In Search of Christian Vertebrates

Talk about an endangered species: it is getting harder and harder nowadays to find believers with a bit of backbone. One fears they may soon become extinct altogether. Sure, the churches are filled today with hordes of Christian invertebrates – they are a dime a dozen. But that is not what we need right now.

In these trying times we are in desperate need of Christian men and women who have spines of steel to withstand all that’s going down around us. But they are hard to find, that’s for sure. We have plenty of pew warmers who will never rock the boat, cause a ripple, or dare to offend.

Why is that? Fear is a big part of this – fear of man especially. Of course we are warned quite often in Scripture about fear. We are told “fear not” over and over again, and we are specifically told in Proverbs 25:29 that the “fear of man brings a snare”.

Yet while so many of us are paralysed with the fear of man, so very few of us have the antidote: the fear of God. Instead of worrying about offending the holy and living God, we fear offending mere men. We are servants and slaves to men instead of servants and slaves of Christ.

So we fear the wrong things, and lack a vital trait for our day and age: courage. Courageous Christians are hard to find, while spineless, wimpy evangellyfish seem to abound. Where are the believers with courage and backbone today? Why do so many lack the courage of their convictions, and wimp out at every opportunity to stand up for Jesus?

And this is no inconsequential thing. Not only does it mean we are not being the witness for Jesus that we are meant to be, but we are actually sinning against the Lord. A lack of courage is sinful? You bet it is. Simply go to Revelation 21:8 where we find a list of those cast out and judged by Almighty God. Guess who lead the list? Yep, the cowardly.

But there is simply no excuse for such cowardice and lack of intestinal fortitude. Sure, in ourselves we have nothing. But we were never meant to go out in our own strength and fight God’s battles. We are meant to go out in his strength and fight his battles with his weapons in his way.

I love what we read about Gideon when he was called by Yahweh to be a deliverer of his people. When the angel of the Lord shows up, we find him hiding. Yet the angel says, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:11-12).

That angel obviously had a bit of a sense of humour. But that is how God views each of us; as a mighty warrior, ready to do mighty exploits in his name. We are to go out into battle with a solid backbone, not because of our own strength or might or power, but because of His Spirit being with us (Zechariah 4:8).

With so many crucial battles raging all around us, we so very much need all of God’s people out there in the trenches, instead of leaving only a handful on the frontlines. Those brave soldiers need more reinforcements. And when there are brave souls out there, they can often inspire others to enter in.

As Billy Graham put it, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” It is my prayer that in the days ahead – which are getting increasingly dark and terrible – God will raise up an army of believers who have real backbone, who fear not what man or demon can throw their way, but only fear their Lord and Master.

Indeed, all the great men and women of God have known that the Christian life must be one of courage, perseverance and boldness. It is fitting therefore to close this article with a handful of quotes from some of these courageous Christians:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Augustine

“I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him.” Martin Luther

“Even a dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” John Calvin

“Courage is the indispensable requisite of any true ministry. Courage is good everywhere, but it is necessary here. If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else. Go and make shoes to fit them. But do not keep on all your life preaching sermons which shall say not what God sent you to declare, but what they hire you to say.” Phillips Brooks, 19th century American clergyman

“Courage we shall need, and for the exercise of it we have as much reason as necessary, if we are soldiers of King Jesus.” C. H. Spurgeon

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.” G. K. Chesterton

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  C. S. Lewis

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’ — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” Jim Elliot, martyred missionary

“The true follower of Christ will not ask, ‘If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?’ Rather he will say, ‘This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!’” A. W. Tozer

“It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long— to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” Leonard Ravenhill

These were real vertebrate believers. We can use many more like them. As the nineteenth century hymn says:

“Stand up, stand up, for Jesus;
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict
in this his glorious day:
ye that are men now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose.”

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