Dear Friend in Christ:
My two previous pastoral letters were about the Beatitudes—attitudes that bring favor in hard places. In this letter I want to discuss courage. Courage is not manifest in easy times; it is revealed in hard places. Our Lord was courageous, and courage is contagious! He is both the Lamb and the Lion; He is in us if we have received Him (see Colossians 1:27). The issue before me is where and when do I reveal the Lamb or the Lion? It is vital and often difficult to know!
Hebrews 12 tells us to run our race looking to Jesus. I believe that is not only a reference to Jesus in the Holy Word, but Jesus Who us with us now. In other words, we need to hear from Him before revealing His “Lamb nature” or “Lion nature.” References such as Isaiah 53 and John 1:29 announce Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Then Revelation 5 says that He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
In the gospel of Matthew 21:12-13, we are told that He made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple and declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer!” The Lamb of Calvary was also the Lion of the House of God. I believe it is vital to know where He revealed the Lion or where He revealed the Lamb. If we miss Him, we may try to be lambs or lions in the wrong places or at the wrong time. In Luke 22:36 Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword, but He did not tell them when to use it. Peter used his in Gethsemane, but it was the wrong time; Jesus told him to put it away; he was physically attacking a government representative.
Romans 13:1-7 reminds us that God ordained government and, in fact, all authority comes from Him. Government is ordained to resist evil; to keep order and peace. It is authorized to “Bear the sword” in order to perform its duty. The government can be a “lion” and we pay taxes so that it can serve and protect us.
Keep in mind that Paul’s letter to the Romans was written under Roman rule. Was it always righteous? Of course not! However, poor government is better than no government. Anarchy comes from weak government or no government at all; anarchy is itself evil, and anarchy is a manifestation of Satan’s cruel purpose.
First Timothy 2 tells to pray for all who are in authority that we may lead a peaceable life. It appears that our liberty and our peace is an environment that helps us to spread the Gospel. As we submit to authority, we demonstrate our “lamb nature” even when we do not agree with the government. Jesus certainly modeled that at His trial and Crucifixion. When He spoke, it was always the truth, and that resulted in His Crucifixion.
While submission to government is the counsel of Scripture, the government is not God! Acts 5 gives us the account of the apostles being arrested by officials for preaching the Gospel and doing miracles. An angel released them, defying the orders of officials. So, the apostles continued to preach in the temple area and were arrested again. When questioned as to why they defied the authorities, they said, “We ought to obey God rather than man!” There are times when we must choose whom we will obey, but be sure that it is the proper time!
Peter had been a “lion” in the garden when he tried to kill the one who came to arrest Jesus. Then he was a “lamb” at the trial when he denied Jesus. Later, Peter was a “lion” as he faced the highest Jewish authority. This was finally the right action at the right time! He obeyed God; that is “lion time!”
I am no stranger to controversy. For example, in 1979 the IRS began a five-year audit on our local church. In the process, I believe they engaged in wrong methods of surveillance and overstepped boundaries for non-profits. It was an exceptionally tough time. They placed an agent in our office who demanded to see all of our membership records, which would expose all our church members to audits. I refused.
We were called a “Jim Jones-style cult” by other Christians, crosses were burned on our front lawn, our home was vandalized, and one of our children was repeatedly assaulted and spat upon at school. The stress and sleeplessness were indescribable. I had to employ protection for our property and family. At the same time, I had to travel frequently and be away from home.
I love our country, but I was losing faith in my government. Did we defend ourselves? Yes indeed! Over the following years, we employed five attorneys and fought back in every legal way we knew. While that was going on, two very close Bible teacher friends went through a vicious lawsuit from a best-selling atheist author. Somehow, I wound up being in charge of the legal defense for my friends.
This is a very cursory summary of the events of 1979-1983. The bottom line is that we were completely exonerated by the IRS and, meanwhile, the atheist ended up settling his lawsuit. Our administrator at that time, Mike Coleman, did a great job in assisting and coordinating. Out of this difficult experience, he was able to assist in crafting legislation which became the Church Audit Procedures Act. It passed through the United States Congress and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. This limited the IRS’ authority in dealing with churches. It is still protecting churches in America today.
