As I begin this message on the Impact of Courage, I say that Sister Sherry, what you have just done has taken great courage and what you intend to do over these next months is amazingly courageous. You have given us courage for the time when our moment will come, and it will; the moment our faith is tested, our hearts are broken, our minds are consumed with questions and fear, and the choice will need to be made to either live with courage and faith or to live in bondage to fear. Your story shows us that life isn’t about span of years and time, but it is about IMPACT. It is about intention. It is quality versus quantity. It is about living well. On this Right to Life Sunday you have taught us what it means to choose life, and we are standing with you cheering you on.
2 Timothy 1:7-“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
This morning I want to share the true stories of courageous heroes, people who exemplified great courage and each one for a great cause or reason. They were game changers. They were IMPACT movers and shakers who changed culture thus changing history.
- Jochebed-The Courage to Choose Life-Exodus 1 and 2
In honor of Right to Life Sunday, I want to begin with a Bible mom who chose life. Her name was Jochebed. Certainly it takes courage to be a mom or dad, to parent children. It is a lot of responsibility. In my opinion, if you are a parent, parenting is your highest earthly calling. Jochebed was a great mom. She had three children that all excelled. They all had the foundation they needed to work through those forks in the road that life brings to each of us. They successfully navigated through identity issues and questions and doubts to accomplish what they needed to when the moment called for it. They all were IMPACTED by their mother’s courage and faith. Their names were Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Moses, of course became one of the greatest leaders ever recorded in history as he negotiated the release of millions of hostages and led that entire group out of captivity towards the Promised Land. His brother, Aaron, became Israel’s first high priest which made him the founder of the Aaronic priesthood. And then there was the gifted worship leader and poetess, their sister Miriam. Jochebed had a lot to be proud of her in her three children who grew up to lead an entire nation!
The conditions surrounding the birth of her first-born son, Moses, were tough. The details are recorded in Exodus 1 and 2. Realizing that the Hebrew people were growing so fast numerically, and afraid they may overtake the Egyptians and that Egypt would lose its slave labor, the Pharaoh ordered that every Hebrew male baby was to be killed. When Moses was born, Jochebed displayed immense courage by figuring out a way to hide her son. She made a basket out of papyrus and set him to float on the Nile River. His big sister, Miriam, watched him from afar for three months.
One day, Pharaoh’s daughter went to the Nile River and discovered the floating baby. She was instantly drawn to Moses and decided to take him as her son. Sister Miriam was fast on her feet. She quickly asked the princess if she would like for her to go find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her. The princess thought that was a wonderful idea, and guess who got the job? His own mother, Jochebed. What a great big sister! What a special gift from God. When Jochebed had done all she could courageously do and Moses could no longer be kept quietly hidden in a basket, God stepped in to reveal the next phase of Moses protection.
Choosing to protect Moses’ life meant Jochebed risked her own as she defied the Pharaoh’s edict. How different would the Israelites’ story be today without Moses? Oh how the courage of one mom led to the liberation of millions of people just a few decades later. We never know how one life will impact the world. The Mozart’s, Bach’s, and Beethoven’s, the William Wilburforces and Martin Luther King Jrs. and the John Wesley’s and Billy Graham’s . . . I’m grateful today for Jochebed and her courage to do whatever it took to ensure her baby’s life.
That said, let me also say to anyone here who didn’t have the same courage at some moment in your life; if panic, fear, and confusion overtook you at some point, if you were talked into or made to have an abortion, or if you chose to have an abortion because you didn’t see any other option, I want you to know God has grace and mercy to forgive you. Today isn’t about condemnation, but it is a day to commit to making the courageous decision from this day forward to do everything we can to protect life no matter what the pressure to terminate it might be.
Let’s exercise courage to choose life as individuals and as a church that entire generations can be impacted.
Nehemiah’s story is chronicled in the book which is named after him. There we read about a man who had the courage to care.
- Nehemiah-The Courage to Care-Nehemiah 1
Impacting a community begins with care and concern for the way things are currently.
Because of disobedience to God, God allowed the Israelites to be conquered by the Babylonians who took the leading citizens 1,000 miles away. At the time of Nehemiah, Jerusalem was a city of ruins.
Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He was more than a “butler.” A cupbearer held a position of great responsibility. At each meal, he tested the king’s wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. If he died, then the king wouldn’t drink or eat what was put before him. Doesn’t sound like a great job. But think. A man who stood that close to the king in public had to be cultured, knowledgeable, and able to advise the king when asked. Because he had access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of great influence. The cupbearer was rather like a prime minister and master of ceremonies rolled into one.
God was going to use Nehemiah to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. That was a big deal. How would he get time off to lead that project? How would he get the resources to accomplish that feat? It was beyond Nehemiah’s abilities and required more than Nehemiah’s resources. God used Nehemiah because he expressed CONCERN over Jerusalem and those living there. Nehemiah 1:2 says, “I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.”
We might think that an important man like Nehemiah had more important things to think about than a distant city, and a people he had mostly never met. Yet, because his heart was for the things of God, his heart was not on himself, but on others. We live in a culture that shouts that we are to look out for number one. Protect your investments, line your pockets, gain control, and position yourself strategically so that you can be seen, applauded, and promoted.
Those who are hurting and struggling are easily dismissed as someone else’s responsibility or simply forgotten because of the busyness of our own lives. Have our lives displayed this past week that we have the courage to care?
Nehemiah didn’t get good news when he asked about the city. Verse 3 tells us he was told, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” That status wasn’t good for an ancient city. Walls were protection against enemies. Walls kept their people and possessions safe. Walls provided peace of mind as people could rest a bit easier.
