February 16, 2017

Courage: The Indispensable Christian Virtue

Image: Crosswalk.com


 "He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  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.” - Revelation 21:6-8

Do these words of Jesus comfort you, or offend you?

Cowardice is the first among the "vices" listed in this Bible passage. When I re-read these verses recently, I noted for the first time cowardice is listed in the same range of offenses as unbelief and murder. How can this be? Why would cowardice condemn someone to eternal torment, or separation from God?

Isn't it true we all fear something, or someone, at some point in our lives? What's wrong with that?

Cowardice isn't the same as reasonable or sensible fear of danger. Cowardice is a state of mind, a world view, and a perspective on how to manage the unknown.

We are all afraid of something. I don't accept the popular phrase often spoken by motivational speakers (FEAR = false evidence appearing real). There are real things any intelligent and well-reasoned person should fear. Fear can guide and direct us away from danger and harm. Would you trust the judgment of someone who said they feared nothing and no one?

Cowardice is different. Cowardice may express itself as a lifestyle of avoiding or running away from anything we don't feel completely prepared to handle on our own. That lifestyle is in complete opposition to God's call and command to "fear not" because, as Jesus assures us, He is with us "always, even until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20).

Choosing cowardice over courage always limits what God can do in, for, and through us. Cowardice is more than a weakness or a character flaw for the Christian. Cowardice is actually a form of rebellion, an unwillingness to trust God to support and aid us when we are at the end of ourselves and our natural abilities. If cowardice could speak, it would say: "God, I do not think you can handle this."

Of course, there are times when each of us lose sight of what God will do for us, especially as we pioneer into spaces and places where friends and family may not be able or willing to guide, help, or advise us. Even in that situation, courage asks God to show Himself more clearly and build our faith in the direction of trust and reliance upon Him.

Do you feel free to tell the truth, even when no one around you wants to hear it?

Are you confident you can stand alone if and when God calls you to do so?

Are you brave enough to remain steadfast when it would be easier or more naturally comforting to go along with everything you see and feel around you?

Cowardice cripples us when we repeatedly embrace it over choosing courage. Cowardice murders future opportunities. Cowardice makes a lie of God's promise to always love, keep, and care for us as His beloved children. Cowardice is where unbelief and fear find their home.

Courage brings and keeps us in the place of peace and progress because we don't rely only upon our natural abilities and resources when we embrace godly courage. When we reach out with courage, God's loving arms lift us, hold us, and carry us forward.

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