Having the Nerve to Follow Christ (Part 1)

coffee24.jpgIt takes a lot of nerve to follow Christ.  It takes a lot of nerve to minister to a church and to a community. 

 
No matter who you are and what your vocation might be, if you are going to follow Christ, it will call for courage.  Before the late Edwin Friedman passed away a number of years ago, he had been working on a book entitled A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.  The book is very good and I recommend it highly, particularly to Christian leaders.  However, I love this title!  A failure of nerve.  I suspect that if you have wrestled with fear, as I have at times, you relate to this line.

 
Christians have always struggled with fear, timidity, and cowardice.  Early on in the book of Joshua, God reminds his new leader Joshua: 

". . . As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:5b-9)

Courage!  One Christian writer has said that courage is the willingness to say or do the right thing regardless of the cost.  For most of us in the West, the cost comes in the form of mental and emotional pain.  Yet, perhaps such pain really shouldn’t be a surprise to Christ-followers.  After all, the earliest Christians suffered for the sake of his name.

 
Friedman spoke of the danger of being a "peace-monger."  This is the person who often disrupts the Christian who is displaying courage.  This person, according to Friedman, is actually a highly anxious risk avoider.  He described this person as being incapable of taking a stand.  This person functions as if he/she had been "filleted of their backbone."  Such a leader may be nice but spineless.  When a church leader hears the words, "I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about you," that is not necessarily a compliment.  In fact, such statements may actually feed a person’s addiction to good feelings rather than God-centered progress.

 
What kind of courage is needed by believers in general and Christian leaders in particular?
 

  • The courage to keep your marriage covenant even though the present season of marriage may be far from satisfying.
  • The courage to be faithful to your husband/wife even when you are traveling and are away from home and enticing opportunities for sin appear.
  • The courage to trust God when faced with opportunity to serve and do good instead of yielding to fear and then using your fear to terrify others in the church.
  • The courage to model personal holiness and purity in an R-rated culture.
  • The courage to challenge believers to move toward risk and sacrifice for the kingdom of God instead of ease and a soft, easy, self-indulgent life. 

What evidence of courage do you see among some Christians today?  What evidence do you see that fear has been allowed to rule some Christians?

 
More later. 

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8 thoughts on “Having the Nerve to Follow Christ (Part 1)

  1. I really appreciate this post!  I work on staff at a church, and I think the pressure to constantly appease and smooth over issues is stiffling our ministry.  I certainly don’t enjoy picking fights, but sometimes we just need to call people  on their attitudes and behaviors, and call the whole body on its need to step out into God’s future, rather than dwelling in the safe place they prefer.

  2. Legalism is one place we find a tremendous amount of fear. Once you make it nearly impossible for anyone to get to heaven why try to reach them? So they stay in their fortresses defending straw men rather than going out and making a difference.Courage – anyone who is going out to change the world one person at a time whether through evangelism and/or service. 

  3. Matt,Very, very true.  I like the way you express this.  It does become almost impossible to experience salvation under such a structure.  Very sad and empties the Gospel of its good news. 

  4. Joyce,Thanks for this.  Unfortunatly this seems to be a reality in many churches.  In such a system, some may attack the messenger or the one who dares to describe what is really happening.  Far too often, good people finally lose their spirit and give up.I think hope is to be found when a few people choose to go on and live a life of faith and service, trusting in God.  That is not a "fix."  Rather it seems that is what faithful people do.Thanks so much. 

  5. I have seen courage in the lives of some believeing foster parents I’ve known – as well as hospice nurses, military chaplains and some teachers who’ve gone the third mile for a struggling child. All were compelled to follow Christ into unglamorous, even dangerous circumstances. Far from the spotlight, God sees it all.  

  6. Jim, I truly love your this post. Courage is needed more today, than ever before, so it seems. I believe we are in a day of gross darkness as spoken of in Isaiah 60:2 or very near. So today we need to be courageous and continually seek the Lord’s Face and His Will. The disciples were excited because they’d been beaten for their belief in Jesus Christ. How much longer will it be before this opportunity comes before us and will have that faith to face our persecution with that much eagerness. Will we trust God and stand for what we believe, or will we do as Peter did and deny Christ. I pray we’ll do as Christ did and said, and receive the persecution as it comes. And pray for their forgiveness. Man this truly excites me, to know that some day I could do as Christ did. It’s still a scary thought though.Thanks Jim for this post, it was needed.God bless,                                       servant21 

  7. Servant21–What you are you are saying is so true.  The courage that comes from Jesus is greatly needed so that our own desires, fears, insecurities don’t take over.

  8. Michelle,Thank you for these examples of courage.  It is a reminder to us all that there may examples in our own lives that are not being noticed.