Courage

“Spiritual gifts” was the topic for a woman’s Bible study. We talked about the gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12 Ð the gift of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, distinguishing between the spirits, and the list continues. Our study manual mentioned that the Biblical list of gifts was not intended to be a complete list. So we began to think about other personal traits that were gifts from God. One lady mentioned courage as a gift. Another person asked, “Is courage a gift?” Do some have it and others do not? Courage is defined as “the mental or moral strength to venture out, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Having concluded that courage must be a gift that not all people have, at least to some degree, we spent the rest of the hour in a lively discussion on how God gives us a courageous heart and how this gift is needed in our day.

Some of the examples of courageous people mentioned were interesting. One person mentioned Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who filed a letter that, according to Time Magazine, accused the bureau of deliberately obstructing measures that could have helped disrupt the September 11 attacks. Did others have some of this information? Probably. Why didn’t they make what they knew known? Did Coleen Rowley have a special gift that not all others have?

In the 16th century Martin Luther blew the whistle on the corruption in the Church. This brought much hardship to Luther, including the threat of being hunted and killed so that his friends put him in hiding for months to protect him from his enemies. Did Luther have a special gift of courage that others did not have? Was he the only one who understood that our salvation is a gift from God, and that it is received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from good works?

Let’s look at Psalm 46. This was one of Luther’s favorite psalms and the basis for his hymns, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” This Psalm teaches that God brings comfort in the time of trouble. God’s people have always experienced persecution when they remained true to His Word. Here the Psalm says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . . The Lord God is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

The Word of God calls for courage on the part of those who are his children. We see the courage of Jesus as he stood up to the Pharisees and High Priests of his day. They were so angered at Jesus’ teachings and actions that they had but one desire, and that was to kill him. Their threats did not intimidate our Lord. He stood courageously before them never concerned about His own safety.

As Jesus trained his disciples, he reminded them that it would be necessary for them to take up their cross and follow him. He assured some of them that they would die for him. These prophecies were fulfilled. The early followers of Jesus were imprisoned and tortured because they courageously said, “We must serve God rather than man.”

A courageous church is needed today. We need voices from the pulpit declaring, “Thus says the Lord,” even though our culture is teaching something else. We need this same message coming form committed Christians in the world of work and play when people flounder to know what is right and wrong.

All too often we remain silent, defending ourselves with the thought, “What good does it do to irritate our world? It only gives us a lot of enemies.” Our goal is all too often not to irritate people, which is impossible if we remain true to the message of the Christian faith. When truth is not spoken, bad things happen. This is what Coleen Rowley is saying about September 11, and the FBI’s part in it. This is what Luther was saying about the Church of his day Ð clean it up or people will not have a clear understanding of the Gospel, but will think Christianity is just anther law religion.

This is why the Roman Catholic Church today faces serious problems, because inappropriate behavior on the part of some clergy was not dealt with at the proper time and in the proper way. That is why many churches in Protestantism have little influence in society. Little by little theological error crept into the teaching institutions of the Church. In the name of scholarship these theological errors were accepted and soon the basic teachings of the Christian faith were rationalized, and the Church had no authority on which to stand for the Bible was not subject to the interpretation of the learned theologian who, in some cases, had little or no personal relationship to Jesus.

A couple of examples might clear up what I am saying. In some mainline churches the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is denied. The Scriptures clearly teach that He was raised, but it just didn’t seem possible to some that anyone could have come froth physically from the tomb. Rationalism replaced faith and the resurrection was reduced to some kind of a spiritual resurrection. What does that church really have to offer its community in terms of what God’s Word teaches regarding victory over death unless it is some nice psychological pep talk? The message of Easter has lost its punch, and the Church has lost the historical message of New Testament Christianity. Is it any wonder that such a congregation has empty pews?

Today this same method of interpreting the Bible continues. The subject now is the practice of homosexuality. Open up your Bible to Romans 1 and you will read clearly that the practice of homosexuality is sin. However, this does not go along well with the culture of the day, so maybe we now have to change this in the church. Learned men will come around and instruct parish pastors of new understandings based on what they call “the best scholarship,” and some pastor buy this line of thought for they have great loyalty to their seminary professors. Some in the laity like the more liberal message while others are angered by it. The results are division in the church. It is in this setting the church must look seriously at the clear teaching of the Bible and courageously say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and “On this truth we stand. Do with us what you will.” It is time, it has always been time, for the Church to speak if it wants to be God’s agent in this world.

Certainly we are to be peacemakers and not make an issue out of things that are not essential to our salvation and Christianity. But we cannot say that it is peace at any price. Remember, the Bible makes it very clear. “In as far as it is possible, live at peace with all people.”

Courage comes when convictions are strong. A timid soul can become a courageous person. The Apostle and is a good example of how God can take fear away replace it with courage. He who denied Jesus because of his timid became the one who, two months later, said to the enemies of Christ, “We must obey God and not man.”

Walk with the Lord Jesus in his Word and you will become a loving, kind, and forgiving person. At the same time, He will put courage in your heart and make you a forceful voice for him.

Is courage a spiritual gift? My Bible study with the women that afternoon convinced me that it is a gift that needs to be exercised by the committed Christian today.