Courage, Boys! Take Ground for the Kingdom!
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love." (1Cor 16)
Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, describes courage as “knowing what not to fear”. Plato simply implies what we argued in our previous post, courage is inextricably tied to a person’s beliefs or commitments. Also, he makes it clear that courage is not complete fearlessness. An unqualified “no fear” is not the slogan of a courageous person. Yet Plato doesn’t get us very far. How do we figure out what we should fear or not fear? What situations call for courage to stand against or with someone or something? Here is where Scripture is needed.
Proverbs tells us that the “fear of God” is the starting point for a life well-lived (see Prov. 19:23). To find life we need a kind of reverence for God that makes God our unchallenged authority. We recognize his power and his goodness. We humble ourselves before him, “not my will but your will be done”. We quickly and repeatedly admit our dependence on his wisdom and power. We trust God to tell us what is real and good. And, finally, we willingly follow the path he lays out for us in Scripture and take his warnings seriously.
The Apostle Paul gives us a clear picture of the life of courage. His only fear was the fear of standing before God ashamed because his life or death had not given Christ his due. His only fear is that he might back down in the face of challenges to the importance and centrality of Christ for all of life. He just longed for “sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Real strength, real courage is on display when we make much of Christ. We need strength and courage to follow his leading, to humbly accept his rebuke and return to him when we wander and fall, to resist the threats and siren calls of other masters, and to commend him to others by life and word.
In other words, men, real courage is on display when a man follows Christ unwaveringly in advancing his loving rule within and around him. He fights to hold on to and live out Christ’s call for him as a protector, provider and servant-leader. At the same time, he fights to take ground for Christ’s kingdom in the lives of those around him in ways that fit God’s expectations for him as father (Eph. 6:4), son (Eph. 6:1-3; 1 Tim 5:4-8), husband (Eph. 5:25-33), brother or friend (1 Tim. 5:1-2; Tit 2:6-8). It doesn’t matter to him that our culture is not looking for this kind of man. Christ is and that’s all that matters! A soldier lives to please his commander (2 Tim. 2:3-4).
Men, we need courage and strength to set the spiritual direction of our family. We look to Christ for them and with them in prayer. We help and encourage them to listen to his words in Scripture. Primarily, this means we do at least two things. First, we lead in helping our family members understand their identity in Christ. We help them see what Christ longs for them to be: his loved, rescued, gifted and called child who increasingly comes to know genuine life in relationship to him. Second, we lead in helping our family understand what a Christ-shaped family looks like. Christ’s passions and priorities drive and set the standard for our life together. Christ’s expectations for dads, moms and the kids are respected, honored, and embraced. Everyone takes their places as Christ ordains. We respect the authorities God places in our lives. Christ’s character shapes the way we treat one another.
We need courage and strength to talk to our kids about things that matter for them because they matter to Christ. We do not leave the hard conversations up to someone else. We are not the only voice they need to hear and we don’t have everything they need, but we are one of the voices they need to hear. Their relationship with Christ and his loving expectations for their relationships, their bodies, their possessions, their gifts/vocations, and so much more are our responsibility. No sluffing them off to the wife. No sluffing them off to the youth pastor. No laying low with quiet hopes that someone else will say what they need to hear. We reject excuses. We read or talk to someone to find out what we don’t know. We look for good models to follow. Then, we talk through it with our kids. Or, at least, set up encounters for them where they get what they need to hear—and then follow up on what they heard! We are active and intentional because we are responsible.
We need courage and strength to pursue a woman/wife in a manner consistent with the character and goals of Christ. We need courage to deny ourselves—our sexual drives, our vocational goals, our hobbies—if loving her to Christ as Christ demands it. We need courage and strength to honorably pursue her and then hang in there and stay at it in marriage in a culture that tells you “life is too short, get a divorce” or “if you need things from a woman, get one, but don’t give your heart to her” or “the ring doesn’t matter, just live together”. We need courage and strength to say I’m sorry when we blow it; to reject physical and emotional coercion when we’re frustrated; to love with hope when we’re disrespected; and to resist a hopeless (“women, you can never please them”), careless (“yea, yea, whatever”), angry (“women will take your money and rip your heart out”) or whimpering (“yes dear; whatever you say, dear”) passivity. We need strength and courage to protect, provide and point to Christ.
We need courage and strength to speak up at work or in our group of friends for Christ. We should know each other’s stories and how a relationship with Christ figures into it. Do my friends know Christ? Are they following Christ? Do they have practices in their life—Bible study, prayer, church, spiritual accountability and openness to another brother—that are important for their spiritual growth and protection? Are they serving and giving? Do their passions and conversations reflect Christ? We should be helping one another figure out how Christ would have us think about women, parenting, vocation, sports, hobbies and toys, politics, money, etc.
So much more we could say here, but this is already too much. As we close, let’s purpose together by God’s grace to fight to overcome the fears that stand in the way of following Christ. Let’s make Isaac Watts’ words our own (from his hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”):
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.