At some point, I’m sure every Christian wonders if they have what it takes. After reading stories of faithful heroes and martyrs, it’s easy to feel kind of wimpy.
Would I be able to stand before lions in the arena?
Would I be brave enough to congregate with other believers when our building had been burned down three times in one month by people who hate us?
Would I have stood by Jesus when he was arrested?
Would I be able to uphold the standards of my Christian business amidst lawsuits and boycotts?
What does it take to be brave? Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith and audacity are the substance of bravery.
Remember Peter in Acts 12? King Herod was having a heyday persecuting Christians. And he was becoming quite popular by doing so. Recently, he had killed James. Now, he had Peter in chains. He was simply waiting for Passover to end so that he could make mockery of a public trial and put Peter to death as well.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Act. 12:6
Seriously? Sleeping? How does someone fall asleep the night before he faces imminent death? How does one nod off chained between to heartless Roman guards whose very lives depend on the security of prisoners? And yet Peter felt calm enough to simply fall asleep.
The story ends well. Peter is rescued by an angel who simply dissolves Peter’s chains, leads him through doors and walls, and then leaves him in the empty streets of Jerusalem. I would love to experience that kind a miracle. But I’m more curious about where Peter’s courage came from.
Before He left, Jesus told Peter that when he was an old man, he would be led where he didn’t want to go, and he would be killed. I think Peter understood that it wasn’t his time. He wasn’t yet old and gray, therefore, whatever Herod might intend to do, he couldn’t take Peter’s life.
Flash back to the Old Testament? How audacious must Joshua and Caleb have been to argue with the reports of 10 other spies sent to investigate the promised land. Against all reason, these two men had faith that God would deliver Canaan into their less than capable hands.
“‘Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” Numbers 13:30-33
Because of their lack of faith, God sentenced the unbelieving Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until every single adult who had disbelieved God died. That meant everyone except... Joshua and Caleb.
What must it have been like for 40 years to watch your peers and those younger than you die? Perhaps Caleb and Joshua got sick, or had to fight off wild animals in the desert - but they knew they were invincible. God had promised that they would enter the promised land. In fact, when the Israelites began to lay claim to their inheritance, Caleb was still healthy and strong, and his eyesight was perfect.
Time would expire to tell of Elijah at Mount Carmel. Without a specific directive from God, he audaciously dared the prophets of Baal to a battle of the gods. With his life on the line, he bravely stood on the faithfulness of his God. And God sent fire.
No tale of bravery would be complete without the account of David and Goliath. Audaciously, the shepherd boy challenged the giant in defense of God’s name. His faith in God, stacked upon his audacity filled him with a bravery beyond the entire army of Israel.
A dear friend of mine recently referred to herself in years past as a fear addict. I can think of hundreds of incidents that verify my own cowardice. And I wonder, maybe I shouldn’t start the process of becoming brave by simply gritting my teeth and yanking up my bootstraps. Perhaps it starts with a little faith and a lot of audacity. You know, “Just Do It.”
Maybe I won’t feel brave until I step out and do something crazy. Then, met by a faithful God, I will become brave.