by Wayne Greeson | via Connersville Church of Christ
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
While this quote is often falsely attributed to Winston Churchill, its actual author is anonymous. Regardless, it still resonates with truth. It takes great courage to stand up and finish the work of the Lord. “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
David’s charge to Solomon echoes the Lord’s charge to Joshua to follow Him and do His work. Likewise, the charge is followed by the promise of the Lord’s abiding presence and success, Joshua 1:1-8.
Hezekiah called his captains to courage to stand up in the fact of the overwhelming forces of the enemy. “‘Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the word of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6-8). His call to courage was also a reminder of the overwhelming forces and the overpowering ally that fight with us and for us when we serve and obey the Lord. The Lord helps us and fights our battles.
The courage to stand up not only requires us to fight for the Lord, but also to do right even at great personal cost. The leaders of Israel took courage to put away their pagan wives and children to be an example of obedience to God’s Law to God’s people. “And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it’” (Ezra 10:2-4). To obey God’s commandment when everyone else is doing otherwise can be very painful and demands great courage.
We need courage to speak up to face a hostile world and tell about Jesus. When threatened the early disciples prayed to the Lord: “‘Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word…’ And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31).
It took tremendous courage for Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul), to preach boldly under the imminent threat of death from those who opposed him (Acts 9:27-29). Paul requested Christians to pray for him to continue to “open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:18-20). Paul’s example encouraged others to: “…become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” and, in turn, further encouraged him to speak up “…with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:14, 20).
Christians have a duty to reprove “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11-13). Paul and Barnabas “waxed bold” speaking to unbelieving Jews who they said had “judge(d) yourselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46-47). Paul found it necessary to warn his Christian brethren in sin, writing “more boldly” to them (Romans 15:15).
Regardless of whether you courageously show up, stand up and speak up for the Lord, when the final judgment comes, we will all show up on that day (Matthew 25:31-32; 2 Corinthians 5:10); we will all stand up before Him (Romans 14:10; Revelation 20:11-13); and we will all speak up and give an account (Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36).
As we will be judged for our courage or cowardice: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). We need courage now so, “…that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).
In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Caesar disregards objections to his departure on the Ides of March for the Capitol, where, he was warned he would be assassinated, saying: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once” (Julius Caesar, Ac. 2, Sc. 2).