When is the last time you saw someone do something courageous? How did it make you feel? Did it make you want to live differently? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner teaches us about courage…what it looks like, where it comes from, and how we should live if we have it.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Where in your life can you be more courageous? (Work, home, neighborhood, etc.). What’s one way you can be courageous in that area of your life this next week? Share this with your community group and ask them to hold you accountable to doing what you identified…to being courageous!
When is the last time you saw someone do something courageous? How did it make you feel? Did it make you want to live differently? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner teaches us about courage…what it looks like, where it comes from, and how we should live if we have it.
"I’d rather be a loser in an ultimately victorious cause than a winner in a losing one.” Woodrow Wilson
"The ultimate effect of shielding men from their folly is to fill the world with fools." Herbert Spencer
"All that is required and necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke
“I’d rather face an army of lions led by a lamb than an army of Lambs led by a lion.” Alexander the Great
Suggested Scripture study: Proverbs 22:3; Proverbs 14:6; Proverbs 27:12; Proverbs 30:2-6; Proverbs 12:6; Proverbs 27:5-6; John 17:17; Isaiah 40:8; Proverbs 12:7; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 14:26; Proverbs 18:10; Proverbs 21:29; Isaiah 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Jeremiah 1:17-19; Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 29:2; Proverbs 21:29; Proverbs 28:1; Hebrews 11:32-40; John 16:33; Philippians 1:21-30; Romans 8:31-38; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:1-2; Matthew 10:28; Numbers 13-14; John 10:11-14; John 15:12-13
Sermon: How the Remnant Lives Courageously
Sermon: Courage that Comes from Love
Sermon: How to Love a World Filled With Rompers
Real Truth Real Quick: When Should I Stop Sharing Truth with My Friends?
Hello, friends. We are in the middle of a series called This Is the Life where we are sharing with you the life God intends. The loving Father who wants it to go well with you, who wants your life to be full of glory, is giving you instruction from his Word about how you might live in such a way that not only would you not bring destruction on yourself but you'd be a source of blessing to others.
God speaks into our lives, God redeems our lives, brings us back into relationship and leaves us here because he loves this world and wants the world to know he loves them, so he leaves his people to be salt and light, his ambassadors, individuals living amongst a world that is confused, so that they might see the glory of who he is. God wants to invite you into that life. It's a life of ultimate meaning. It's a life of ultimate purpose. It's the life that can be defined as the blessed life.
It doesn't mean you're going to be healthier and wealthier than others, but you will be wise, and your life will have what all men and women really long for: a life where strength defines who you are. Dignity is your clothing, and it's a beautiful thing. Sin removes the glory God put on us. Grace restores it, and the hard work of sitting at the feet of a loving Father is what causes it to be refined and more and more of what he intends. Let me pray, and then we're going to talk about this amazing attribute God pours into his people that makes us a source of glory and a blessing to others.
Father, thank you for your Word, that you don't leave us as orphans to figure it out. You have given us a more sure word from you that is not just a lamp unto our feet but a light unto our path and allows us, if we'll just walk according to it, to be a light to the world. We thank you for your Son who has redeemed our lives from the pit and wants to elevate us and makes us, individually and collectively, especially, a city set on a hill which cannot be hidden, which is a source of refuge and protection to others. So, Lord, help us to be your people. Give us the life that is life indeed. In Jesus' name, amen.
I will tell you that by the kindness of God one of the things people say about me a lot… They go, "Wagner, you're courageous." I will let you know that one of my favorite songs is a song by a gal named Twila Paris that I used to listen to all the time. You maybe have never heard of Twila Paris, and that's just fine. I wouldn't recommend you go back and listen to all of her stuff. You would think less of me when you hear some of the way that music is arranged today.
Twila has a song called "The Warrior Is a Child," and I would commend it to you. Twila's songs are rich with great truth that I'm not at all embarrassed that you would listen to. That song talks about how a lot of folks see all the strength and maybe all the confidence, but behind this, the warrior is a child. My strength is not based on my stature, certainly, or my confidence in myself.
