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Worship Message - Courage

Courage

Bill Hybels, well-known Christian pastor and author, writes that his father, who fought

in World War II, often told some of his war stories. Son Bill was always interested in the

stories. He was intrigued by the tales of courage.

Bill’s father, sometime after the war, decided it would be a great adventure to buy a

sailboat in Ireland and cross the Atlantic Ocean in it, which he did successfully, despite

enduring a five-day-long hurricane and many other challenges on the open sea.

Before the voyage, Bill’s father read a lot of books on sailing, so he had some idea what

he was in for. But still, what an amazing adventure it was. What courage was displayed.

Over the years, Bill himself read the books his dad had collected. They included not only

books about the logistics of transocean crossings, but also about shipping disasters,

including the sinking of the Titanic.

Bill writes that whenever he got to the parts where the ship was going down and there

was a shortage of life jackets, his heart would race. His throat would get dry. Then,

when some guy would say bravely, “Take my seat in the life boat, I’ll go down with the

ship” - when that was reported, each time, Bill’s breath would get short and his pulse

would continue to race.

But there was another reaction for Bill as well. Just about every time, he would say to

himself, “That’s what I want to be like. That’s the kind of real-life courage I want to

have.”

In fact, he would add, he did not want his life to be debilitated by fear. He did not want

to live a life paralyzed by worry. He did not want to compromise his convictions or quit

when faced with difficult challenges.

Bill Hybels wanted to be a person of courage. And guess what. He was not the only one

with that desire. So, too, did the apostle Paul want courage. And courage is what Paul

wanted for a young man named Timothy. Since I assume courage is what we want -

what we all should want - that is what we are going to talk about today.

Courage is the first of five character traits we are going to discuss this month, plus the

first Sunday of August. The other traits are discipline, confidence, patience, and

endurance. But today, courage. Not so much courage in times of war, or the kind of

courage required to cross an ocean in a sail boat, or courage for life in general, but

spiritual courage. Having the courage to worship and serve and speak for the Lord,

doing those things openly, whether what we do for the Lord is popular or not.

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I have a few other stories of courage sprinkled throughout the message. I also have a

Bible text to share. It is much of chapter 1 of II Timothy, which was written by Paul.

It is actually verse 7 where the appropriate passage begins. But what is written before

verse 7 helps set the stage, so we will begin there.

Notice how Paul identifies himself. We are going to be skipping around in chapter 1, but

notice how Paul identifies himself in verse 1.

He identifies himself as an “apostle.” Specifically, that means he was one of those who

actually saw Jesus. One of those who was called by Jesus to follow Him. But the title

apostle also means one sent out. Something like an ambassador, who speaks, not his

own words, but the words of the one who did the sending, using not his own personal

authority, but the authority of the one who did the sending.

That is what Paul was. He was an apostle. After having seen Jesus - after having been

called by Jesus to serve Him - he was sent out to speak the words of the one who sent

him, that one being Christ Jesus.

And notice the gist of what Paul said. As an apostle, he spoke of God’s promise. That is

an important thought, in that he did not speak God’s threat. And yes, God did and does

proclaim condemnation for sinners. But God also promised life for those who would

turn from their sins to the salvation God offered through Jesus.

Paul identified himself as an apostle. Slip down to verse 11. There, Paul also identified

himself as a “preacher” and a “teacher.”

The word translated “preacher” can also be “herald,” which, historically, had three

meanings.

A herald was someone who gave an announcement for a king. That is what Paul did for

King Jesus. Paul spoke the word of the Lord.

A herald served as an emissary between two opposing armies. The herald shared the

terms of peace, which is what Paul did. He preached how to have peace with God

through Jesus.

A merchant who shouted out news of what he had for sale was also called a herald. That

kind of herald did what he could to encourage people to come and buy what was for sale.

That, too, is what Paul did. He shouted out the benefits of salvation. He did that, trying

to encourage people to accept what God has available.

Paul was an apostle. He was a preacher or a herald. He was also a teacher. His main

goal of course was to convert people to faith in Christ. But he also had the goal of

teaching Christians about faith in Christ. As in how to live in ways that will prove faith

in the Lord.

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Remember the words of Bill Hybels? When he read of courage, that is what he wanted

to be like. Paul not only wanted the same thing. He was a very courageous man. See it

in verse 12? He himself said he was “not ashamed” to be an apostle, a preacher, and a

teacher. In fact, he was proud of his Christian position. Why. It was because he knew

who he believed, that being Jesus. And it was because he was sure the one he believed

was more than able to guard him throughout his life.

Let me make a related comment here. As we look at verse 15, there is some very sad

news. All who were in Asia - all the Christians in Asia - and by the way, that does not

refer to the continent of Asia that we know today, but rather to an area in and around

what is today known as Turkey - all the Christians in Asia had turned away from Paul,

including two Paul named. Those two were Phygelus and Hermogenes. I thought I

might try impress everyone by sharing some specifics about those two, but what I found

is that there is basically nothing known about them. But they must have been good

friends of Paul - supporters of Paul earlier. It is at least implied he was especially hurt

by those two turning away from him.

