Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“Wait on the LORD: be of good
Courage, and he shall strengthen
Thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
 – Psalm 27:14 

         What exciting times we live in! Maybe a little too exciting for some of us who have lived long enough to truly appreciate quiet times—you know, sitting in your comfy chair with a good book, a decent bit of dark chocolate, sipping your favorite hot drink, listening to the blessed silence that fills the room, your dog snoozing nearby, the radiant sun slowly slipping below the horizon. Ah, yes, blissful peace, all is well; that is, until you are suddenly jerked back to reality when the latest crisis hits the news on TV, or alerts of a socialist conspiracy to overthrow our capitalist system pops up on social media. So, how are we, as Christians, to live in times such as these?

      The answer to that, of course, as with any such question can be found in the Bible. Christians know that “The just shall live by faith.” Faith is a big subject, and there is more to it than many people realize. Real faith is in a Person, Jesus Christ, as opposed to faith in faith, faith in a creed or religion, faith in experiences, faith in good works, faith in self, or faith in anyone or anything other than the triune God and who He is as revealed in the Holy Bible by the Holy Spirit.

      What about the “courage of faith?” Have you thought much about courage lately? Psalm 27:14 tells us that we are to “be of good courage.” That means all the time, in every situation, good or bad regardless of who you are or where you are. This verse also says to “Wait on the LORD,” which will be discussed, but first I want to call attention to the fact that the LORD will “strengthen” our hearts after we are of “good courage.” I confess that the part about having courage before God strengthens our heart used to baffle me. In my inadequate human reasoning I figured that if God would just supernaturally strengthen my heart first, then I could manage to be of good courage—maybe, depending on the circumstances.

      Let’s face it—it’s so much easier to sit and read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and stories of persecuted Christians of today, while trying to convince ourselves that we have what it would take to suffer and die for Christ, than to be personally tested along those lines. As for me, I must admit that I am the biggest chicken you have ever met. I would rather be chased over three mountain ranges by a Sasquatch than face a medical doctor with a fistful of toxic drugs in one hand and a knife in the other. You can’t get me to climb higher than three rungs up a ladder, nor can you force me to tiptoe across a rickety swinging bridge. I have been known to pass out in both the dentist’s chair and when having an eye exam. And, when it comes to snakes, even at my age I can jump higher and run faster than a spooked horse.

      So, the only reason I am attempting to write about courage is because the Holy Spirit laid it on my heart, plus I am convinced that courageous Christians are badly needed in, not only our churches today, but in our out-of-control world. Are we making a difference in either one? Or, do we sit in our pew (or theater seat) and merely observe the predictable order of things, while avoiding anything contrary to our comfort zones in either the world or the church that might lead to a confrontation over the truth? In other words, are we challenging what needs to be challenged in the church, in our families, in our community and in our nation while being the salt and the light in a world that is succumbing to the thick darkness of lies and deception? In short, just what are we doing with Jesus? That is, the real Jesus—the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Where is our courage?

      There are some people “out there” who believe they have always been a Christian, and who have Jesus everywhere. They are in love with their idea of Jesus. They wear Jesus Tee-shirts, Jesus jewelry, and “I Love Jesus” hats. Their house is full of Jesus coffee cups, Jesus tea towels, Jesus plagues, Jesus refrigerator magnets, Jesus curtains, Jesus welcome mats, Jesus stationery, Jesus pens, and they may even have a cat named “Jesus,” but they live like the devil. Oh, not so much outwardly like the devil’s crowd, marching in protest of everything that is good and lawful, but inwardly and privately—you know—in those dark places where nobody knows what they are really thinking and doing. But I have news for such people—the real Jesus sees you, He knows all about it, and Judgment Day is coming. Jesus knows all about the habits “Christians” would rather keep than kick, the attitudes behind the religious games they play, the justifications for the lies they tell, the excuses for not getting real with God, and the reasons why they refuse to separate themselves from that which is not of God, including so-called “Christian” psychobabble that has swept through Christendom along with New Age “Contemplative Prayer” and occult mysticism. We need to quit deceiving ourselves and gather up enough courage to repent, and come out and be separate. God is calling us to be a holy people, and it is His holy people that He is coming for, His glorious church, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. (See Ephesians 5:26, 27.) It takes the courage of our convictions to follow where the LORD leads. A.W. Tozer said it best, “The church has lost her testimony. She no longer has anything to say to the world. Her once robust shout of assurance has faded away to an apologetic whisper. She who one time went out to declare now goes out to inquire. Her dogmatic declaration has become a respectful suggestion, a word of religious advice, given with the understanding that it is after all only an option and not meant to sound bigoted…… Pure Christianity, instead of being shaped by culture, actually stands in sharp opposition to it.”