I am going to tell you today the source of my courage, and I'm going to share with you what should be an attribute of your life if you are wise, and that is that you would be courageous, and because you're courageous, you would be an individual who could stand up against marauding evil and deceit and naïveté and delusion. Man, if our world ever needed something, it needs courageous men and women. So I'm going to tell you what, if I am, makes me courageous. It is my confidence in my God.
Woodrow Wilson used to say, "I'd rather be a loser in an ultimately victorious cause than a winner in an ultimately defeated one." I made that decision a long time ago. This world is not my home. I don't expect everything to be up and to the right in this world, because my Father told me this isn't my home, and like the world hated him it's going to hate me, but I am not ashamed of the good news, for I am confident it is the source of salvation to all who believe.
So I gladly am a herald of righteousness. I don't care if people call me names. They called Jesus names. I tell people all the time, "Here's one of the problems I have. I'm not Jesus, so sometimes I don't do things exactly correctly. He always did. But I do take some confidence in this: he did everything perfectly and the world still hated him."
So I will say to people all the time, "Listen. If the way I've done this, if the way I've stated this is the problem, will you please forgive me? Pray for me. I want to do better. But if what I said and what I'm doing is the problem, if it's rooted in Scripture and the truth of it is found there and my confidence is found there, for that I will not apologize."
Courage. It literally means strong heart. It comes from the word heart. The movie Braveheart could have been titled Courage. Is there a movie that men like more than Braveheart? No. Every one of us is like, "Okay, that's the movie." It's like even if you don't like the movie and you're a guy, you have to put it in your top three or you're not a guy. It's just one of those movies where you look and go, "That's what men do." And not just men but godly women. They're courageous.
I love the name Cora (I didn't get to name any of my kids that) because it has that sense of beautiful or strong heart. It means courage, strong heart. I like what Robert Frost, the great American poet, said. He said, "The saddest thing in life is that the best thing in it should be courage." In other words, our world has been deceived. Our world is deluded. It's so easy to go along with the world, so the most necessary, the best thing in the world that is going this direction is courage to stand against where this world is going.
I love my God, because he makes me courageous. Courage is not brash arrogance. Please don't think courage is brash arrogance. Courage is moving forward in the midst of almost certain defeat sometimes because you have confidence in something greater than the immediate. Let me say it this way. Moving forward, though, in the face of foolishness and stupidity or what will ultimately be defeated is not courageous; it's just stupidity.
I read an article today. I hardly go into it, because sometimes the world is so intimidating, isn't it? Sometimes you just go, "Man, is it really right that I'm living a righteous life? Is it really right that I want to do what God wants?" I read an excerpt that was just tragic today of Demi Moore, who was married to Ashton Kutcher. She was saying, "I really regret some of the decisions I made. I just wanted to show him that I was fun. I just wanted to show him that I was willing to take some risks."
She talks about things she brought into their relationship maritally, and she saw how Ashton Kutcher took advantage of that. In her insecurity, her lack of courage to demand dignity from her husband and monogamy from her husband, she did some things. Everybody goes, "Oh, what an amazing couple. Oh, what a great stud Ashton Kutcher is." Ashton Kutcher is a weak, uncourageous man who cannot control himself or anything else, but the world venerates him and mocks those of us who talk about purity and fidelity.
Well, you look at Demi Moore's recent quotes, and you just listen to her say, "I wish I could have been more courageous." Some of us don't even have the courage to conduct our own lives with honor, because we're not really sure yet that God is the one who makes all things beautiful. Our courage should come from him. Moving forward in the face of certain defeat… I will tell you that moving forward in rebellion against God is certain defeat.
This is what it says in Proverbs 22:3: "The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on [sometimes courageously] , and are punished for it." You see that one of the attributes of fools in the Scripture is that they become bolder and bolder in their sin. I mean, courageous in their sin. I see some people who are courageous in their rebellion against God, and that's not ultimately courage; that is foolishness.
