If we are going to live as genuine disciples of Jesus Christ then we are going to need to live courageously. As you take a look back through Scripture you see that those who sought to truly worship God and obey him were often called to exhibit courage in the face of fear – Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy, etc. Jesus doesn’t call his followers to pursue comfort, stability, the approval of others, or societal status.
He’s called us to be salt and light – to love unconditionally, give sacrificially, obey him unreservedly – and this entails living courageously. Of course, Jesus himself, has set us the supreme example in living such a life. Yet, how can we find the sort of courage needed to live this way for Jesus? I believe there are a couple of factors that can help us in that.
1. Keep focused on God. It makes all the difference where our gaze is fixed. When God called Joshua to lead his people into the Promised land (knowing there were significant obstacles to overcome) he commanded Joshua, ’Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed…’ And then God gives Joshua the reason why he need not fear and why he should be of good courage… ‘for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9). When Jesus gave his disciples the command to go and make disciples of all nations, he promised to always be with them in that mission (Matthew 28:19-20). The words of Romans 8:31 should inspire us – “if God is for us then who can be against us’? The answer is no one! Our God is with us!
2. Keep focused on the ‘prize’. What leads an athlete to endure great physical and mental pain and to make all kinds of sacrifices’ to be the best? They have their minds focused on the end goal – to win the ‘prize’ (to be the world champion; to get the Olympic gold medal). In Romans 8:18 Paul has the same thing in mind when it comes to enduring hardship for the gospel and living boldly for Jesus – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” He knows that the ‘prize’ that awaits him (the glories of eternal life with Jesus) are worth enduring any amount of hardship and suffering in this life. The Apostle Peter writes something similar in 1 Peter 4:12-14, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” It has been said that ’courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than one’s fear’. That something else for the Christian is Jesus Christ and his kingdom.
3. Keep encouraging one another. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. There is a reason that God has placed us in his family when he saved us. Paul urges the Thessalonian believers to ’encourage one another and to build one another up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The writer of Hebrews urges believers not to give up meeting together but to encourage each other in the faith (Hebrews 10:25). If we are going to stand firm in the faith amidst the opposition of the world then we need to do so in Christian community. Similarly, if we are going to be a strong witness for Jesus – to have courage to not only live out our faith but to speak to others about it as well – we will need to do so together.
I hope these words encourage and inspire you to live courageously for Jesus this week.