

Perhaps this passage seems particularly pertinent today as there are many issues and concerns in my path that are weighing heavily on my heart and on my mind. The weariness of my bones may exist because of an especially long and hard workweek. We all deal with the impact of living lives that are full with activity and responsibility, that are burdened with stress, and that place demands on our physical and our emotional energy. Big things, little things, trivial things; they come at us with a sort of non-stop urgency that doesn’t leave a lot of time and space for quiet contemplation and for meditation on the Lord’s will and way.

We think that our times are considerably more complex and activity filled than at any prior time in history; yet, as indicated by this ancient writing, Solomon’s times must have contained a lot of the same stresses as ours do. His words tell me that I need to recognize God’s presence in all of life; that I need to give the Lord credit for what He does for me and for how He takes care of me in all situations. This idea of seeing God’s hand in every aspect of life is interesting to me, for as I recognize Him, my eyes are turned to His way of navigating through my day; God’s enlightened pathway of truth and love opens before me. Another aspect in these events is that God’s path takes a lot less energy out of my weary body and soul; as He always gives the strength and the stamina required to go in His direction.

As I look closely at the face of God while following Him through my day, another truth starts to resonate in my heart; all of the plans and approaches that I create on my own are silly, futile, and even dangerous. The more I seek to solve life’s challenges on my own, the more difficult it becomes to keep Him in clear focus, and since it is always more difficult to navigate on my own, I end up consuming more energy to get where I think that I need to go than I would have if I had allowed God the opportunity to lead me. This is foolish and dangerous, for when I get tired and discouraged, I grant evil easier access to my thoughts; thus, I can allow a sense of negativity, uselessness, and weariness to defeat God’s purpose for me. So, the stresses of life will continue to be present in my days, but as I turn the eyes of my heart to God and His care, provision, and direction for me, I will be strengthened and encouraged. The ailments that afflict my body are healed by Christ’s loving touch, my worries and concerns are given perspective, for the Lord makes my frame to be more than strong enough to carry the weight of my life and to lift up the burdens of those who God places in my path.   

The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty;

   the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt;

Yes the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Your throne is established from of old;

   You are from everlasting.

Psalm 93: 1, 2

Many people set out in life with the intent to shake things up. They want to be mighty forces in their world, and their goal is to become powerful, influential, and to make the important decisions. Almost no one actually gets there. Frustration and discouragement become the mile stones along the way. The map that was viewed from that high perspective of youth actually contains roads that twist and turn and that have large dips and many detours to negotiate. Travel along this path, from the inception of the journey until we get there, always takes too long, and arrival at “there” is never certain or ever all that fulfilling. Yet, it may be that in this frustrating process that most of us are missing the most vital element of orientation when we start planning this trip. Our map just might be lacking its true North.

Unfortunately, youth with its zeal and its physical strength tends to look at itself as the primary source for all wisdom, guidance, and understanding when life’s journey is mapped out. Although the young person has probably seen people that have started out strong and then crashed along the way, they tend to discount the experience of others as being caused by that person’s lack of skill, fortitude, or good luck. Yet, there is another reality to consider. For there is one and only one true and valid source of wisdom in the universe, and there is a singular place to go to look for what is needed for planning life and in its execution. God designed this world, and in the process He created us humans as the final summation of all of that design work. God poured His nature and character into the world that He fabricated. Now He remains engaged with His creation and in our lives in a manner that makes all of His wisdom, understanding, justice, and righteousness available for us to engage as we plan life and carry it out.

There is no situation or circumstance that we will encounter in life in which God does not have the resources that are truly necessary to guide us through. We can never go so far into the world’s darkness that Christ’s radiant light cannot penetrate, and even the running of time and our deliberate efforts to separate ourselves from God will never take us too far away from Him for His love, grace, and mercy to reach us. The God that is the sovereign king of the universe knows me and the most intimate and personal aspects of my life in a manner that makes Him the perfect counselor and guide for me in all of the small and great situations and events in my life. So, if you are young and starting to plan out the course of the days and the years to come, Christ is here ready to help you design the plan that is best for you to follow throughout each of those days to come. On the other hand, if you have already traversed most of the days that will be allotted to your life, there is still time and opportunity to turn to Christ for that same guidance, counsel, and support in all that you have left to do. There is a King, and He is sovereign in each of our lives. His love is there to be poured out over us, and His wisdom will lead us to place our feet upon the eternal certainty of God’s unfailing word as we venture forth into life.  