This is what we're doing. We're teaching you from this book about skilled living. I'm taking proverbs and trying to teach you how to live this life God intends for you. Proverbs 14:16 says, "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool [who looks really courageous] is arrogant and careless." He's like a drunk who is confident in his delusion and in his drunken state, in his stupor, that he's 10 feet tall and bulletproof when, in fact, he's not.
Proverbs 27:12 almost repeats Proverbs 22:3. It says, "A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve [almost courageously go forward] and pay the penalty." Let me make it really clear what we're talking about here. Courage is not just brash arrogance. The wicked parade their tongues against the earth, and God says to them in Psalm 50, "You thought I was altogether like you, but I will reprove you and rebuke you to your face." No, it's coming. Courage is the ability to move forward despite fear because you have well-placed confidence.
The word confidence is made up of two words that mean with faith, and God, with faith, wants to make you courageous. I love a quote by an old Puritan pastor, Phillips Brooks. He essentially said, "In time of man's greatest affliction, remind them of their greatest attribute." I want to remind you that your greatest attribute has nothing to do with you. Your courage should never be placed in yourself. It should always be placed in God, and your relationship with God is your greatest attribute. Like it says in Romans, "If God is for me, then who can be against me?" He's the one who makes me brave.
Courageous people run toward trouble. Don't you know that? When everybody else is running away, courageous people run toward. We think of our friends, our first responders on 9/11 who ran toward trouble. We think about our brave soldiers on Normandy against almost insurmountable odds, but there was a great evil there that we believed the Allied forces could overcome. They ran to Pointe du Hoc on the beaches of Normandy.
God says, "I want you to run into this world that hates good and loves evil, and I want you to know it might immediately not go well for you, but ultimately, it will go well for you and for others." But courage placed in anything other than truth is foolishness. Listen to what the Proverb says. This particular proverb, Proverbs 30, isn't written by Solomon. It's written by another person who was a part of the collection of proverbs that were there. He takes on a position of humility, and this is what he says in Proverbs 30, starting in verse 2:
"Surely I am more stupid than any man, and I do not have the understanding of [all you other people] . Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know [because you're cocksure and confident about how we should live our lives] !"
Then this wise, humble person who is, in effect, taking on an ironic position of submission to all of these people who parade their confidence throughout the earth about what is right and true and good and where we came from and why we're here, says, "You want to know where my confidence is? It's not just confidence in my philosophies or the zeitgeist, the worldview of the day." He says, "My confidence is in the word of God."
"Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." He says, "That's where my confidence is going to be." He goes on to say, "Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar." He says, "You know what? I'm going to have confidence in the word of God," because, as it says in Psalm 12, the words of God are pure words, as silver tried in the furnace, refined seven times over. There's no dross in them.
I'm going to let you know that if there is courage in me it's not because I'm smarter than somebody else, certainly not better than anybody else, and definitely not stronger than anybody else but because I am confident that every word of God has been tested. I stand firm where he stands, and all I am is a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. That will make you courageous if you can just believe that.
Courageous men speak the truth in love. It's just part of what we do. "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of [a flatterer] ." That's Proverbs 27:5-6. So many people will flatter you with ideas and flatter you with mindset. It takes courage to speak the truth. Honestly, I don't know if it does. It just takes being sure of what is true, of what has been refined seven times in the fire of time and history.
Jesus says, "Todd, you should know I want you to become more sanctified, more purified, and the way it's going to be happening is through my truth." John 17:17. Jesus prayed for me. He prayed for you. "Sanctify them in truth, and my word is truth." Isaiah 40:8 says, "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of God endures forever."
Proverbs 12:7 says, "The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand." I believe that's true, so it gives me great courage. The wicked might win in a season, but I know what the ultimately victorious cause is. Proverbs 19:21: "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand." If I stand courageously with that which will ultimately stand, that's not really that courageous; it's just wise.
Proverbs 11:7: "When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of strong men perishes." But the person who trusts in the Lord, his hope will never perish. Proverbs 14:26: "In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge." That's the source of my courage. Proverbs 18:10: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe."