I believe in defense. Without defense many more innocent people would die. Without defense there would be no Israel or United States. The Lord Himself has assisted the righteous defense of land and privileges that He ordained. We are greatly indebted to those who revealed the “lion nature” of God at the right time and right reasons; many have given their lives! Would I defend my family, property, or mission when I need to do so? You bet I would! It is the duty of those who have been given responsibility by God to do so. And I believe that when we do, the Lord will help us to have courage, even at the cost of life.
I thank God for police, military, and others who defend us where we cannot defend ourselves. Scripture says they are the Lord’s servants acting on His behalf and ours. Are they always perfect? Of course not! Was Rome? No. So, we must pray for* all* who are in authority (see 1 Timothy 2). Without God’s help, we will experience the devil’s desire—anarchy!
Justice is the fair and impartial administration of truth and law. Government is assigned to administrate justice impartially. Ultimately, the God who gives all authority will hold us all accountable for what we do. He will hold all governments, political or spiritual, accountable for the authority He has given because He is just and calls us to be the same (see Micah 6:8).
So, if I see injustice, I should speak out or act to promote justice, but do so legally. But I should also love mercy and walk humbly with God. Arrogance is ignoring our own injustice while demanding that others or history itself be just. Social justice cannot come from those who unjustly destroy others; that is evil hypocrisy.
The ultimate issue is to know that justice will come, even if it waits for God to bring it. The Lion of Judah will show up, even it seems He is delayed. Meanwhile, it is right to defend what God has given to us in family, church, or nation, but legally and by obedience to God. There will be times when He says, “Turn the other cheek.”
In the early 1980s, I faced another difficult issue. I had to travel from home to participate in a gathering with national spiritual leaders. Prior to the conference, I was told by two very close brothers in Christ, “We don’t trust you.” That is one of the worst things anyone could hear. That night, I laid sleepless on my bed in the dark room.
In the darkness and tears, I had a vision of a man in ancient clothes fighting in a field against intruders. He was shouting, “You can’t have this field!” He said it over and over again, until I began saying it with him: “You can’t have this field!” Finally, God said, “Don’t give up what I have given you!” I jumped out of bed and grabbed my Bible. I immediately opened it to 2 Samuel 23:11-12. Shammah was fighting off Philistines who were trying to steal his field of lentils that God had given him. Though I had not known where the reference was, I now knew the Lord was saying, “Be courageous and fight for what I have given you!” That was the right time, and God preserved me and my “field.”
It is time once again to be courageous; we still face spiritual warfare ahead. Study Ephesians 6:10-18. Note that the battle is spiritual and the armor is primarily defensive. “The Sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God, may be used offensively, but we will need to hear from God about how to employ it. That passage urges us to pray always in the Holy Spirit so we can know how to stand. Remember also that Jesus became a “Lion” as He observed the condition of the Temple. Our primary concern needs to be what is happening in our family and God’s family. Are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit there? Is our house a house of prayer?
If we are to die for our faith, don’t die on the wrong hill or on the wrong issue. Make sure to observe Christ’s attitudes (see Matthew 5-7) and give your life alongside Jesus for others. Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for it. He loved sinners also and died between two thieves. We must run our race with our eyes on Jesus. It is not about our preferences; it is about Jesus and His will. Too many believers and churches are divided over political or lesser things. Our victories will come as we unite around Jesus, His mission, the Power of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. We must not get caught up in the howling winds that are blowing across the nations. Before you engage in public discourse, ask yourself, “Does what I am about to say reflect the Lord? Or, is news media controlling my life?”
I love you and all who are trying to do what’s right. We all miss the mark somewhere and sometime. I am grateful for the apostles and especially Peter. He finally got it right (see Acts 5). Meanwhile Jesus loved him through it all; and He loves us too!
Would you please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your giving this month? As you support us, we are able to sow into churches and ministries across the United States and around the world. We are also able to encourage and equip believers across the globe to be courageous during these tumultuous times.
Brother Charles Simpson
Scriptures Referenced: Colossians 1:27; Isaiah 53; John 1:29; Revelations 5; Hebrews 12; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 22:36; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2; 2 Samuel 23:11-12; Ephesians 6:10-18; Matthew 5-7
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.