Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Courageous Christian #3

Fear is a part of our lives. All of us experience it to some degree, and for some us it is a paralyzing reality in our lives. Fear keeps us from living the life that God designed us to live and it prevents us from completing the task He has called us to do.

What we need is courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is facing our fear in order to do what needs to be done. If we did not experience fear then we could not live with courage, for courage is our decision not to be ruled by our fears.

The early Church knew fear. They were being harassed by the religious authorities, discriminated by the average citizens, and threatened with beatings and possible death by the powers of death. In spite of this the first disciples boldly proclaimed Christ Jesus in public. This led to the arrest of two of the leaders of the Church, Peter and John, as the preached about Jesus in the Temple. In part two we looked at Acts 4 which records the incident for us. I pointed out that one of the truths that we could take away from the story is the reality that we are being opposed. Doing the right thing, following Jesus, and preaching the Gospel isn’t going to be easy, and when we encounter opposition we need to endure. In order to endure we need boldness. Acts 4 provides us two important ingredients for boldness.

The first ingredient is that we need to be with Jesus: 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 (Acts 4:13; ESV).

Harold Sala in Profiles in Faith wrote; “Courage has nothing to do with your education, your money, or your strength. It depends on personal character and the strength that comes by trusting the Lord” (p. 117).

It was not their education or their money that separated Peter and John from the crowd. They were unschooled and ordinary, and let’s face it, that is how many of us feel. There is nothing special about us. We don’t have a lot of money and there are a lot of other people who are smarter than we are. When we view ourselves from the lens of this world we discover that we are quite ordinary. The result of this is that it is easy to shrink into the shadows and not rock the boat.

The courage of Peter and John did not come from education, it did not come by their positions in life, or the money they had. Their courage came from being with Jesus. Peter and John had spent three years traveling with Jesus. They had a relationship with Him, they shared experiences with Him, they talked with Him, and they ate with Him. When Jesus rose from the dead He showed Himself to the Apostles. It was being with Jesus, discovering who He was and experiencing His love, that gave Peter and John courage.

I realize that we cannot have the same type of experience that Peter and John had. That experience was reserved for twelve men. So how can we be with Jesus? Now the Sunday School answer is: read the Bible and Pray. I want you to know that in this case those are exactly the right answers, but they are only part of the answer.

Yes, part of the experience of Peter and John included listening to Jesus’ teaching and prayer, but it was also observing Jesus with people. You want to be with Jesus, then be with people, help people, and love people. Matthew 25:40 reads; The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (NASB).

Max Lucado reminds us in He Chose the Nails that the point of the passage is; “How we treat others is how we treat Jesus” (p. 17). Being with Jesus means being with those He loves, treating others with respect, and helping those in need. When we do this we will experience Jesus in a whole new way. In a way that will give us courage.

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