Courage is rooted in the Word of God and the person of God. Proverbs 21:29: "A wicked man displays a bold face…" In other words, he looks courageous. "…but as for the upright, he makes his way sure." Is that really courageous to give an answer that you're sure is going to work out well for you? I don't think it is. I just think it's wise, but we're talking about This Is the Life, and the wise life is courageous.
Without courage, you're going to find yourself in a world of hurt. Without courage, you're going to run when you should stand. You're going to be like the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride, where you finally come up against Inigo Montoya and make your bold stand, and the next thing you know… Nope. You're not going to make your stand. You are hightailing it out of there.
Without courage, you get run over. I love the quote by Alexander the Great. He basically said, "I would rather fight an army of lions led by a lamb than I would an army of lambs that are led by a lion." What a great quote. We are just that. We are an army of lambs. We're sheep, but we are led by a lion, and it's what should make us strong, because we will not shrink back.
Do you know when a source of judgment is on the land? A source of judgment on the land is when God removes courageous people from it. A source of blessing on the land is when one courageous leader leaves and another one is ready to stand up. We saw that God blessed Israel when Moses was gone. He said, "Joshua, let's go, man. We're going to save these people. You be strong and courageous, because just like I was with Moses, I'm going to be with you."
Isaiah 3:1-3. Watch this. This is when God was judging Israel. He says, "For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread [everything they need to live] and the whole supply of water…" Watch what else he's going to take away from them. Verse 2: "…the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the honorable man…"
He is going to take away people of courage, and when you take away people of courage who would speak the truth to a society that parades its tongue in rebellion against God across the earth, then you brace yourself for America, 2019. Herbert Spencer, who was an English philosopher who lived in the nineteenth century (the 1800s), said, "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly [by telling them the truth about what they're choosing] is to fill the world with fools."
If there is anything that is happening in America today it's that this world has been largely influenced by fools, by people who mock God, who redefine things that humankind has not trifled with for millennia, and professing to be wise, with a lot of courage, we have become fools. Plato warned us against a society that didn't have courageous men and women. He basically said, "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
Edmund Burke essentially said, "All that is required and necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." In other words, take away the mighty man and the warrior. Take away those who are willing to raise their hand at a PTA meeting and go, "This is crazy. We shouldn't let our kids assign gender to themselves. It's not loving. It's a form of mental illness. Where are the adults?"
I can remember a number of years ago when I was doing a series called Declaration and I talked about how they were going to no longer make kids pink and blue; they were now going to make them be purple penguins. They could choose if they wanted to be a pink or a blue penguin eventually, but on the first day of school everybody was a purple penguin. I said that like five years ago, and everybody goes, "Todd, that is such a ridiculous illustration. I can't believe you're propagating that kind of right-wing extreme fear." Really?
Well, right here in good ol' River City, now at my kids' elementary school, when you walk into a bathroom today and see somebody of the opposite gender and you look at them and go, "What are you doing in here?" and they look at you and say, "Well, I'm now identifying as a guy," and you say, "I've known you since you were in second grade. You're not a guy; you're a girl," they will walk right into the principal's office and the guidance counselor's office, they will tell on you, and you will get called in for hate speech. You'll get called in for insensitivity.
You'll be asked to go through sensitivity training, and they'll tell you if you're not comfortable walking into a bathroom where somebody might present as something else, you can use the bathroom the teachers use until you grow up and can handle what wisdom would have you handle. It's crazy. Because we lack courage, because we want to be politically correct, because we want to just go along and get along.
Fear is contagious. Have you ever noticed? Were you around in 1999 when we all were certain the world was going to end and we all bought way too many whatever we bought to stock in our closets because it was Y2K? Remember Ebola? Goodness! Who dared go outside during the Ebola crisis? Remember the blood moons? Fear is contagious, and the Enemy uses that. The Nazis used it.
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, who wrote a book in 1974 called Spiral of Silence, happened to be a propagandist for the Nazi party during the height of its embarrassing dominance in European history, and she talked about how an entire society was moved to go along with the final solution, this genocide, that some people today are denying ever happened.