      How do we become courageous people? It begins by simply obeying the first part of Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the LORD.” First, you have to have faith to believe that God means what He says and He says what He means. So, what does it mean to “Wait on the LORD?” It means to calm and quiet your soul so that you can hear the voice of the Spirit. It means abiding in Him (His Spirit, Word, prayer, and obedience). It means not “leaning on your own understanding” and jumping to your own conclusions.  And, I can assure you that if you truly humbly wait on the Lord, draw nigh unto Him, and wait for His presence you will come to a place of brokenness and genuine repentance. Courage follows conviction, confession and cleansing and results in power and authority. Oswald Chambers taught, “He works where He sends us to wait. “…tarry…until…” (Luke 24:49). ‘Wait on the Lord’ and He will work (Psalm 37:34). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual fits of emotion to ‘wait patiently for Him’? (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told.” James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” All of this is preparation for the battle ahead.

      Courage is walking in obedience, and doing what is right in the face of fear and the unknown. Take Gideon, for example. He was threshing wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites when the LORD appeared to him, and said, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” Judges 6:12b. At that moment Gideon was anything but a “mighty man of valour”, but the LORD knew Gideon’s potential, and what He would prepare Gideon to do through him because Gideon was a man of faith, a man who obeyed the Lord and his heart was strengthened for the battle.

      Then there was Caleb, a mighty man of faith and courage. He was forty years old when Moses sent him with the spies into the land of the giants, and he “wholly followed the LORD [his] God.” (See Joshua 14:6-15; 15:13-19.) Forty-five years later Caleb was prepared, with the help of the LORD, and “drove thence the three sons of Anak…” Can you imagine waiting forty-five years on the LORD before realizing the promise, which in Caleb’s case was a whole mountain full of giants to defeat? Most of us find it almost unbearable to wait on the LORD for forty-five minutes.

      Who can forget the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who bravely faced King Nebuchadnezzar, and declared “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” Daniel 3:17, 18. Their hearts were fixed, their faith was strong, their resolve was great, and their courage unwavering for they had been prepared.

      Who would have thought that a young shepherd boy, alone in mountain meadows with his father’s flock would be learning how to wait on the LORD, gaining strength and courage for the challenges that lay ahead? Prepared with great confidence and courage David declared to the Philistine, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands” 1 Samuel 17:45-47. As Christian soldiers we can confront the enemy in the name of Jesus, but we have to be “in Him,” know what His Name involves, and stand on His Word by faith if we are to gain the victory.

      Queen Esther’s courageous character and faith in the Lord caused her to prepared for the great hour of trial, and when she was informed of the edict to exterminate all the Jews in the kingdom of Babylon, she bravely declared, “If I perish, I perish” and “waited on the LORD” with fasting both food and drink for three days. Great faith in the LORD of Lords strengthened her heart, producing incredible courage; the type of courage that inspires and is inspiring for others. The Jews wrought a great victory at that time and destroyed their enemies, which is celebrated to this day in the Feast of Purim.

      Concerning Moses, a study of his life touches on the main points of courage. There is the courage of convictions, courage of curiosity, courage to change, courage of confrontation, courage in conflict, courage to come higher, courage of character, and courage of confidence.

      Beginning with Exodus 2:11-13, we see Moses’ courage of conviction when he slew the Egyptian who was beating one of his Hebrew brethren, and again on the following day when Moses’ rebuked a Hebrew man who was doing wrong in hitting another Hebrew. We are living in the perilous times that the Bible warns us of. If you are a Christian who truly lives the courage of your convictions, such as standing against the evils that threaten our American way of life and freedom, you will find yourself in direct conflict with people who hate you—not just “dislike” you, but truly hate you. The lawless, lifeless, and spiritually lost throngs of what I call ”The Barabbas People” are anarchists who are actively organizing and gathering in our cities since the election of Donald Trump and are determined to push their godless agendas of hate on this nation. This includes the right to murder babies, the right to same-sex marriage, and the right to silence Christians, the right to be here illegally, the right to be lewd, lawless, and destructive. They feel they have the right to burn the American flag, along with the right to be protected from legal prosecution. What is even more frightening many of them claim to be “real” Christians, believe they are “right” and that the “far right” is “wrong, stupid, and too religious.” Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” Matthew 5:11, 12.

