Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Invincible, Unfailing Source of Courage

I know that there are a lot of reasons that Christians are feeling anxiety and intimidation about what the future holds in the United States after yesterday's ruling on same-sex marriage. As a lawyer myself, I am well aware of the types of concerns that people are worrying about. Some are worrying about what may happen to their jobs. Some are anxious about what's going to happen to the culture and the school system their children grow up within. Some are worried about what may be required of them as members of the clergy regarding marriage ceremonies. Some are simply anxious and dismayed because things are changing so radically around us.

I am confident that many of these concerns will not actually be something we have to worry about. Hopefully I will have the chance in the days ahead to talk about some of those things specifically. But above all, the most important thing that I can say is that no matter what the future might hold, we have no reason to be anxious or afraid. This is not an all or nothing moment in the culture. The fact that the laws have changed radically on one issue and we find ourselves very much on the outside does not actually pose any new threat or risk to Christianity or to the Church. The Church has always been in tension with the culture, and in fact has often been most powerfully and clearly the Church of God when the tension has been very clear. God is not checkmated. No matter how laws may shift or governments may act, nothing surprises Him or intimidates Him. The fierceness of whole nations and the plotting of whole cultures is nothing to Him. Legal changes cannot hinder the Gospel. The Gospel will still advance. It simply may take some different routes now since the landscape has shifted.

Our biggest problem is not how we will solve these problems or how we will win over the culture. God will give the right results if we remain faithful and live the kind of lives He has called us to live. Our biggest problem is that we are afraid and anxious even though God is firmly in control and unmoved. We need to shed that fear. No matter how things may look as the years ahead unfold, there is no reason for us to fear whatever it may be. And the solution is the same as it has always been, as the early church discovered:

"23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26                  The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’ —

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:23-31)

The response to hostile government and opposition is simply to put the matter before God in prayer and ask Him to give us the courage and boldness to be steadfast and defy intimidation. What makes you brave is that you trust God to put a spirit of bravery in you. It's easy to be intimidated or anxious when you forget that there is a spirit within you that is more than a match for everything you have to face. As Paul exhorted Timothy, remind yourself that "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7).

Notice also that Acts 4:31 says they were "all filled with the Holy Spirit" and boldness. It was not only the apostles or the leading members who received boldness. It was everyone - thousands of people. The most untrained and timid among them was still filled with the courage of God. That's your source of courage.

For another great example of invincible courage, here is how Martin Luther displayed peace of mind in the midst of vicious opposition. His peaceful indifference to the dangers and challenges around him, grounded entirely in his rock-solid confidence in the Lord's power and authority, always wakes me up to how fretful and pointless my own fears can be. Fretting when God is not at all disturbed is simply wasting the energy He gave us to accomplish good.

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