She said it happens when a small rule of ruling elite gets control of certain forms of communication. What they do is they begin to take over society by rallying together and starting to intimidate other people into not speaking, and if they do speak, they call them bigots. They call them hatemongers. They undermine their legitimacy. They call them anti-science. They call them anti-nationalists. They mock them.
Other people go, "Well, I don't want to be mocked. I don't want to be called intolerant. I don't want to be called unloving." So other people start to be silenced, because they watch the few courageous who will speak up sometimes be imprisoned, sometimes be ostracized, sometimes be murdered, and they go, "I don't want to be murdered." They would rather just go along, only to find themselves ultimately oppressed.
The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs, or not having the courage to speak up when craziness is going on, is that they will be ruled by them. The church is supposed to be the individuals who speak up, because we have wisdom. We don't have to go, "Maybe we're wrong. Maybe science is wrong." Have you ever noticed that? Remember how Christians were told they were fools because science, even though it was never science…
Darwinian theory, which science has come back and said there's no scientific evidence for. If you want to look at science, science speaks to this thing we would say is intelligence embedded in every part of creation. Science seems to indicate that because there's design in everything, there was a designer. That's logic and science. Science shows that, but, no, we were slaves to being these fools who rejected Darwinian theory, which was represented as science for a long time.
It gave all kinds of momentum to the world's growing in its confidence that there wasn't really a God, and if this God says he created and there is no creation but it can be explained through nothing plus time plus chance, you're a fool to believe everything else God says, and we just bowed over to that. What's so interesting now is when you look at them and show them the science of binary gender…not theory but binary gender science…they go, "Well, don't be so bigoted as to limit yourself to science," because they don't care.
You know what? You've been silenced and intimidated on both sides, and because of that, there is an erosion of peace in our land. Our kids don't need more laws; our kids need truth. Making more laws is not going to help us with our gun problem. I'm just going to say this. This might sound political to you. It's just fact. Did you know there are fewer homes in America today with guns than 30 years ago?
The problem isn't that kids have guns and access to them; the problem is that kids don't have access to truth. It's a false form of hope to tell people if we just make these laws, it'll all get better. No. You have to speak up, and you'd better tell people, "No. Unless we teach our kids there are certain immutable laws embedded in how humans should conduct themselves, it doesn't matter what kinds of laws you make."
What's going to happen is you're going to be oppressed and suppressed and not able to defend yourself someday when tyrants say, "This is the way it's going to go." I'm not encouraging you to keep your guns so you can insurrect against the government. I'm just telling you, don't let your government tell you guns are the problem. They're not. Sin is the problem. The breakdown in the family is the problem.
This spiral of silence that was out there that allowed the most evil, horrible things we can even imagine to happen happened because people started to shrink back and go, "Well, I don't want to be that one who's called those names." The reason we don't want to shrink back is because we're not sure what is true. We're not willing to be Christians. We're not willing to be stewards of the mysteries of God.
We'll go to church and we'll sing songs, but don't really ask me to represent it, because that might be costly. Well, let me tell you what happens when people God has ordained to be his source of grace and salt and light don't do their job. When you don't have courageous men and women, when you don't have individuals who are mighty and warriors, then evil will triumph.
When God was talking to his servant Jeremiah… God always raises up prophets for his people. What happens is when there are just a few prophets it's easy to kill them, easy to marginalize them, easy to let evil regimes teach people by eliminating a few prophets that they'd better be quiet too, lest they have the fate of the prophets fall upon them. But prophets are people who know what truth is, and they know God. Not every prophet has this lion's heart. They just know the Lion.
I love the words God spoke to Jeremiah in chapter 1, verse 17. Jeremiah said, "I don't really know if I want to do this," and God said, "Well, I'm not really asking. I am electing you to this purpose." He just tells Jeremiah, "Big boy, gird up your loins." In other words, "Put your pants on." "You'd better get up and arise. I want you to speak to them all which I have commanded you. Jeremiah, do not be dismayed before them, because they're not going to like you, or I will dismay you before them."