      Did you know that it takes a certain amount of courage to be curious? I feel sorry for people who have long ago given up their God-given curiosity. Curiosity stirs us up to explore the unknown, to learn new things, and to grow spiritually and intellectually. The danger is when Satan gets a hold of our curiosity and lures us into his bizarre realm of darkness and delusion. But, sometimes God beckons to our curiosity in order to reveal Himself to us in greater ways, and ordain us for His work such as He did with Moses. After Moses fled from Egypt, he spent forty years on the backside of the desert taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep. Probably nothing overly sensational took place in his daily routine. By the time he spent all those years away from Pharaoh’s courts, Moses probably figured nothing exceptional would ever happen in his life; that is, until the day he spotted a bush on fire—a bush that just kept burning, but wasn’t consumed. Some people might be more than a little spooked by such an unusual sight, and perhaps Moses was, but his curiosity got the best of him, and his life was forever changed. “And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I” Exodus 3:4. I encourage you to read the entire chapter of Exodus 3 because it is so powerful. God introduced Himself to Moses for the first time as I AM THAT I AM. It’s interesting to read Moses’ arguments with the LORD why he wasn’t the man for the job, but the LORD encouraged his heart. (See chapter 4.)

      Moses’ life was going to totally change, and for that he needed the courage to change. Most of us don’t welcome the type of change that takes courage, for change, even though we often long for it can be frightening because of its unknown element. People in the most miserable of circumstances usually choose to remain chained to their wretched existence when a way of escape is presented to them. It takes courage to accept change, even for the better.  Moses’ life had already changed from the notoriety of a public prince, to that of an unknown desert dweller, and now God was sending him back to his people, the Hebrews, and to the hub of Egyptian power where God would change him into one of the mightiest leaders who ever lived—a man through whom the LORD would impart the foundation for civilization in the Ten Commandments, changing the world from that time to this, and then go on to give him the blueprint for the Tabernacle, and lay the specific laws for the nation of Israel.

      Oh! How most of us hate to confront! But, if we are to serve the Lord, and serve Him well in this world, we need the courage to confront. We can read the struggle Moses had when he first spoke to the Children of Israel, and they didn’t believe him. He argued with God that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him either. Thankfully, the LORD is long-suffering and we all know the rest of the story. With each confrontation with Pharaoh, and each plague that God sent Moses gained courage for he knew God was with him. As for us, how many people fall through the cracks in our churches because they are never confronted in a biblical manner? If you cannot confront, you cannot lead. There will be no true revival until people are confronted with their sins of, not only commission, but omission. Many are the times when our LORD confronted His disciples, His family, sinners, and the Pharisees. The lack of courage to confront, hidden under the evil covering of “political correctness” has been one of Satan’s most effective means to bring America to the brink of annihilation. Finally, out of God’s mercy, He has given us a leader who tells it like it is instead of playing political games while “Rome burns.” Pray for our leaders, and ask God for the courage to confront the enemy, and believe me, they are many, and they are more determined than ever to overthrow and destroy our way of life. Their hardened hearts are filled with loathing and hatred. The Church needs to WAKE UP and become proactive, share the Gospel outside of the church doors, make disciples, stand against evil, and redeem the time, because we have been given a very short window of opportunity to work before the door of freedom and opportunity closes. Jesus warned, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” John 9:4. Remember this warning from Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Wait on the Lord, and ask Him for the courage to follow Him into whatever battlefield He has for you.

      The need for courage in conflict usually follows hard on the heels of courageous confrontation. None of us sheep like conflict. It’s stressful, and stress wreaks havoc with our health and peace of mind, not to mention it interferes with our plans to have a “happy day.”  We would rather head for the hills and crawl into a hollow log than get into any type of conflict. To be honest, there are days when some of us wonder if Scotty can really “beam us up” because conflicts are raging within, and raging without. I hate to break it to you, but there is only one planet that was specially created by God to be habitable and support life, and you and I are living on it. When you read about the life of Moses from the time he became a major problem for Pharaoh until the day he died, his life was full of conflict. It’s impossible to live in this world without some type of conflict—even with yourself—and Moses had millions of frightened, angry, complaining people to oversee. Even Jesus’ disciples squabbled amongst themselves at times about who was the greatest. Jesus wisely taught them about humility, washing their feet, and using a small child as an example. Paul instructed Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” 2 Timothy 4:2. To the Galatians he wrote, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” One of my favorite passages of Scripture reads, “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip” Psalm 18:32-36. May God grant that we be wisely and humbly courageous in conflict in the strength of the LORD.

      God takes us through a process in our Christian life. You can follow that process in the spiritual life of Moses as the Lord brought him higher and higher. There is courage of coming higher in God. It takes courage to pass through the “outer court” and into the “holy place,” but the highest and holiest of all is when you are taken into the “Holy of Holies” to meet with God face to face. “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” Exodus 33:11a. In the presence of JEHOVAH, all the human spirit can desire is for more of His glory. Moses longed to come “higher” in the LORD, to be close to Him, to know him in His fullness. His heart cried out, “And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” Exodus 33:18. That is the place every believer should long to be.

      In Part Two, we will look at the courage of challenge, the courage of character, the courage of confidence and the courage of Christ-likeness. Hopefully you are gaining a picture of what it means to be a courageous Christian soldier, prepared and ready to advance into battle as the Commander leads.