By Aaron Elder
My pastor once said it won’t be long before holding to God’s Word will get you arrested. While not a new question to the rest of the world, we American Christians keep asking, “Would I have the courage to speak truth if it meant incarceration? Or worse?” In the face of opposition and discomfort would I choose to rejoice like Stephen while being martyred or to sell my soul like Judas for 30 shekels?
As I step into 2018, the word I keep coming back to is courage – the strength to act in the face of danger, fear or difficulty. God created men to be courageous and yet… all too often, we shrink back, we hide, we sit down at the back of the bus. Why is that? I don’t claim to know the full answer to this, but allow me to address the one that affects me most.
Like most men, I like a good action-thriller – Jason Bourne, Mission Impossible, and others. And for all of the bravery, valor and peril that takes place in even one movie, we’re actually being robbed of courage. Now, your response might be between puzzled and incredulous that I have the audacity to make such a claim, but hear me out.
When we think of courage, would it be fair to say that most of us Christian men wonder if we’d be courageous when the stakes are highest? In the face of difficulty, would we act like Stephen or Judas? Would we stand like our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world? I’m still waiting for this watershed moment when my courage is on display. And so we get bored. Another day another dollar. One day closer to retirement. And, well, since I didn’t get my moment again this week, how about another movie?
Movies charge our emotions, and maybe enough emotional charges and we’ll be ready to stand on the biggest stage. But that isn’t how this thing works and I fear that we’re taking our cues from this world and reading them back into the scriptures.
We want to be courageous on the biggest stage like Stephen before the Sanhedrin – this is an event we won’t forget. But do we remember when Stephen was chosen as one of the seven deacons that he was found to be of good repute and full of the Spirit? Surely it wasn’t meant that he had an emotional experience.
You see, Stephen didn’t arrive before the Sanhedrin and suddenly engender courage from nothing. Rather, God had been building courage into Stephen. Courage to be a one-woman-man. Courage to teach his kids God’s Word. Courage to serve the widows. Courage to do his work well. Courage to confess and repent of sin. Day in. Day out.
Here’s what I’m learning: Courage begets courage. So, what about us? How can we be confident that we too will stand like Stephen rather than fall like Judas? It isn’t by chance. Here’s how: Read God’s Word. Obey God. Love your wife. Teach, discipline, and disciple your kids. Do more at your work than the requirements. You’ll be surprised by your joy and, on the biggest stage, you’ll stand.