That's what's happening right now to the church in America that has just given ground and given ground and backed off and tried to acquiesce and tried to just go, "Okay. Maybe we shouldn't be so sure about our word. Maybe we should just give a few things." What has happened now is we look up in this world we're in, and it's a dismaying world. It's even harder to speak up now. God says, "You forget me, I'll forget your children," and we're looking at the despair and the dysfunction that's in our land.
Do you know for the first time since the Spanish influenza the life expectancy in America has gone down for three years in a row? Do you know why it has gone down? Because of increase in suicide deaths, increase in liver disease, which is a result of alcohol abuse, and opioid overdoses. They're called deaths of despair. Dismaying realities that cause people to do despairing things. It's not even courageous to speak up at this point.
He says, "Listen, Jeremiah. This is just the reality." I'll quote verse 19 first."'They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the Lord" If I could just break down Jeremiah 1:19 in a way that makes it so clear…"They will fight against you…" Conflict is unavoidable."…they will not overcome you…"Defeat is impossible."…for I am with you to deliver you…"
"You have an alliance that is inseparable," says the Lord. That is the source of your courage. They will not overcome you. Now I'm going to put a little qualifier on that for you, for me, and for Jeremiah, but I want to remind you I would rather be a loser in an ultimately victorious cause than a winner in an ultimately defeated one. That isn't even courageous; that's just smart.
He says in verse 18, between there, "Now behold, Jeremiah, I'm going to remind you, I have made you today as a fortified city. That's who you are. I've made you as a pillar of iron." What a gift. A source of structure and support. "I've made you like a wall of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah and to its princes, to its priests…" And God knows the priests need somebody to speak to them today, because they're not listening to the Word of God.
"'…and to all of the people of the land who will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, because I am with you to deliver you,' says the Lord." Do you believe that, church? If you believe that, if that's your confidence, if that's the faith you live, then your life is going to be a source of blessing to others, and this contagious fear that's out there will be alleviated. Our world needs courageous people. When courageous people are present, people rejoice.
I'm just a victim of the generation I grew up in. I thought about all of the Munchkins when they finally came out from their little… I don't know what Munchkins live in. They were always in the flowers, but I remember watching The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid, and they were kind of hidden there, but all of a sudden, they were sure, once the certificate of death came out, and "Ding-dong! The Wicked Witch is dead."
They all came out, and there was celebration, and there was a party. What you need to remember about this is that Dorothy was not the reason evil was defeated. She was a reluctant hero. It was the tornado that dropped the house on the Wicked Witch. The tornado of truth is what will kill the wicked witch of deceit, but you have to let yourself be caught up in the whirlwind and pay attention to how God reveals himself.
This is what Proverbs 28:12 says: "When the righteous triumph…" In other words, when the courageous who are willing to partner with God and be servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God show up. "…there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves." That's what's happening. Proverbs 29:2: "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan."
There's wickedness that is having its way in our day and land, and somebody has to speak up. I saw Joe Biden was in Iowa this week, and he was there before a consortium of people, and they were saying, "How can you call this guy a decent man, because he says what we're doing is wrong?" I saw some woman take on the governor of Kentucky this week because of some position he had that she disagreed with.
They're just bullying, but courageous guys aren't afraid. They know bullies are some of the most insecure people who are out there. They keep saying things, and they push people and intimidate people, but they do it because they're scared to death. They've been bullied themselves, and they want others to tell them they're okay, and they know they're not okay.
Let me tell you some truths, lest you get discouraged when hardship comes. Courage doesn't guarantee immediate victory. I've already told you I've made a decision I'm not looking for immediate victory. I'm betting on one side of history. Courage does not guarantee immediate victory, but it does come from having assurance that there will be an ultimate one. That's the source of my courage. It's the source of my ability to love those who hate me.
