In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
This morning I was reading through the end of the book of Revelation. Not because I hang out there often, nurturing unhealthy codes and conspiracies, but because I was longing for what lies ahead for those in Christ. As I read I was again comforted by John’s vision of the coming Kingdom of God. It excites me to think about it; and in light of the suffering and death all around, I long for it to come quickly – today in fact would be nice.
As I pondered the thought of Jesus making “all things new” in Rev 21, I was additionally struck by another idea, a word actually, among the list of those John mentions will miss out on experiencing this amazing final, hope filled, reality. It wasn’t the entirety of his list (thats the subject of countless other debates currently raging), but the first group of folks mentioned, “the cowardly”, those too fearful to follow Jesus; too timid to take a stand for his truth when push comes to shove.
I don’t at all believe the bible is dismissive of the very real emotion of fear. The world is full of scary things. I know God gave us the ability to feel afraid to protected us from evil as well as the stupid things I spent my younger years engaging in anyway. Caution can be good and godly. I do believe, however, that there’s a fear that God is apposed to; a fear that makes us cowards toward the things of God and that can keep us from his Kingdom. A dread that comes as a result of allowing worldly cares around us to loom larger than he who is over us; faithlessness that gives rise to inaction as a result of disbelief in his great love. A fear of man, over and above a fear of God.
“The Cowardly”, are those who in the face of hardship and opposition choose to walk away from the power, promises and person of Jesus Christ. Those who for the sake of themselves, forsake him. And before anyone, including myself, think they have never been or would ever act cowardly towards God, lets remember a similar list from 1 Cor 6 that soberly reminds us, “such were some of you.” On any given day, in any given moment depending on the given situation, I forget the gospel and become cowardly toward Christ.
Life is scary and our hearts are easily scared. The reality is it’s not going to get easier to follow Jesus. In the next 5-10 years many will abandon the God and gospel they claim today; no longer able to hide behind the name “Christian”, we will be left with only Christ. Unable to remain ambiguous about our beliefs, we will be made to deny or die on the Word of God. We will have to choose sides – courage or cowardice.
So that got me thinking about some simple ways we can help ourselves, our children and each other as a church, grow in courage walking with and awaiting our King and Kingdom.
THREE TIPS FOR BECOMING MORE COURAGEOUS
1. Know Jesus – If someone doesn’t know Jesus, it makes sense that they wouldn’t trust him. It also makes sense that if someone has an idea of Jesus, that’s not based in the true identity of Jesus they might also be a little fearful of following him. When you read the New Testament ask yourself, what truth does Jesus want me to know and trust about himself and what has he done to validate himself as trustworthy and true? We grow in confidence and courage in Christ when we know him as he has revealed and proved himself to be.
2. Spend Time in the Kings Court – That’s just my creative attempt at saying be frequently in the Word and Prayer. The more we know the truth through reading, study and memorization, the more we trust the truth. Half the promises that go untrusted are because people didn’t even know God made a promise. Spend time in the presence of the King, you’ll come to know his thoughts, ways and character along with his commands. In Scripture we listen and in prayer he looms. The purpose of both is not only to know what we are to do, but the one who asks it of us. Confidence and courage come from time in his Courts. That’s why David says in Psalm 27:4 its the best place for him to be.
3. Start with the Small Battles – This might be the one we need the most. Don’t expect to win wars if you never engage in battle. Every enemy is scarier when we dont face them. What acts of faith and obedience are you avoiding? God calls us to generosity, good works and gospel proclamation to grow us in our confidence and courage. It’s not to scare us, but to make us brave in him. If in your life you shun the small stuff, you’ll almost certainly sweat the big stuff. If you want to become confident in your finances, start by faithfully tithing. If you want to grow in certainty in regards to Gods Word begin letting it guide your prayers and start pursuing what it commands. If you want to become courageous in sharing your faith, initiate talking about it more often with those you know. Most fears are rooted in uncertainty and doubts and darkness dwindle in the light. We see it for what it is, and who he is, in faithful action. Courage is not an absence of fear, it’s a God trusting confidence in the midst of it.
As we enter an increasingly hostel world that doubts and denies the gospel; they desperately need to see and we firmly need to be confident, courageous Followers of Christ. I am praying, even now, that I will increase in my own courage for Christ in the coming days, months and years, and I’m praying that for his church as well.
Fear not little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom.