home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > January 28th > Courage, take it.


Dr. Andy Bannister, from the Solas Centre For Public Christianity (U.K.), was recently asked in an interview what he thought the greatest challenge for the Church in 2022 was. Of the three things he was invited to list he placed courage as the first and most pressing challenge. He stated that many Christian and church leaders had retreated in trepidation over the past few years in the face of an increasingly aggressive culture becoming confused about environmentalism, gender distinctions, and human sexuality which regarded Christianity as its enemy. His colleague, Dr. Aaron Edwards concurred with Andy’s assessment and lamented that so few men have the temerity to take a stand for truth. If these Christian thinkers are correct, how can we respond to this “most pressing issue for the Church in 2022”? Would you like to be more courageous? At what points in your life would you have particularly liked to have been more courageous? God’s Word describes dozens of people who found courage after applying the two spiritual principles for finding it. But of all those mentioned in the Bible, one person in particular displayed more courage than most and exemplified the spiritual principles for doing so.  

But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
Second Chronicles 15:7

 

TRUE COURAGE REQUIRES SPIRIT EMPOWERMENT

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:2

The prophet Isaiah foresaw Christ as having the seven-fold anointing of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2).When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit indeed came upon Him (Matt. 3:16) and immediately He “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). How would you have felt if you knew you were going to have a face-to-face encounter with the devil in a few hours? Jesus approached this otherwise terrifying encounter with the confidence of knowing the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence. Every tempting assault of the devil that ensued was then countered by Christ using the Word of God in the power of the Spirit. (This is why it is imperative for would-be courageous followers of Christ to be increasingly familiar with the Word of God so that they too can resist the fiery darts of the devil – Eph. 6:11-18). When Jesus returned from this initial encounter with the devil, He did so in the power of the Spirit and as a slightly more courageous man (Luke 4:14).

 

FOLLOWING CHRIST INSPIRES TRUE COURAGE

When the apostle Paul was pioneering the church in Corinth he encountered massive opposition. In his darkest hour there it seems that he nearly abandoned the mission, but then he was enabled to take courage because of a spiritual experience with Christ –

¶ When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, 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.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Acts 18:5-11

 

‘SPIRIT WORDS’ INSPIRE COURAGE 

The apostle was strengthened and filled with courage by Christ’s presence and the words that He spoke to Paul. The Word of God – particularly the spoken or preached Word of God has the power to strengthen and fill a servant of God with courage. Notice what happened to the despondent Daniel when he heard the Word of God – 

And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel 10:19

At a time when Jesus was saying some hard things to the crowds who were only interested in being given a meal, Christ began to tell them that He was more satisfying than any food they might eat. At this odd comment, these several thousand people left Him. Christ turned to His confused disciples and asked them if they too wanted to leave? Peter’s response was profound –  

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed,
and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-69

Peter is a great case-study in developing courage. He initially faltered several times culminated in his humiliating denial of Christ three times before the rooster crowed (Matt. 26:34, 74-75). But after the resurrection of Christ, Peter had a private meeting with Jesus on the shores of Sea of Galilee. Again the Lord spoke strength and courage into Peter.

¶ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
John 21:15-17

‘SPIRIT FILLING’ EMPOWERS COURAGE 

Ten or so days later when Peter and the other believers were gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon Peter and he became a model of a courageous leader when he preached to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the temple precinct. The result was that 3,000 people came to Christ and were baptised as a result of Peter’s courageous preaching (Acts 2:14-39). A few weeks later the gathered apostles again prayed to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, and there were (Acts 3:1-26) and in a moment that would have made most men cower, Peter took courage and did it again:

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.
Acts 4:8-13

While some believers erroneously view the filling of the Holy Spirit as merely a subjective experience which is largely irrelevant before 10AM or after 11:30AM on a Sunday, the bible reveals that the filling of the Holy Spirit is relevant every hour of every day — especially because God is looking for His people to step up and step forward courageously!

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. Blair Davis

    Agree 100% Andrew, we need to be constantly aware of the empowering Spirit in our life to be an effective disciple

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.