Proverbs 11:7 says, "When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of strong men perishes." The hope of bullies perishes. Proverbs 21:29: "A wicked man displays a bold face, but as for the upright, he makes his way sure." And he's courageous. Let me tell you about some courageous men and women who have lived. I do that by taking you to Hebrews, chapter 11.
This is what it says in Hebrews 11: "And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions…" You're like, "Okay, Todd. That's awesome."
"…quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection…" You're looking at this, and you're like, "Some of these stories are amazing."
Watch verse 36. "…others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated…" Courageous, I'm implying.
"…(men [and women] of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised [implied: in this life], because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect." He's talking about that one glorious day.
Can I just remind you, courageous men and women (I pray you're courageous), what Jesus said in John 16:33? He tells us to take heart, to be courageous. He speaks these things to us so that in him, in Jesus, you may have peace. Don't think in this world you're going to get peace. This world is going to give you a Hebrews 11 reality, especially when you don't do your job for a long time and what happens is tyrants and naïve and delusional people are in control and there's a spiral of silence that is happening.
You're going to have the courage to step up and go, "All right. The mighty man and the warrior are going to be present. In love, I'm going to do the best I can. I'm going to speak the truth, and people are going to call it hate speech. They're going to call me a bigot, and they're going to call me intolerant, but I love children and I love this generation. I'm going to weep over a foolish nation."
Jesus says in John 16:13, "But take courage." Some of your Bibles say, "Take heart," because that's what courage is. It's what forms the heart. The heart is always seen in literature as the seat of emotions. What is informing your heart? If it's not this book, you're not going to have a life that is wise, and you won't be courageous, or if you're courageous you're going to be a brash, insolent, arrogant fool that kicks against the goads.
Courage does not guarantee immediate victory. Courage comes from the assurance of an ultimate one. Courage, then, is not the absence of fear, as I said; it is the presence of a strong heart. Is your heart strong? It won't be if you look around you, if you look at the saw that's about to cut you in two, if you look at what happened to the prophets before you. You're going to have to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and follow him.
You have to keep your confidence in the name of the Lord. Do you know who he is? Are you running to him? Is that what makes you feel safe? That you know that, behold, the King of Kings is coming quickly to recompense men according to their deeds, and his reward is with him. Now he didn't come quickly enough for those who were sawn in two, but he's coming.
Courage is not the absence of fear; it's the presence of a strong heart. Proverbs 14:26: "In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence…" Proverbs 12:7: "The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand." It's what made Paul courageous. It's how Paul in Philippians 1:21-24 said this:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me [because I'm going to do what God wants me to do];** and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake."**
Can I say something to you? If you are a silent Christian, it's not necessary that you hang around. If you're not sharing your faith, if you're not speaking up against naïveté and delusion and rebellion against God, you are useless and fruitless, a shame to your God and a source of the destruction in your land. I don't know how else to say it. Together, as sweetly as we can, we have to start to say, "I have to speak up." Paul says to the church:
"Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them…" Like, "Guys, I don't care. Take my life."
"…but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…" It didn't have to be this way, but what happened is the church got lazy, the church stopped believing truth and teaching truth, so the world around it devolved to a place now where we're not really looking for truth. Your courage, friends, should come from who you are, not from how willing you are to fight. Let me explain it to you this way. Paul wrote this in Romans:
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? [I know who I am.] He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?"
Are you sure of the love of Christ? This is Romans 8. He says, "Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Can you be intimidated by any of those things? "Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer[because we're a bunch of sheep being led by a lion, the one]who loved us."
Verse 38. Here's the source of courage: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, [none of it will] separate us from the love of God…" So let's go. Isaiah 41:10: "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 43:1-2:
"But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.'"
Jesus was telling his sheep they were going to go out amongst wolves, and they were like, "That's not good. We're sheep and you're sending us amongst wolves?" So in Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul…""Do you want to know who you should fear? Look here." And he pointed to himself. He says, "…fear [the one] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." That's who you should fear.
