Don't be afraid to be courageous
Throughout history there are stories of Christians who have been persecuted for taking a stand for Jesus. Many have suffered and died. Several of the apostles met their death for that very reason. Have you ever been persecuted for Christ? Me too. I’ve endured someone putting their hand up and saying, “I’m not interested in Jesus, thanks anyway!” Or there was the time someone told me, “I was warned that you were a bible thumper and to watch out for you.” Brutal right? I guess this does not qualify as persecution. I don’t have a clue what persecution is like.
Persecution is mentioned in the Beatitudes. Do you remember this one? Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” How is that possible, to be persecuted for righteousness? What if your life testimony is righteousness, meaning, being right with God? That righteousness you live by comes from living up to the written standards in the bible and you live as an example of having Jesus in your heart. All of those qualities should be admirable and commendable. Imagine being mistreated for your faith in Christ.
Matthew 5:11 continues, 11 “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Know that when you are persecuted for Christ sake, Jesus takes note of that. That is where some of your rejoicing should come from in those times. Your rejoicing should come from knowing that you were insulted or harmed for defending the name of God. That should make you stand tall for doing the right thing at the right time.
The opposite of doing the right thing at the right time is doing the wrong thing at the right time. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Don’t hide your testimony. Don’t be afraid to publicly and openly thank God for the good things and even the not so good things that are happening in your life. Don’t refrain from praying for a meal in the company of the unsaved because you are worried that someone might see. Don’t be afraid to read the bible in public. Don’t be afraid to defend another Christian who is being challenged on who God is or when someone says something irreverent about God. What about social media? Don’t be ashamed to acknowledge God on Facebook. Yes, everyone can see when you do.
What is important is knowing that even taking a small stand may make a difference in someone else’s eternity. What if someone saw you pray over a meal and came to you later and asked you about it? What if that conversation led to another person connecting with God and giving their life to him? What if all that happened because your beliefs were strong enough to be a good witness? Part of being a solid Christian takes surrender and courage.
We have probably all had a moment when we could have been bolder in our witness. Here is what we want to avoid. As a Christian, we want to avoid slipping to a place where these verses that follow are more applicable to us.
Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Luke 9:26 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Matthew 10:32-33 “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Being brave and taking a stand does not make you a Christian. Being a Christian comes after salvation. Salvation follows believing in Christ, repentance and confession of sin. Baptism does not get you into heaven but it is an act of obedience that would follow salvation. Taking a stand for Christ takes courage in today’s world. If you are already doing this and living a righteous kind of life, praise God for that. You are on the right path. Scripture offers us many passages of encouragement. Here are a few.
Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
1 Corinthians 16:13 ”Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”
Philippians 1:12-14 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
Psalm 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”
The next time someone slams a door in your face or bops you in the nose because you wanted to tell them about Jesus. Remember that Jesus himself saw how you stood up for him. This may be what he thinks about you when that happens, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
Until we are together again, be safe, be strong and be courageous. Missing you all.