Publication:Pastoral Letter,November 2016
Dear Friend in Christ:
We really do not know ourselves until we are tested, when it is “crunch time”; what we do when the odds are against us and the stakes are high. The sports world applauds a team or individual who is down but does not give up and reaches inside to find the strength to overcome the odds and win the victory. That requires faith: “We can”; and courage, “We will.”
The word “courage” comes from the French word “Coeur” which means “heart.” Courage is to have heart, especially when seriously challenged. In my view, we are being seriously challenged by secularism and radical Islam. Amazingly, these two forces are aligned. How can a feminist be in a league with Islam that subjugates women to such a role? How can a homosexual be sympathetic to Islam that murders gays? How can a multiculturalist support an Islam that outlaws dissent and murders those who speak out? My only answer is that both secularists and sharia Muslims fear Christianity and Judaism. To oppose these two forces will require courage.
Too many of us are intimidated by what is politically correct or even dangerous. Of course we are to love our enemies, but is love passive? Is it devoid of truth? Edmond Burke is often credited with saying, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Do not the Scriptures say to “resist evil?” Passivity in the face of danger is to be allied with evil. The Lord we worship, the prophets and apostles we commend, were not passive, but spoke out even unto death. Love requires truth!
Winston Churchill famously said, “Courage is the greatest of all virtues because it makes all other virtues possible.” Without courage, tyranny reigns to suppress the truth—especially the truth of Holy Scripture.
FAITH AND COURAGE
While truth is the essence of virtue, faith is the essence of courage. Courage comes from believing in the value of virtue, the value of a cause, the triumph of righteousness and justice. For Christians, courage comes from believing in the faithfulness of God.
As I read Hebrews chapter eleven, that great chapter on faith, I clearly see that faith in God and His promises produced the courage to act. Verse 6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. I conclude that faith produces the courage to obey, to act in faith. Courage is faith in action.
Abraham believed God and went out not knowing where he was going (see Hebrews 11:8). Faith produces a courageous adventure. Daniel 11 describes difficult times for God’s people, but in verse 32 he says, “Those that know their God will show strength and take action.” James 2:18 tells us that true faith is shown by its acts. Someone has said, “The question is not faith or works but a faith that works.” A faith that doesn’t act is not alive. Faith is not merely the right creed, it is the right action! The book of Acts is not just the “book of beliefs.”
Real faith takes us out into the unknown as it did Abraham, the apostles, and countless others.
MAKE THE ADVENTURE
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned to explore the unknown Western Territory of North America. The Louisiana Purchase had recently been concluded and it was their task to discover what lay West of the Mississippi River all the way to the Pacific. Beginning in 1804, and for over two years, they made their perilous journey into the unknown, facing wild animals, friendly and hostile Indians, death, and near starvation. Upon return, they were honored as heroes.
As believers in Jesus, we too are commissioned to explore and adventure in the promises of God. We also will face tests of heart, faith, courage, and hostile elements (see I Peter 4:12-14). Only in making the adventure will we truly know God’s faithfulness and power as He promised to go with us (see Matthew 28:18-20). We are to be “Joshuas.” What will history say about us?
Joshua was Moses’ disciple who saw up close the tests of leadership for 40 years in the wilderness. Near the end of Moses’ life, Moses laid hands on Joshua and said to him, “Be strong and courageous” (see Deuteronomy 31). Those words were a clue as to the kind of journey it would be.
When Moses was gone, the Lord spoke the same words to Joshua three times, each time with a greater intensity. This again was a clue. Then the people said the same thing to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” God’s people need and want strong leaders.
God has given to us great and precious promises as He did Israel (see 2 Peter 1:4). But those promises are not passively received; they are obtained (see Hebrews 11:33). Passive people may celebrate the promises, but only courageous people obtain them. Those who stand back, who remain silent, or criticize those who display courage are not celebrated in history; they are often scorned.
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs. Who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms; the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; and who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who never know victory or defeat.”
During a season when I endured great criticism, my wife, Carolyn, who is now with the Lord, stitched those words onto a cloth plaque which she posted on the wall in our home. She and Theodore Roosevelt encouraged me. “Encourage” means to give heart. She gave me heart.
