“Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified.” Okay, yeah sure, easier said than done. But when push comes to shove, being courageous can seem unattainable, especially when we have suffering encroaching in on all sides, making bravery seem like a far-off concept that is all but impossible to grasp.
So, let’s break it down- first, to be courageous, we need to know the source of our courage.
Jon Bloom says:
“Courage is not an autonomous, self-generated virtue. Courage is always produced by faith, whether our faith is in God or something else. Courage is a derivative virtue.”
God is the source of our courage. The God who flung the heavens into place, created the dry land with all its wonders, and gave the seas their borders. He is a God with whom the only reasonable response is absolute AWE and WONDER which appropriately leads to complete humility, worship, gratitude and obedience.
How often do we listen to the lies that the enemy whispers to us?
How often, despite the Word, do we forget how faithful He is, and we cower in fear and anxiety? How often do we fear man rather than God? The same God who delivered the Israelites form Egypt through the plagues, He parted the Red Sea in order that they cross on dry ground, He provided water, manna, and quail in the wilderness, He led them by a cloud in the day and dire at night! WOW! The devil’s intention is to instill fear into your hearts, because if you’re fearful you will not be a warrior and the battle is won. So, who are you going to listen to?
How great should our courage be knowing we are heirs with Christ?
Romans 8: 16-18
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
It is promised in the lives of Christians that we will face sufferings, trials, and tribulations. Tribulation is the grandstand of our courage. To be brave under stress- this is our testing ground. Our perspective on tribulation will either defeat us or produce hope in us. Romans 5:1-5 describes assurance for hope- a certain hope for future glory for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
All too often we’re lead to believe the Christian life should be devoid of troubles. Good grades, good job- but the good life is not what we are after! Check yourself before you wreck yourself! What matters?? The kingdom works, that which will last into eternity! Most often the very moments we are asking to be delivered from are the moments where He is doing His greatest work.
There are four stages in this passage:
Confidence or courage (Derived from the phrase “does not disappoint”)
These four stages are a cascade of successive occurrences initially catalyzed by tribulation.
Now we are in this tension- He loves us… He is good... He wants good things for us… and yet, tribulation is going to happen. Not only that, but we are to “glory in tribulation” What does that mean? Clearly, it’s not the actual trouble we rejoice in, but in what it produces in our lives! The knowledge we will have hope at the end of tribulation, if we endure and don’t lose heart, is what inspires us to glory in tribulation!
It’s hard, especially as Americans, to wrap our minds around the fact we are to glory in tribulation. That is why we have such rampant false teaching out there. As if God is some genie, bound to do our bidding so long as we conjure up enough feelings to believe what we speak will come to pass. Really? Wow. Woe to myself or those who would ever have such audacity to believe that. God never promises a trouble-free life. In fact, we’re called to walk out what is right regardless of our feelings. We can see what God promises through the lives of the disciples- and it is not a self-centered prosperity gospel.
2 Corinthians 11:24-29
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stones. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger form rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?”
Now even though there is tribulation, let us remember that 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
God has already made a way for you to surrender your habitual sin to Christ and return to him. Our choices and our agency must be engaged to build the character that comes from persevering with Christ no matter the circumstances. Sanctification is this- the uncomfortable bit between justification and glorification. Sanctification demands obedience in conjunction with the help of The Helper (the Holy Spirit). And obedience requires we are cognizant of the framework in which we are expected to operate our lives and live out God’s will. We need to verse ourselves in who God is and get to know him and we do that by studying and knowing his word.
Most of the time tribulation in our lives is the result of bad choices we have made, but what about when it is the result of someone else’s choices? We must acknowledge how some people choose to live out their free will is grotesque and difficult to reconcile with what we as believers know of His goodness. There are no easy answers to this. It is a tension entered with sin and will not be resolved until glory. It is the tension of free will, given for relationship and because of God’s justness and mercy it was dispersed to everyone. So too his grace was dispersed- his unmerited favor those who repent because he desires relationship with us. He paid a huge price to win us back to make that relationship possible. Remember- perfect justice would mean we all go to hell and be eternally separated from God. Do you forget it’s not just God’s mercy poured out on the cross, but also His wrath over sin?
So, while the tribulation imposed on us brings a tension for us to live in, it is also what brings great opportunity to glorify our Father by standing on our hope courageously- and in that hope we will not be disappointed.
Furthermore, how great and courageous should our acts of faith be on this side of the cross, being recipients of His grace? Even the Earth declared the greatness of what happened on the cross! Darkness came over all the land, the temple veil that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies where God dwelled was town in two from top to bottom (60 ft tall, 4 in thick), the Earth shook and rocks split, graces opened up and saints came out and appeared to many people, and most of all… the consequence for sin was conquered because the justice of God was satisfied and His grace made available through no merit of ours. Staggering, staggering love.