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Acts 18: 9, 10

There are many factors that cause us to get soft in our zeal for being openly and overtly Christian. These can hit us at almost any time during our journey through life. They take the form of concerns about the feelings of others, fear for our own acceptance, and struggles with how others will treat us. In some situations and in some places in the world the concerns and fears also focus on personal safety. All of these were on the table for Paul as he traveled about his world teaching about Jesus, and this is why Jesus came to him in a dream and shared this thought with him. You see, even the great teacher and writer of the truth of God’s word, himself, was fully human and shared the same sorts of doubts and fears that we all do.

Christ wants us all to grab hold of the fact that He is actively involved in protecting us from all of the real harm that concerns us. The Lord owns this world, and He is the One who is sending us into it to serve Him. Instead of fearing what is in the shadows, we are to be the ones who bring the light of God’s truth there. Rather than back away from hostility, we are to share the love of Christ with people whose spirits are troubled. When there are voices telling us to be silent and to hold our tongues regarding our faith and trust in Christ, the Lord, Himself, says to check on the real source of those words and to continue to speak boldly and clearly for His name’s sake.

There will be attacks, for there is an enemy, and evil does not like to lose its grip on the people that it uses for its purposes. There is also a God who is infinitely greater than all of the forces that Satan can bring to bear in his cause. Remember that Satan is the creature while God is the Creator. Also, this fight is already won, for Christ has claimed the total victory. It is the calling, the mission, and the purpose of everyone who has joined Jesus in that victory to live as if we understand and fully accept it so that we are not silenced by any personal concerns or doubts. Be brave, be bold, and be fearless in speaking the love and the truth of Jesus as you walk through your day, for nothing can truly harm you.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20 

The famous New York City coffee company Chock full o’Nuts uses a marketing tune that refers to their product as “Heavenly Coffee”, and it, no doubt, is quite good; yet, even when brewed with care and perfectly served, there can be no comparison to the rich and full truth about God that John provides for us in these two short sentences. These words are chock full o’life! 

Understanding is the thing that I believe we need most. Ultimately, it matters more than wisdom, for understanding is what directs, focuses, and applies the wisdom that God gives us. Through understanding we are able to pour out love, grant grace, and apply truth in our daily lives. God increases our comprehension of Him and of His ways as we pour our selves out onto His altar of transformation and open our hearts to the filling of His Spirit. Without the unveiling of God’s true self that was accomplished through Jesus, people do not have the ability to fully and completely grasp the totality of God and of His gracious love; thus, the Lord remains a veiled mystery. 

Through Christ our lives are filled with the gifts that God desires for us to have. Among them are peace, joy, comfort, wisdom, grace, purpose, protection, and courage, and by the interaction of Christ’s Spirit in our lives we are granted the great gift of understanding so that these other gifts can be used to truly bless us and the lives of others. Somehow, I think that this is a picture of the true heavenly coffee, and the aroma of this brew can fill the world with the one eternal fragrance.

A post from 2009; used here without edits.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1: 27

This is a description of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the modern world. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the current date is in the first century of the Christian Era or in its twenty-first century. The day, month, and year in which Christians find themselves living is a time when there will be pressures applied upon that person’s faith in Christ and adherence to the gospel so that the ability to stand up in the face of those forces will be in question. This world can be a harsh and a challenging place to live. There are real and highly active forces in it that are seeking to overthrow the gospel of Christ at every turn, and their target for this attempted coup against the King of the Universe is each and every person that gives their life to Christ as Lord and Savior.

In his process of waging war against Christ, Satan attacks both individual followers and the church. So, we must be prepared to stand up to these assaults by virtue of our deep commitment to Christ and submission to His will and by seeking to be of one mind with other followers of Christ as we gather as His church. Now there is no doubt in my mind that any gathered body of people will see many things differently, one from others. Yet, we can know the same Christ, be led by one Spirit, and submit to the singular Word of God. Then our strength comes through the unity that is hard won and thoroughly worked out by the process of living out together the challenges of life. Christ is fully committed to His church, and we are asked by Him to respond by being fully committed to seeking unity by and in His Spirit.

Paul’s joy and pleasure at hearing about the way that people in Philippi and in other places where he has shared the gospel of Christ are living as upright followers of that message of righteousness, love, and enduring faith reflects Christ’s feelings upon the same response in all of His people. Christ, Himself, is delighted when we lean into Him for strength, encouragement, and wisdom as we engage with the powers and forces in our world that are attempting to overthrow our faith and shatter the fellowship of belief that Christ has formed. In Christ we can find the singularity of purpose that overcomes all forms of difference. The Spirit works among us to focus our hearts and minds in on the redemptive message of that gospel and to make our points of disagreement into issues and concerns that can be set aside for the sake of standing together as we live out our faith in the world and before its eyes as a testimony to Christ.   