A lot of people either did not agree with Paul theologically anymore or had in some

other way gone a different direction. I mention that because it must have hurt Paul, my

point being that having courage does not mean we will not suffer or have difficult things

with which to deal. Paul is certainly an example of that.

And it was not just having the Christians in Asia turn away from him. He also faced

many other hardships, including being confronted and arrested and imprisoned and

beaten, none of which would have been pleasant experiences.

However, despite any and all problems, Paul continued his ministry of being an apostle,

a preacher, and a teacher. In that way, he was courageous. Which, as we continue to

look at II Timothy 1, was a character trait he wanted for Timothy.

See how Paul identified Timothy. Verse 2. “To Timothy, my beloved child.” Not

physically, but spiritually, Timothy was Paul’s son. As his son, Paul had entrusted

Timothy with the position of pastor. A position that would require courage. Hence

Paul’s words of encouragement.

Words including reminding Timothy of the faith he had. Verse 5. “I am reminded of

your sincere faith. That phrase reminded Timothy he was a Christian. That reminder

was an encouragement for Timothy to act like a Christian as he led his congregation

with courage.

And notice the next phrase. “Your faith is a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother

Lois and your mother Eunice.” What an interesting reminder of Timothy’s heritage.

What an implication of the challenge that if Lois and Eunice had kept their faith alive,

so, too, could Timothy keep his faith alive.

And verse 6. Paul reminded Timothy of the day he was ordained. That is indicated by

the words, “the laying on of my hands.”

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Timothy had grown up with examples of Christian living. He himself had accepted the

Christian faith. He had been ordained to be a Christian servant. Therefore, he was

called by Paul to continue to minister - to continue to do the work of the Lord - with

courage.

Put another way - verse 7 - “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of

power and love and self-control,” which are three different calls to courage.

Power. The power to cope, no matter what the difficulty being faced. The power to

shoulder tough tasks. The power to stand against opposition. The power to keep the

faith in times of sorrow. The power to overcome wounding disappointment.

Remember when I said Paul had times of difficulty? That having courage does not take

difficulties away? That is implied right here in verse 7. Tough tasks, opposition, sorrow,

disappointment? Yes, Timothy would face all those things. But he also had available to

him power. Power from God. Ao he could face and endure all those things. That is how

he could be courageous.

Love. Timothy was called on to have love for his congregation and for other fellow

believers. No task was to be too great or too menial in his service to them. No situation

was to be too daunting. No matter what was needed, Timothy was to be courageous.

Self-control. That is needed, is it not, to keep fear from taking over? To keep fear from

causing us to be swept away? To keep us from running away from the difficulties we

face?

And notice I just switched to the words “us” and “we.” I did that because it was not just

Timothy who was to be affected by today’s passage. Since it is in the Bible, those words

are also to affect each one of us. Which leads to a story about a fellow student of mine at

Wayne State College a number of years ago.

I cannot remember the name of the student, but he was a fellow music student. What I

will report happened in kind of the lounge area in the basement of the music building.

The student was a wild guy. He was known for being a big drinker, and he liked the

ladies. His reputation was one, shall we say, of loose morals concerning the opposite

gender. He was a party animal. He had been since anyone at college had known him.

But one Thursday, in the lounge, I overheard him saying that the coming weekend he

was not going to go out drinking. He was not going to do any womanizing.

“Yeah, right,” most of the others in the lounge said. “Whatever.”

“No,” the student said. “ I have given up those things.”

“Really?” was the response. “Why?”

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His answer? Because, he said - these are his words - “a couple days ago, I became a

Christian, and the drinking and the womanizing? Those are things I will no longer do.”

Well, you can imagine the ridicule that student faced. Of course, I did not join in.

Neither did I do anything to defend him, which was probably wrong. Though I’m not

sure anything from me would have had any effect anyway. But he was ridiculed, all the

way from “we’ll see about that” to him being called a “holier-than-thou goodie-twoshoes.”

Did it take courage for that student to proclaim the change he had undergone because of

accepting Jesus? You bet it did. I can’t help but think Paul would have been pleased

because that is the kind of courage Paul wanted Timothy to have, as stated, now in verse

8. “Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord,” Paul wrote - to Timothy and to us.

Nor was Timothy to be ashamed of Paul. Instead, be willing to “share in suffering for

the Gospel.”

Such courage was and is possible. Verse 8. There is the “power of God” that makes it

possible. Verse 9. It is possible because of the salvation that comes through acceptance

of Jesus as the Savior He is.

And look. He has “called us with a holy calling.” He has called us to be holy. To be

different.

That fellow student of several years ago certainly was different. So, too, was a man I

read about. A New York gangster who, some years ago, shortly after being released from

prison for robbery, was on his way to join his old gang so together, they could commit

another robbery.

On the way to the gang, the man decided to test his skills by picking a man’s pocket,

which was successful. The man went to a bench in Central Park to see what he had

stolen.

There was in the loot just one item. It was, much to the criminal’s disgust, a pocketsized

New Testament.

