The Most Courageous Man in the World

Twelfth and final in the COURAGE series

The sufferings of Christ have been recounted by many. Like the horror of abortion, we should look hard and see the cruel ripping of human flesh: bloody, painful, evil. With abortion we must look, for then we will protest and work to end it. But for Christ, the mutilations, torture and labored murder were to a purpose, and that is so hard for us to grasp and to embrace. What are we to protest? By his wounds we are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

The Lord endured his crucifixion for he knew it would usher in an era of revolutionary grace. He did not seek it, but as a man of courage, he faced it and persevered. It is called his "passion" for he earnestly desired (Luke 12:50) to undergo the baptism poured upon him by the religious men seeking his death so that sinners might be born again. He could not send the Holy Spirit until he had himself undergone a conversion from death to life. These astounding concepts are at the core of Christianity.

As his time drew near, he resolutely set his face (Luke 9:51) to go to Jerusalem. Along the way he continued to teach, warn and exhort, heal and cast out demons. Most among us know the other details leading up to his crucifixion and his bravery in the overwhelming trial. He endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb 12:2), and throughout the ordeal, never lost his love, patience nor his wondrous humility.

Some say he lost his faith on the cross, questioning God, "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" No such thing. And if that were the case, how could we look to him for strength and help in our crises? If he doubted the Father when pressed beyond measure, how could we seek to imitate him? No, he was pointing the onlookers to Psalm 22, My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me? This Psalm is a prophecy of Christ's suffering, hope, and deliverance. Even in his last words, immersed in pain, suffocating from crucifixion, he was teaching us Truth.

Christ is to us the greatest and best example of a man of courage. When your courage is dried up, look to him who proclaims, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Mat 28:17) …I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore… (Rev 1:18)

The varieties of courage

Eleventh in the COURAGE series

As Christians, we know it is right to be courageous, but we do not have a strict categorization of what courage is at any given time.

We know we are to follow Christ, putting Him ahead of family and friends (Mat 10:37; Luke 14:26). We confess the Lord no matter what it costs us (2 Tim 2:12). We are to consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3), so in defending life, others come first. As we read God's Word, we gain many insights and if we pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17), guidance will be granted, yet each situation is unique.

In the Bible there were some who stood down when they should have stood up. Elijah had shown great courage over the time of the drought, but he became depressed and could not shake off the fears and doubts, so he was replaced by Elisha, for God had instructed him and he would not rise up. (1 Ki 19)

Earlier in this series we saw that Josiah showed courage in going out to battle against the Egyptians, but it was not his fight so his death was untimely. Nevertheless he remains as an example of obedience and courage as does Elijah; we all fail in some trials.

The key to any situation is to know the right course of action. Should we boldly rise up against evil or be silent and wait on the Lord? Obedience could fall either way.

To practice obedience, we must be close to God, and only when we are very weak can we rely wholly on his strength. My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)

Yes, weakness for the Christian can assist in courage, which we will need no matter whether we rise up or stand down. And it could take as much courage to resist passively as actively.

As we look around our nation and see the demise of the ideals and culture that once encircled us with protection, we may cry for times gone by. Yet we confidently know God does not change and He is with us to the end (Mat 28:20). The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? (Ps 118:6)

In distressing days, Christians have opportunities to show courage, and if we are affected by economic weakness in our households, let it be an incentive to prayer and spiritual renewal. How will we cling to Christ until we have great need?

The Scripture encourages us: For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Heb 12:4)

Of course it is possible that in time we, too, will be called to resist unto blood, but in that day, the most courageous man in the world will be with us. To him we will lift our eyes in the next post of this series.

The opposite of courage, part 4 - Peter

Tenth in the COURAGE series

In our final example of "the opposite of courage," let's look at Peter's denial of Christ.

Jesus said, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 10:32-33)

In the Greek, the meaning of "confess" is: to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent; not to deny; to profess, declare openly, profess one's self the worshipper of one; to praise, celebrate.

Confessing Christ is a key to salvation. Paul explains: …if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Rom 10:9)

The Pharisees understood the power and efficacy of confessing Christ and threatened any who did (John 12:42-43); that is why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.

Peter understood the awful sin he had committed. He had been on the mountain and had seen Christ transfigured. (Mat 17:2) He was first among the apostles to proclaim, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. (Mat 26:35) And he had been first to confess: (Mat 16:16) Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. How could he have denied his Master and Savior? How?

He had help.

Satan demanded to sift him. "Sift" is used in the Old Testament (Isaiah30:28; Amos9:9) and New (Luke 22:31). It means: to move to and fro, wave, shake, shake in a sieve. In Strong's concordance a figurative meaning is noted, by inward agitation to try one's faith to the verge of overthrow.

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. (Luke 22:31-34)

This brings up a number of questions.

  1. Who is Satan?
  2. Why does God listen to any of his demands, much less permit them?
  3. How did Jesus know Peter would deny him three times?
  4. Do you and I have any control over our own courage?

First question answered: Satan is the adversary. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, we find he is "the prince of evil spirits, the inveterate adversary of God and Christ; he incites apostasy from God and to sin; circumventing men by his wiles; the worshippers of idols are said to be under his control; by his demons he is able to take possession of men and inflict them with diseases; by God's assistance he is overcome" …

Satan is mentioned once in the Westminster Confession, in Chapter 5, section 6, regarding the Providence of God; however it is section 5 that is pertinent, answering question two, and referencing Peter's denial:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

The Confession can also give us a good answer to the third question, in Chapter 5, Sections 1 and 4:

I. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
IV. The Almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not be a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

Finally, regarding question four, Do you and I have any control over our own courage?— read Chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession.

The only way we can increase in our capacity for courage is to grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of the Lord.