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

 You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

Psalm 12: 6-8

David’s words are both a lament and a warning. He cries out in pain at the way that deceitful people rule over the land. David is aware of this evil characteristic in people as he has observed it or has heard of it from the past. In addition, he also possesses the ability to look ahead and to see that not much will change in the future. People will continue to lie, cheat, and deceive in order to gain power, and they will operate out of deception in order to hold onto it. Their words are vile in God’s eyes. This means that they are as unpleasant as it is to enter a closed room in hot weather and find that there is spoiled meat present. The nose is curled and Godly people are repulsed by what they are encountering. 

This is the sort of pollution that these liars and deceivers spread across the land. They fill our ears with words that lead away from life and into a form of death that is the reality of this world when it is experienced outside of God’s holy and righteous presence. Unfortunately, these same vile rulers are successful because their message seems to be a good one to many people’s ears. They like the flattery and they respond to the sense of power and dominance that is often an important aspect of these ungodly leader’s message. As earthly rule is ordained by God, and rulers are placed into power with a form of permission from God, people who serve in these manners are also tasked with following God’s Word and His will when they carry out the work of their offices.

Thus, the warning that is spoken forth in this lament is for them. The Lord may allow the ungodly to have a day to bask in the radiance of their positional power, but He will not let what is so repugnant to Him continue unchecked forever. There will be a day when the people that misuse and abuse God-ordained authority and wield power for their own benefit will be required to stand face to face with the ultimate righteous judge, Jesus Christ. Even before that time, people are held accountable by God for the way that they live and for the manner in which they adhere to His word of grace, love, peacemaking, and truth. The Lord does prevail in this world, and this is true even in days of darkness as well. Instead of listening to these promoters of lies, we can keep our focus on the face of God, remain grounded in His Word of truth, and worship the one true King whose word never fails and whose loving care for us is eternal.  

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

Ephesians 6: 16-19

As Paul is closing this great letter to the churches that he has poured so much of himself into, he asks them to be praying for him in a very specific way. Paul wants to be bold in the manner with which he proclaims that great eternal mystery that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. At first glance, it does not seem as if Paul is asking for much, for he has been a very bold person for a great many years now. In fact, one might say that the Paul that we see and know from the bible was always bold. Even before Christ forced Himself into the trajectory of his life, no one would have mistaken the young man Paul for a shy and retiring personality. Yet, now, at this final juncture of his life, Paul wants to be held up by others before the Lord as he desires to be bold one last time. 

He seeks out boldness, not comfort or even salvation from his seemingly certain date with an executioner. Paul wants to live out his days by proclaiming life-saving and eternity-giving truths to anyone that he comes into contact with. He desires to do this even with the probability that his actions will hasten his own demise. These are not foolish or rash actions on the Apostle’s part; rather, he knows that speaking out regarding the only true path to salvation is exactly what God has called him to do. Additionally, it is why he has been placed where he is and with the people with whom he is in contact. All of Paul’s day to day life is the result of God’s plan and is an outworking of the Lord’s will. As Paul looks back over the years of his life and considers the places he has been, the people he has engaged with, and the adventures that he has known, I have no doubt that he can see God working in each twist and turn of the journey. Now he wants to finish it all with the words of the gospel of Christ upon his lips and the realization that he was bold to his last breath as his final earthly thought.

Paul was truly unique. God crafted him with a specific intent in mind, and the Lord used him to fulfill those purposes. Each of us is also specifically created by the Lord with intentional purpose and with a plan in place for the ways that we will serve Christ with our lives. Regardless of where we are in our journey through life, whether just starting out or rounding that final turn, Paul’s request for boldness in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is fitting and appropriate for each of us. None of us will have Paul’s skill, Spirit directed inspiration, and capability to write out explanations of the gospel for the world to read and consider. A few will be gifted with the ability to preach and to speak of these truths before groups and crowds, and all of us are called into lives of service to Christ and within His kingdom. Each of us can be bold in the way that we conduct our days. That is, we can love without reservation, seek justice for all, care about the needs of those that are powerless, and provide the comfort of grace and hope when life has overwhelmed people. We are to live righteously when our culture implores us to do otherwise, and we can bring the glory of the face of Christ into the dark corners of our world so that eternity touches the wounds of the day with its healing balm of grace, love, and mercy. In short, we can enter into the fulfillment of Paul’s final request and live out the gospel of Christ as our bold proclamation of its wonderous and mysterious truth.  