The criminal was disgusted, but since he had a bit of time before meeting with his gang

and had nothing else to do, he began to idly turn the pages of the Bible. Every now and

then he stopped the turning to read.

Soon, he was deep into the book. So deep it was a few hours before he made it to his

gang. And guess what. When he got to them, he announced he was done with the life of

crime.

Was that easy for that man to do? I doubt it. I imagine his former comrades in crime

ridiculed him. Maybe they threatened him. But that very day, he ended his association

with them. Why. It was because the Bible had called him to a life of holiness, and he

responded exactly how Paul wanted Timothy to respond. He answered the call.

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And the personal result? Just like it would be for Timothy - just as it hopefully is for us -

verse 10 - that criminal was raised. And it was not just holy living that did the raising. It

was also accepting Jesus as Savior, which is the only way to be able to live holy. But that

criminal was raised to life and immortality - life now, as in knowing and benefitting

from God’s blessings now, and life forever, as in enjoying Heaven whenever life here is

done.

Courage. That is a character trait taught in the Bible.

How can it be attained? Verses 13 and 14.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard

from me.” For us, that is following the teachings of Paul that are given to us in the Bible.

So much of what Paul wrote lists how to live a Christian lifestyle. We are to study. We

are to learn. We are to follow what Paul wrote. With that as a background, being

courageous in how we live will be easier.

Then, “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells

within us.” Guard. That means to make sure that what we know is not to be allowed to

leak out of our heads and hearts. It means to make sure anything else - anything false -

is not allowed to get into our heads or our hearts.

And who is in charge of the guarding? The Holy Spirit. Pray for the Spirit to be in you.

Then allow the Spirit to lead the guarding.

Follow and guard. Those two things are necessary to be courageous. And one more

story, which I am going to try to describe as clearly as I can. A story that is designed to

indicate it is not just in preaching that we are to be courageous, but in all parts of life.

This happened either late in my high school years or early in my college years, when I

worked at some grocery stores in Omaha. I was going to name the chain for which I

worked, but I thought better of it since this is not a very good report, and the company

still exists in several western states.

One day, I was given a job to do. There were some items on some shelves that had

experienced price changes, which means we would owe the suppliers either more money

when the items sold if the prices had gone up or less money if the prices had gone down.

The job I was to do was count the number of those items on those shelves so the store

chain would know who they owed more or less to. However, my job assignment was

given with some specific directions. If the price had gone up, which means we would

owe the supplier more money for the items I counted - items that would be sold - I was

told to reduce the number I reported so the store chain would owe less. If the price had

gone down, which means we would owe the supplier less money, I was told to increase

the number I reported so the store would owe even less.

This, by the way, was before the days of computers. I think such counting is a lot more

technological now. Back then, it was just my counting and hand-recording the results

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on paper. But basically, I was told to lie to benefit the store. With those directions, I

was sent off to do my work.

Well, to begin with, it was all very confusing about which items I was to over-count and

which ones I was to under-count. And besides, I figured the correct thing to do was to

give an accurate count of whatever the items were with which I was dealing.

About halfway through that assignment, the manager came to check on me. He looked

disgusted that my counts were accurate. And interestingly, I was never chosen for that

particular task again. But did I do right that day? Yes.

And I am not patting myself on the back. It is just that I think that might be a good

example of being courageous. In being courageous enough to be accurate in counting,

even if it displeased the store manager. Which I hope was a display of my Christian

faith, which at that time was still new.

When you hear of courage, do you say to yourself what Bill Hybels says to himself?

“That is what I want to be like. I want to be a person of courage.”

Do you want to be like that fellow student of mine who turned away from drinking and

womanizing and was bold in telling others the reason for his turning away?

Do you want to be like the criminal who turned away from his gang and was bold

enough to explain why?

Do you want to be courageous enough to be accurate in all the things you do in all the

aspects of your life?

Then accept Jesus. Then ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to remember that God does not

give His people a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, of love, of self-control.

As we all do that, we can all be courageous in our preaching, in our teaching, and in the

example and witness we give for the Lord in how we live.

Today’s closing song is the hymn Lord, Light My Soul With Holy Flame.

Lord, light my soul with holy flame,

That I may glorify Thy name,

In all I say and do and give,

While by Thy grace I daily live.

Dear Savior, guide my feet today,

For I would walk in Thy good way,

O use me, Lord, to do Thy will

And Thy great purpose to fulfill!

Show me the path to service true

And give me faith Thy work to do,

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With mind and heart on human needs

And using life for nobler deeds.

Upon Thine altar now I lay

Myself, my all, this holy day,

That all my strength may truly be

In faithful service, Lord, to Thee.

Lord, help us to want courage. And Lord, help us to have courage. To accomplish that,

help us, day-by-day, to draw upon Your gifts of power, love, and self-control. Help us to

use those gifts, even as we follow the Bible’s teachings and as we guard them in our

heads and hearts.

May the result be courage, in both our preaching and teaching, and in how we live. With

courage, may all that we do - may all that we are - result in faithful service to You.

Thank You. Amen.

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