It 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?