“[Faith] is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction. Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things–all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith, Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace.” — Martin Luther
One of the things that, for me, solidifies my faith in Jesus and His word is the fact that the majority of the disciples were martyred for their faith. I know that people have done a lot of crazy things in the name of faith, but if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, why would the disciples suffer and die to proliferate a lie? For me the answer is simple: they wouldn’t.
Dictionary.com states that to “have the courage of one’s convictions” is “to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism” (emphasis mine). I’ve also often heard it said that courage doesn’t mean that you don’t have fear, but rather that you don’t allow fear to stop you from acting.
Sometimes courage requires a jump start. When I was in elementary school our local pool was an Olympic-sized pool complete with a 10-meter (33-foot) diving platform. I was on the swim team, so I was a good swimmer, but the sheer enormity of the platform intimidated me. Yet I felt strangely drawn to it. Several times I climbed to the top and stood at the edge. And several times my fear pushed me back down the ladder to the 5-meter platform. On one such occasion, however, the lifeguard wouldn’t allow my retreat. I was backed into a corner. Finally, I stepped over the edge.
It takes a long time to fall 33 feet when you’re 9 years old. The fear that kept me from jumping before now became the fear of splatting on the water below. Once I pierced the surface, however, I was hooked. I forgot all of the anxiety that had kept me from experiencing the thrill that comes in free-fall. I had courage based on my experience.
Other times, courage is a decision based on what you believe. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.” I imagine that was the case for the disciples. Having walked with Jesus over the course of three years they came to know Jesus in a powerful way. They were devastated when He was crucified. They had failed to grasp what He told them about what was going to happen. Despite having witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus and having been told that Jesus would be crucified and raised up on the third day, they were heart-broken, and heart-sick. They had lost sight of Jesus’ why because they didn’t understand His how.
Then on the third day they were told that Jesus had risen. They were dumbfounded, but found the empty tomb as Mary had told them. Then with their own eyes they saw the resurrected Christ. Suddenly the grief and sadness disappeared. They saw the Lord and found their own why. That why propelled them forward into a boldness and courage that they hadn’t previously known. They were not afraid to preach the gospel. They were not afraid of being beaten and locked up. They were not afraid to die so that people could know the forgiveness of a Savior, the cleansing that came from the spotless Lamb.
In the western world we don’t generally find ourselves facing death for the faith we profess. We have long since gone the way of compromise in the hope of comfort. The rights and respect that Christians once enjoyed here in the United States were ceded by our refusal to speak up when others began crying out for their right to be without religion in society. Our silence and inaction bolstered the position of the far left, which is now more accepted than ever. I’m not calling for any great political movement to attempt to get back what once was ours. I’m calling for a movement where Christians concern themselves less with their rights and more with being faithful to our beliefs, if indeed we have them. If our faith doesn’t inform every aspect of our lives, then it informs none of it.
It can be scary to stand up for what we believe, even when mocking is likely all that we will face. But when we consider that the vast majority of the world stands at the precipice of eternal darkness, we need to stand up and be the light. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). Given the great gift that is ours through Jesus, let us not be ashamed nor fear man. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, ESV).
Martial Arts great, Bruce Lee said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” The Church has sat silent for too long. Instead of sharing the life-giving power of Christ we have dined on coffee and donuts. Instead of speaking His words we have exchanged witty banter and NFL analysis around the water cooler.
I’m guilty! I confess. I repent. Commit with me to a life of courage, a willingness to share Christ not only by our actions, bu by our words. Commit with me to live mindfully, seeking out opportunities to share Jesus with others. Brother Lawrence once said, “If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter.”