Yesterday I started a book called What Is God Really Like? It is a collection of characteristics of God written by a variety of pastors. The first was by Frances Chan, called God is Strong. In it Chan points out that we often don’t talk about the strength of God. If we did, he says, we’d be stronger, more courageous.
He quotes Revelation 21:8, where God reveals those who will not be saved. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Whoa, wait a second. The first people to be judged are… cowards? Well, that’s probably not what John meant. I mean, that seems pretty harsh, doesn’t it?
After all, what’s so bad about being a coward? Killing, being vile, engaging in sexual immorality and witchcraft, all of those seem a whole lot worse than being scared.
Hmm... If I believe, if I truly believe that God is who He says He is, that nothing (nothing!) can separate me from His love, then what am I possibly afraid of? When I cower and refuse to step out, what I’m really doing is saying that I don’t believe that in Christ I am redeemed, that I don't trust my future is secure.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This verse gets used a lot to help encourage believers. It’s a beautiful verse, filled with hope and assurance.
It’s more than just a pep-talk, however. Like Jesus’ words about loving one another, God doesn’t suggest or advise us to be strong and courageous, He commands it.
But, Father, I’d be strong and courageous if only
...I spoke Spanish better
...I wasn’t so shy
...You guaranteed I wouldn’t be rejected
...I wasn’t so tired
...I felt like it
Revelation was written during a time when believers were suffering severe persecution. Today there are believers, too, who face hardships, prison, torture, and yes, death, for having the courage to claim Jesus Christ as Lord. This reality brings me to my knees begging forgiveness for my sorry excuses.
The fact is, if I wait around until I feel courageous enough to go out into the world and share the Gospel, I’ll never leave my house. Like the command to love, however, God doesn’t give us the luxury of waiting around until we’re “feeling it”. Instead, we are to be strong, to be courageous. Period.
Our courage and strength, like our love, are only possible because God is God. We step out in the faith He has given us. We step out in the assurance that no matter what happens here, our future is secure through the blood of Jesus. We step out filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.
So, today, I choose courage. Not because I’m feeling particularly bold, or inspired. Not because I woke up wanting to stick my neck out. No, I am choosing courage because God commanded it. Why do I always argue and need more motivation than that?
And, because He is who He is, I can be assured that as I obey His good and perfect commands, I will find that I am, in fact, more courageous. As I step out, putting feet to my faith, I know He will meet me, He will sustain me.
Father, forgive me for being a coward. For saying with my mouth that I believe, but living a timid, weak life that makes a lie of my words. Renew in me Your strength, Your courage. I cannot do it on my own. Thank you that I do not have to.