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.
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.
‘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.”
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.”
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.”
‘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.
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.”
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.
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