Evil men do not understand justice,

   but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.

Proverbs 28: 5

Where is justice to be found? This is an individual cry and a corporate plea that rings throughout the world today. There is little justice upon the face of our chaotic planet. Instead, violence and oppression rule the days as they spread their terrors with the wind. People are friends today and enjoy the care, support, and protection of a seemingly benevolent power; then, they are tossed aside to be consumed by others whose favor it becomes convenient to court and whose ego demands the sacrifice of those same former friends. The concept of steadfast friend and faithful ally is not well-known in our times as these are not the characteristics of those who would strive for dominion. Instead, friendships are founded upon convenience and alliances are settled upon the premise of what is most profitable today.

All of this is extraordinarily contradictory to the way that the Lord operates, and it is all contrary to the guidance and direction of God’s Word. In that holy economy, a person’s word is their bond, friendships are intended to last for eternity, and allies are people that are held as closer than blood relations. God’s nature and character is defined by faithfulness and the descriptor of steadfast is applied continuously to the way that the Lord engages with the people of this earth. So, God pours out justice upon the world, and He expects His people to accept what that means for each of us and to then bring that same divine justice into the way that we deal with other people and with the situations that we encounter. Justice is often the most fundamental of Godly attributes that we can provide to those that are the victims of the evil that is running loose in our world.

When our nations are unjust and their leaders deal in treachery and duplicity, we must not stop crying out to them and pointing out the wrong that is being done. We also need to seek to replace any evil people that populate these places of power and authority, for failing to do so is, in fact, agreeing with the evil that they do; so, it is also joining in the destructive mission that the Dark Prince inspires his followers to engage with as they foster violence, confusion, and death across the face of the earth. As we seek the Lord, His sense of what justice means can not be hidden or set aside. The Lord demands that His people live out this fundamental Godly characteristic, and He sends us into our world to bring the truth of His word of reconciliation, peacemaking, and protection to those dark places where others have sown oppression and death. If no one else cares, then, in Christ, we must! Should all others abandon the weak and the voiceless, then, with Christ, we must speak up for them and wrap arms of love around them and clothe them in His grace and mercy. Justice is the Lord’s, and evil will not prevail, for the Lord will rule the day!

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 4

Doubt is a personal reality that I, in honesty, have to admit to possessing. My doubt is not generally of the large scale and global sort, for I don’t have times when I lack a belief in the existence of God or question whether Jesus is real, true, and fulfills the role of Savior. These are not my doubts. Mine are ordered in the class of trust and reliance. When times get hard or the road that I am facing gets to be harsh and rough, I can turn from that easy daily faith in the provision, protection, and truth of God’s Word and instead I start to listen to my own voice of desperation and fear. This voice leads straight into my personal form of doubt, and this is never a good place for me to go, for it tends to freeze me into either inaction or it brings about self-driven poor choices.

I recognize that my own journey in this area may look very similar to that of some people, and it will be completely different from that of others. Just as God made each of us to be individually gifted with the blessings of His Spirit, He also formed us to be distinct and individualistic in most others aspects of life and of living it out. Yet, I also think that most followers of Christ do have times when we enter into a form of doubt. These periods of time or episodic events are often brought about in times when there is stress, trouble, and challenge present in our lives. These are those times of trial that James is speaking about, and these are the parts of life when hanging in there with God’s truth as revealed in His Word and through the interaction of his Spirit with me leads to a deeper and a stronger faith and trust in my relationship with Christ.

God’s desire and will is that each of His people would continue to grow and to develop in our capacity to live fully in the expression of His grace, love, and redemptive purposes. This sort of living takes courage to carry out in a world that tends to be antagonistic toward God’s absolute form of righteousness. This world fights back against people who bring Godly love, acceptance, justice, and peacemaking to bear upon all of the relationships and situations that we encounter. Therefore, it takes both courage and faith in Christ to continue along a pathway that leads straight into the angry rejection of many of the people and institutions of this world. This conflict in conjunction with physical, emotional, and financial stresses and struggles make up the wide array of trials that we can encounter during our days of following Christ; yet, as we trust the Lord to sustain us and to care for us fully in these times, we grow in our faith and move ever closer to that promise of perfection that is defined and completed in us by Christ. 

« Previous PageNext Page »