So be faithful, church. I said in this little deal as I was meditating about courage that our courage should come from whose you are not how willing you are to fight. I don't have time to read it, but I could take you back to Numbers 13 and 14 where God told them to go and possess the land which he had given for them.
They went, and they go, "The land is just like God said, but there are some intimidating people over there, so let's not go." So God said, "Okay. Here's what's going to happen. It's not going to go well with you. This whole generation will die, and your children will wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and then I'll give them a chance to trust me." The people said, "No, no, no, no, no! We're going to go."
He said, "I wouldn't go, because you've already rejected me, and if you go in your own power, it's not going to work." They went, and they lost. The people God guaranteed victory to, who moved forward without God and didn't operate in God's way, were defeated. Our courage will never come in how we're willing to participate in something. Apart from him, we can do nothing.
This one who is the Courageous One. I told you this is what courage is. This is what it isn't. This is what happens when you don't live courageously. This is what can happen if you do. People rejoice. They come out from hiding, and they sing, and they're glad, because they see the sanity of what's all there and what's all around them. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of this. Jesus is the Courageous One who did not run. He is our Lion which leads us, his flock.
In John 10:11-14 he said, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Jesus wants you to lay down your life for others. That's Philippians, chapter 1. This isn't about you. It's not about your comfort. It's just your turn. When you don't do what you're supposed to do, then prepare yourself for a world that looks like nobody knows him.
It's a form of judgment when the church isn't his church, when the Christian isn't his Christian, when those who are supposed to be salt and light and a source of salvation don't preserve good and bring forth the light of love and truth. Quit wondering why we are where we are. It's because we have not conducted ourselves as his people with courage. What I love about that is that means all we have to do is just change ourselves. No one else has to change. We just have to be God's people and live winsomely according to this book.
When people ask, "What's the source of your marriages that are working, your dating that's informed by purity, your ability to conduct yourself with honor and not give yourself away to fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul? How are your families intact? How are your marriages intact? How are you having hope and peace and singing songs in the midst of a world that's going to hell?" we can tell them about our Jesus.
We can invite them in, and we can love them as they're trying to bully us that what they're doing is okay when they're scared to death. We can love them, and we can invite them to the grace we have received, but we will not remain silent and be backed down because they call us names or take swings at us. Despising people because they are not good and perfect is not good, but saying everything is equally good and perfect is not good for people.
So open your mouth and live holy lives. Your Shepherd did it. He's not a hired hand. That's what Jesus says in John 10:12. "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees…" That's who you are if you're not speaking up against the wolf. You're a hired hand. You're not part of the shepherd fold.
The hired hand, the said carer of the sheep and the people, flees, because they are a hired hand and are not concerned about their world. They're not concerned about those Jesus shed his blood for. Jesus says, "I'm not like that." "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me…" He says five chapters later, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
Folks, the wise, informed life has been blessed to be a blessing, to speak and to live, so it's time for you to take the next step and go, "What do I really believe? Am I a shepherd? I'm going to stand there and take on the wolf. I'm going to rescue people who are headed to destruction."
Father, I pray that we'd be a courageous body, that we'd be your people, that we would live the life that matters as mighty men and warriors, and that we would be individuals who don't think we're better than anybody else, that we would just act in grace as faithful, courageous people who share with others freely what we have freely received.
I pray that we would become increasingly courageous, that we'd be compassionate, that we would identify with their pain, because we, too, have been delivered from lives of pain where we did what seemed right to us. We were courageous in our sin against you, but you saved us, not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to your mercy by the washing of regeneration, by the renewing of your Spirit.
Then, Lord, you've kept us here, and you've given us your Spirit of truth and not of error, that we could speak forth truth in love, not surprised at the fiery ordeal among us (you told us that's coming), but in you to have peace; not the one who was crucified but one, yes, our Jesus, who was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God, our Lion who will lead us to the same place.
O Lord, help us to be your people. Thank you that you hear us when you call, that you're our Morning Song, that you're the God of angel armies that are always by our side if we would just walk in your will. Lead us. Make us brave. Make us courageous. In Jesus' name, amen.