Moses and Joshua were roundly criticized and even threatened. But the names of the ten spies who voted against going forward into the Promised Land in favor of going back will forever be remembered as cowards, not believing in the faithfulness of God. Great leaders believe, even unto death (see Revelation 12:11).
King David is celebrated around the world. He was chosen by God because he had heart (see I Samuel 16:7). Samuel almost anointed Eliab who had image, but God stopped the ceremony because Eliab lacked heart. He proved that when the giant taunted Israel’s army; he was among those who drew back. God chose David, who proved his heart in facing the lion, the bear, and the giant.
David’s predecessor, King Saul, looked good, tall and handsome, but was replaced by David, a man after God’s own heart. What was it about David’s heart? Was David morally perfect? No; he failed morally later in life. But in the test, time after time, he showed courage. He stood firm and took the fight to the enemy. When he failed morally, he owned it, and responded (see Psalm 51). Even repentance takes courage.
We live in a society where image is “anointed” and courage is often over looked. Fads sweep through the culture because so many want to conform to the politically correct and not to risk being different, criticized, scorned, or persecuted. Until Christians shake off the slumber of passivity and conformity, we cannot advance, overcome, and please God. If we fail to stand and display strength, we will betray the blood that purchased our salvation and liberty. We are facing “lions, bears and giants”; what will we do?
WHAT I ASK
I have often asked myself, how would it be to stand before the throne of God with that “Great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 11 and 12:1-4? As Jesus bore the scars of Calvary even on His resurrected body, so those “witnesses” bear theirs. These are my heroes who have suffered so for Him and even for me (see Hebrews 11:40). What will it be like to stand among them? Will my badge of honor be that “I got my feelings hurt?” Hardly! I have not yet resisted unto blood (see Hebrews 12:4). No, my only claim will be the blood of Jesus, but I have a debt to those courageous souls who have given their lives. Those witnesses are calling to us now.
If Jesus lives within me, will I not also be courageous and have His heart? I pray so! Will I be as Joshua, Moses, David, and countless others who even now resist evil? Being against evil is one thing, resisting is quite another. The latter calls for action. If resisting requires action, then how shall we resist (see James 4:7)?
On the night of Jesus’ trial, Peter was passive, but when filled with the Holy Spirit, he was bold. He spoke the truth, which cut into hearts. He ultimately gave his life. Peter resisted evil with truth. Paul was bold and addressed kings with the truth and gave his life. Do we have a different spirit? I am asking that we get filled with the Holy Spirit, with power from God and then speak the truth (see Acts 1:5, 8).
I am asking that we awake, arise, and speak the truth (see Romans 13:11). Europe has slept for decades and now trouble has come, and it will continue with fear and terror. That same trouble has come to our shores while secularists sing lullabies to a sleeping nation. It is high time to awake!
HOPE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Yes, I know that my hope is in the kingdom of God which alone endures, and not in political solutions. However, who governs will matter. In the United States, corrupt leaders are elected by people – Christians who do not vote! The privilege to vote has been bought by a lot of blood. Those who do not vote betray that blood.
I am called to resist evil and pray for all who in authority. I try to do that daily. If we fail to do that, we have no right to criticize, but share the blame for unrighteous government. Yes, I am not happy with our choices for President in 2016; many of us are not. But one will be more kind to the churches than the other. One will appoint better judges than the other. The list of differences is long.
What I am asking is that we make a stand for truth, faith, and courage in prayerful consideration. I am asking that we speak up, share our faith and live the truth. I would not tell you how to vote, but I will say, “Please vote prayerfully.” Vote for courage and with courage and may God bless America! If you live in another nation, please pray for us.
Also, please keep CSM in your prayers and in your giving. Regardless of who wins elections, the message of the kingdom of God is greatly needed, perhaps now more than ever in American history. Please visit us online at csmpublishing.org for more information and resources. We pray for you and thank you for your friendship and support!
Scripture references:Hebrews 11:8-13; Daniel 11; James 2:18; 1 Peter 4:12-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Deuteronomy 31; 2 Peter 1:4; Revelation 12:11; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 51; Hebrews 12:14; Hebrews 11:40; James 4:7; Acts 1:5, 8; Romans 13:11