As things continue to decline spiritually, morally, culturally, politically and ideologically, we need more than ever men and women willing to stand up, go against the tide, and provide some hearty resistance. We need, in other words, men and women with some backbone.
But such is often not the case, even among God’s people. We see believers everywhere cowering, wringing their hands, and opting out of the struggle. We see believers who would rather run than fight. We see believers who have simply hoisted the white flag of surrender, without even firing a shot.
In a war this is just not good enough. Indeed, it is treasonous. No one has the luxury of sitting on the fence in the face of battle. To seek for some sort of neutrality in a time of war is really to go over to the enemy side. ‘He who is not for me is against me.’
The Bible of course speaks often and clearly about such themes. Courage is enjoined upon God’s people throughout Scripture. Moses could exhort the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [your enemies], for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).
Jesus often told the wavering disciples to “fear not”. Or as Paul reminded us, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). Our courage of course comes from the Lord, yet we are constantly commanded to be courageous and not fear.
Indeed, this is a serious matter: fearfulness is in fact sinful. One very sobering passage in this regard is Rev. 21:8. There we have a list of the sinful who will be consigned to a lost eternity. At the very top of the list are “the fearful”.
The previous verse helps to put this into context: “He that overcomes will inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he will be my son”. The question is, are we overcomers? Or are we underachievers? Do we have the requisite backbone to make a difference for Christ and His Kingdom, or are we wallowing in timidity, self-pity, and fear?
Remember, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). In these very dark days we need to rise up in that power, and take on the many challenges facing us. Now is not the time to retreat, or to opt out with a negotiated settlement.
And if courage is desperately needed in the church today, it is especially needed among its leaders. We have too many timid and compromising leaders who would rather earn the praises of men than the approval of God. Too many religious leaders simply want to live a comfortable life, not rock the boat, and not make any enemies.
As A. W. Tozer reminds us, “It is true that the church has suffered from pugnacious men, but she has suffered more from timid preachers who would rather be nice than right. The latter have done more harm if for no other reason than that there are so many more of them. I do not think, however, that we must make our choice between the two. It is altogether possible to have true love and courage at the same time.”
Courage and the collapse of the Berlin Wall
Twenty years ago (on November 9) the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was the very powerful image of the defeat of the evil empire: godless Communism. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe finally came undone, after seventy-plus years of tyranny and oppression.
Four men and women of courage, vision, commitment and perseverance can be mentioned as in large measure being responsible for the death of the Soviet colossus: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa.
These four deserve a world of credit for their role in bringing down the Iron Curtain, and liberating millions of oppressed peoples. They lived in tough times, but they responded with a toughness and a resolve that put many of us to shame.
But because of their courage and determination, they helped to bring an end to one of the most monstrous regimes of human history. We can all rejoice that they held the course, fought the good fight, and did not let the word “surrender” enter into their vocabulary.
Each one could be singled out for honourable mention. Let me just briefly mention US President Ronald Reagan, and share a few words said about him at his funeral by Margaret Thatcher:
“As prime minister, I worked closely with Ronald Reagan for eight of the most important years of all our lives. We talked regularly both before and after his presidency. And I have had time and cause to reflect on what made him a great president. Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles – and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly, he acted upon them decisively.
“When the world threw problems at the White House, he was not baffled, or disorientated, or overwhelmed. He knew almost instinctively what to do. When his aides were preparing option papers for his decision, they were able to cut out entire rafts of proposals that they knew ‘the Old Man’ would never wear. When his allies came under Soviet or domestic pressure, they could look confidently to Washington for firm leadership. And when his enemies tested American resolve, they soon discovered that his resolve was firm and unyielding.
“So the President resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of these pressures and its own failures. And when a man of goodwill did emerge from the ruins, President Reagan stepped forward to shake his hand and to offer sincere cooperation.”
The world desperately needs such men and women today. But many of our political leaders are into appeasement and political correctness. In fact many of them seem intent upon undermining their own nations. And sadly, many of our spiritual leaders seem to be into personal empire building, wealth accumulation, making a good name for themselves, and winning popularity contests.
Jesus of course offered a different path. And that is a path we all must recover today. The challenges are too great, and the attacks on our faith too many to do otherwise. We need resolve, we need firmness, we need principle, and we need courage.
This does not mean that the battles won’t seem overwhelming at times. And this does not mean that we will win every battle. As Winston Churchill rightly said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Let us all pray for the courage to continue.