No wonder the people lived in constant trouble, in constant disgrace, living only as survivors. God has more for us than to be mere survivors. God not only wants us to be conquerors, but more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
There are people all around us who are living vulnerable, unprotected, poverty-stricken, and fearful lives and they need someone to care about that. Their walls are broken. We can’t burst onto the scene of their lives with the truth that God wants them to be a conqueror without first showing that He cares about what they are going through.
Who have you shown concern for this past week? This past month? God was able to use Nehemiah because he cared about the unprotected city. He asked questions about it. He cried over it. In verse 4 he then asked God to help him do something about it. God won’t use people who don’t care, but God make a great impact through people who will have the courage to care.
Nehemiah understood that God had put him in a position to do something about the broken walls of Jerusalem. He was the cupbearer to the king which meant he could talk to the king about the issue. He was going to the king himself to ask for time off of work and all of the resources need to rebuild the walls. That kind of request could have gotten someone killed, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be someone like the cupbearer to the king. When was the last time you risked anything so that someone could get the help they needed?
Nehemiah chapter two tells us that Nehemiah was still afraid. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the forward movement in spite of it! If we have expressed concern and felt compassion for a situation and called upon the Lord in prayer, and if God has strategically put us in a position of influence where we can affect some kind of change, we must move forward with God’s help.
- Noah-The Courage to Continue-Genesis 6
You can find Noah’s story in Genesis 6. Things were bad, really bad, beyond belief bad. Wickedness ran rampant. Evil was so prolific that God told Noah He was going to send a flood to wipe out the earth, but that Noah and his family would be spared. In order to be saved, Noah was going to need to build a boat, a big one. It needed to be big enough not only to house his family and their families, but also big enough to house two of every animal on the earth.
It was costly. It was a long, long project. Scholars estimate it took anywhere from 40-75 years to build the ark. Surely people would question him. “Who builds a boat that big?” Surely people would make judgments about him. “He must be out of his mind.” Day after day and month after month and year after year and decade after decade passed without flood-producing rains. How do you continue to work and build and believe when something takes that long? You do so with courage!
Courage is different than confidence. Confidence points to our ability, our track record, our assessment of how things are, and our predictions regarding how things will be. But confidence comes when we know that we know that we know that we know that we have heard a word from God. God had told Noah in Genesis 6:13-14 what would happen and what to do to get ready for it. Believing God gave Noah the courage to continue.
Verse 9 of Genesis 6 tells us Noah walked with God. That ongoing fellowship with God gave Noah the courage to continue.
One of my favorite songs is “Because He Lives” because of the line that says, “Because I know, I know He holds the future, life is worth the living just because He lives.” God talked to Noah about his future, and I know Noah knew it was secure. He could go through whatever it took to build that ark, whatever it took to convince zebras and gorillas to get on board, whatever it took to catch 2 gnats and 2 rats to take them aboard, whatever it took to endure 40 sea-tossed nights while it rained and just over an entire year on board that smelly vessel until the waters receded and the all clear was sounded for them to disembark—He could endure all of that because he knew his future was secure in the One who keeps His promises. Whatever you are pressing ahead with, if God has spoken it to you take courage and don’t quit!
Let’s tackle one more courageous person for today, and we will continue to highlight some more folks next week.
- 4. Barnabus-The Courage to Support (Acts 9:26-30)
Not everyone can see potential. That’s a gift, I think. I’m not just talking about a person who is positive, but a person who can see potential even when facts would argue there is none. Perhaps you know about how Barnabus was a big encourager. Have you ever thought it could take great courage to be an encourager?
Remember with me the man called Saul whose name was changed to Paul on the Damascus Rd. The Apostle Paul had been a persecutor and murderer of Christians until he met the Lord personally. He was someone to be feared, not someone to follow. But Paul had changed! Paul had been made new! Paul was now one of the good guys! Not everyone would believe it. Many would be suspicious. Change takes time. When Paul came to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders they were on their guard. They were seeking out the hidden agenda. They didn’t trust one who didn’t have a trustworthy track record.
Acts 9:26-30 details how Barnabus stepped up to vouch for Paul. He took Paul with him to speak to the Apostles. He explained how Paul had been converted. Barnabus told them how Paul had been preaching Jesus and the Gospel message ever since that encounter. It was Barnabus’s courage to stand behind someone everyone else would have written off that enabled Paul to get his preaching ministry off to a solid start. Because of Barnabus’s testimony, Paul was accepted by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Barnabus put his reputation on the line. He courageously stood by someone everyone else wanted to dismiss. By faith he saw what potential a guy like Paul had that could enable him to make a great impact on others because of his dramatic conversion. He saw, through eyes of faith, something God was doing that not everyone else could see at first.
There are times when we need to risk to support someone or a situation even when others would be hesitant to. I am grateful for those who supported the purchase of the 74 acres down the road many years ago. We are closer than ever to seeing the dream of building a new multi-purpose facility built on that property. I know not everyone was for it when it was purchased. The church wasn’t in the same position numerically or financially then as we are today. People either couldn’t entertain the idea of moving down the road or they didn’t think it was financially prudent, but I am glad there were people who were courageous enough to step out on faith because how could we continue to grow at the rate we have without the space to do so? Just as the impact of Barnabus’s courage led the way for Paul to preach the Gospel and thousands to be converted, so the courage of those of you who supported the purchase of the property and the courage of those of you who have given to our capital campaign in spite of the fact that we have been in an economically depressed time period in our country, you are making the way for many to be impacted and saved.
God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity or fear, but one of courage. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world. We can impact this culture by having the courage to choose life, the courage to care, the courage to continue, and the courage to support.