Part 1: Courage with God
“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.
– John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy implies that true courage requires an element of sacrifice. You have to put something on the line. When you ask that girl you like on a date for the first time, you put your ego on the line. When you really challenge your parents dreams for you, your relationship with them and your well being are on the line.
I believe the greatest challenge of courage is the challenge to stand up for a conviction. That’s why the first part of this three part bible study series is called “Courage with God”. The Bible is full of stories of people standing up for their convictions. Paul stood up to the most important church leaders for their hypocrisy when everyone else simply followed their lead. Elijah stood up against hundreds of priests advocating false gods.
- How did these men of faith get so much courage when we can’t even summon the courage to initiate a vulnerable and honest conversation with a close friend?
- Before you start write down areas of your life where you lack courage. Is there anything you’ve never told anybody? Are there certain people you compromise on your convictions with to fit in? Is there anyone in you haven’t forgiven?
Challenge of Believing
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Abraham rose magnificently to the challenge of courage. He put his home, his comfort, his future, and even his family on the line. This scripture gives us a window into the kind of personal intimacy with God in a scene reminiscent of the Lion King. Abraham trusted what God said as the bible reads in Romans 4:18
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”
Romans 4:18 (NLT)
Why did Abraham believe? Because God said it. There was no reason for him to even hope. Many people need to wait for some sort of signal or to be happy in order to believe God. Abraham waited for no special circumstances. He just took God at his word.
- What are you waiting for before you’ll trust God? A change of circumstances? A feeling?
Challenge of Reading
You might be saying to yourself, “That’s great for Abraham, but God has never taken me stargazing. So how am I supposed to have courage with God?”
Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. (GWT)
Hebrews 11:1 (GWT)
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Today God speaks to us through the Bible which is the only credible source of the word about Christ. It’s the only way anyone knows what a Christian is. I can say for sure that reading the Bible produces courage. But don’t believe me, believe the scriptures.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
Amos 8:11 (NIV)
This scripture compares the Bible to food and water. Have you ever been so thirsty that you don’t realize how thirsty you really are? Or have you ever been so hungry that it hurts to eat? If you’ve never regularly read the Bible before (or read the Bible in the way described in Challenge of Agreeing below) then you can’t yet appreciate how powerful the word of God is in regards to giving us courage.
- How much of the Bible do you read each day?
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly….
Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
Think about really rich food, like a juicy steak or creamy gelato. Think about how it rests in your stomach after you eat it and how good it feels. That’s how the Bible is when you read it. It doesn’t just go in and out. It stays with you throughout your day. Even better is to read and find a verse or two that really stand out to you. Then memorize them and recall them throughout your day.
- What’s one scripture you can memorize today?
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
The best wisdom comes from the Bible. Whether or not people believe in God, most agree with the Bible’s wisdom. However, there are many parts of it that are more difficult to believe and follow because it’s only possible with God. This is what separates worldly wisdom from spiritual wisdom and that’s why the scripture says “I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.”
- Is there anything in the Bible that you are unwilling to accept?
Challenge of Agreeing
Abraham got his courage from a deep belief in everything God told him. Likewise for us to get courage we need a deep belief in everything God tells us through his word. That’s the “Challenge of Agreeing”. It’s easy to say you believe in God and in Jesus. It’s more difficult to say you agree with God, for instance, on how to treat sin.
Agree on Sin
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
God takes sin very seriously. It’s so serious that he suggests we go so far as to dismember ourselves to get rid of it. There are some sins like murder that we know are serious because the judicial system takes it seriously. Other sins like pornography we take seriously because they’re shameful. Then there are sins like selfish ambition and idolatry which the world actually promotes and so we take them less seriously. Finally there are the most insidious sins which are easy to deny and ignore like jealousy or pride. Imagine if you took every sin as seriously as murder. Now you’re getting closer to agreeing with God’s view of sin.
- What five sins do you take the least seriously?
Agree on Love
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 (NIV)
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
Luke 9:23–24 (NIV)
God has a specific definition of what love is. For God, love is more of a choice than a feeling. These two scriptures are some of the most challenging in the Bible because it defines love as giving up your life for someone else. That doesn’t just mean your time, energy, or money. It includes your dreams, where you choose to live, where you go to school, even who you date and marry! For me, Luke 9:23–24 is hands down the most challenging scripture in the Bible because I agree with it. The best way to obey this scripture is to build your life in such a way that you love people.
- What decisions have you made that weren’t based on love?
- What choices for your future can you make based on love?
Agree on Purpose
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is one of the few scriptures in the Bible which are preceded with a declaration of the authority of the message. God has a very strong idea of what a Christian’s purpose is on earth, otherwise he might as well take all the Christians up to heaven right when they’re saved. Christians are supposed to save souls to make other Christians. That means every day from when you get up from bed to when your eyes shut at night, you’re working on helping people become Christians.
- Who are you helping to become a Christian daily? If nobody, then who has God put in your life to help become a Christian?
With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
God’s confidence comes from being confident in the authority of the scriptures. If you believe them and live by them, you’ll see their power and have the confidence to approach any situation with faith because you’ve seen God have your back before.