These next couple of blogs should, perhaps, come with a warning label. Neither may be popular or comfortable. With that said, I’m a pretty surface person. So, don’t read more into what I’m sharing than what the words say.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian church, then summarized his entire letter with five closing admonitions (see above, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14), his end goal was to see a church that was moving on toward maturity and standing firm in faith. For quite a season they had been stuck. They were stuck in their divisiveness, arguing about which spiritual leader was more important. They were stuck in immorality, fearful of confrontation. They were trapped by some warped theology, which was reflected in their understanding of the gospel; and, their response to the celebration of communion. More than anything, they were stuck in spiritual infancy. So, Paul instructs them to “act like men…” “Grow up,” he tells them. “Put away childish things.” “Lose the bottle!” I offered a current cultural phrase that might capture Paul’s essence with this: “Man-up.”
Man-up. Not in the sense of “toughen up.” Not in the sense of “stuff your emotions.” Not in the sense of “refrain from authenticity or vulnerability.” Definitely not those things. As I studied and followed the bread crumbs of Scripture (in a hermeneutical sense), I walked down two different trails. One trail took me down a path with a sign that read “courageous.” The other led me to explore a path with a marker reading “maturity.” I’d like to bring you along, point out a few of the sights along both paths. For this week, let’s start down the courageous-path.
As we’re all aware, courage isn’t about a lack of fear. Courage spites fear with faith. It stares fear down and responds anyway. I’ve always loved this quote from John Wayne:
But, what does Scripture tell us? Over and over again (just do a simple search on biblegateway.com), we read these words, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.” David’s dying words to his son, Solomon, were these: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…(1 Chronicles 28:20 - emphasis mine).”
Years ago, after Bay and I returned from Kenya, I found myself rapidly putting on a lot of weight (there’s just so much yummy food available in the U.S.). Since my clothes weren’t fitting correctly, and I didn’t have finances for a new wardrobe, that meant something had to be done. I didn’t want to do the work; but, truly not just my wardrobe, but my health, was at stake. I joined a weight reduction class at my church based on Scriptural principles. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember one thing that was stressed in that program, “Do the next right thing.” That stayed with me…and, oddly enough, it was a key to pushing forward…in spite of fear of failure, in spite of not “feeling” like it…in spite of my want-to.
That’s a small example. There are a lot of times when fear seems to loom large and I forget the greatness of the one who is with me. There are those times when I don’t much feel like doing what I know I need to do, like right before I step behind a microphone at a women’s event; or, when I am stretched out of my comfort zone, being asked to do something that is SO NOT ME; or, when I sit down to write; or, I know there’s a need to confront in a healthy, biblical way; or, when I’m asked to forgive, when the last thing I want is to forgive. It’s in times like those, when the path of courage leads me to simply stop looking at the overwhelming big picture, take one simple step, and “do the next right thing.”
We can do that, you and I. We can always be courageous, in spite of us, and in spite of our emotions. Sometimes, it’s just so easy to allow those feelings to dictate our lives, rather than let them be simply what the Lord intended: indicators of the heart. So, let’s take one step toward courage; for we can always do that one right thing that comes next.