Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Courageous Christian #2

It is easy to live a life of fear. All around us there are reasons to be fearful. We can live in fear because of the economy or climate change. We can be afraid because of changing morals or which political party controls the government. We can live with the fear that our children will be influenced by the wrong people or that we will be hit by a bus when we step out on the street. If we allowed it to fear could paralyze our lives.

God does not want His people to be held back by fear. He wants us to live life, to engage the culture, and to stand up and fight for His Kingdom. In other words, God wants us to be different.

Remember what the apostle Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7? The Apostle wrote; “...for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (NRSV). God has given us the Holy Spirit so we wouldn’t be cowards, but would be heroes that make a difference for Him. We have courage when we trust God. Every Christian who has ever faced an unappealing task, has found their courage in God to do it.

That reality was true with the Apostles as well. I want us to focus on Acts 4:5-22 today. To give you background on what has happened. Peter and John went to the Temple to worship and preach. On their way into the temple they came across a man who had been lame for 40 years. He asked them for money, and Peter and John healed him. As the man ran and jumped, praising God, Peter and John spoke to the people. As they were speaking the Temple guards came to arrest them, for what they were saying was disturbing the religious leaders. Now it is the next day, and Peter and John have their day in court.
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, By what power or by what name did you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name. So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
(Acts 4:5-22; ESV)

In the next two installments we will look at two ingredients for Christian courage that we find in this passage, but right now I want us to understand a very important truth. We will be opposed, even when we do good things, when we go in the name of Jesus. I want us to remember this because it will be disheartening and we will want to give up, but we have to continue. Jesus never said it will be easy, and it is my belief that is through these tough circumstances, when we want to give up, that our faith is grown the most. That is why courage is so vital to our lives as followers of Christ.

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