It’s simple, really. One has the courage to remain faithful, no matter the cost . . . and the other does not.
Every mature Christian will go through three phases during his race here on earth. We find this list in Revelation 17:14: “For He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”
God has issued each one of us a call (it literally means an “invitation” in the Greek) and has chosen us for a special assignment during our time on earth. But so often many of us get stuck in Phase 2 without ever reaching Phase 3, which is the hardest part of a Christian’s life — staying faithful.
When I was in Asia a few months ago, I spoke with several members of the persecuted church. They sent me back with special messages to the Church, their brothers and sisters overseas. One of these messages was a sobering challenge — for us to stay faithful to the cause of Christ.
Courage and faithfulness go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Courage is the inner strength to remain faithful to the Lord.
I am teaching Sunday School this weekend on Acts 23 and in my studying I came across three things that separate courageous warriors from the unfaithful wimps.
1. A courageous person realizes that he is never alone in the battle.
The secret to being courageous in the midst of trying times is recognizing that you are in the continual presence of the Lord. I can’t imagine what Paul went through leading up to Acts 23. He was safe with Gentile believers, only to be called back to his own people who wanted to chop his head off. Instead of staying put, he followed his Lord back to Jerusalem, only to be thrown in jail.
But he wasn’t alone in jail. God came near and revealed his presence to him. “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23:11
Throughout the Bible we see that courage sets apart the wimps from the warriors in God’s Kingdom. But the warriors never could have had this spiritual courage without continual awareness of God’s presence.
Look at what the Lord told Joshua in Joshua 1:9: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
This year, we have no idea what we’re going to face. But there is a VERY strong possibility that you are going to encounter a need for courage. You will only be able to summon up this deep spiritual courage — that inner strength to remain faithful to the Lord — when you remember that you are not alone in the battle.
2. A courageous person takes a stand not just for himself, but for others.
Courage isn’t just for you. Courage also impacts the lives of others around you.
I love this story in Acts 23 of Paul’s nephew. His courage saved his uncle’s life. You will not know till you get to heaven how many spiritual lives your courage saved. Your courage doesn’t just give you strength — it gives strength to those who are running the race of life with you.
The lives of those who come after you will be built upon the foundation of your decisions. How you live, who you are, and the choices you make now impact them then. They need you to courageously embrace God’s plan. They need you to be everything that God wants you to be. They are depending upon you to do the right thing now.
3. A courageous person enters the battle with the right weapons.
When the chief captain heard of the plot to kill Paul, he courageously went to work with plans to bring Paul to safety. He knew that these Jews were willing to do anything to kill Paul.
So the Roman captain set out to protect Paul. Even though Paul was going to be moved to a safer place in the middle of the night, the captain wasn’t taking any chances. He brought the right weapons with Paul—2 centurions, 70 horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. WOW.
Now, what are you using to fight your battles?
Are you fighting with the weapons of the flesh or are you geared up with the weapons of the Holy Spirit?
It is impossible to do spiritual battle with earthly weapons. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;”
As we enter the New Year, let’s purpose to fight our battles with the most effective weapon of all — the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword.”
God’s Word brings freedom. God’s Word brings life. God’s Word brings courage.
This year, purpose to go forward in courage and not just be called and chosen.