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Who Needs the Church Anyway? 11/7/99

Ephesians 4:15c-16

JESUS CHRIST is lovingly spoken of as “the head” of the church. Where there is a head there needs to be a body. The most flattering title granted the followers of Christ is “the body of Christ.”

With resolute determination Christ promised to build His church. Being a part of that process is an exciting blessing.

The church is not simply buildings. That is the church house.

The church isn’t merely a series of meetings. Those are church services.

The church is a group of people interacting in the name of Christ to meet one another’s spiritual needs, challenge each other to holy living, and bring influence on society that enhances community life by holding up the standards of morality.

Every week in the U.S. 40% of the adult population attends a house of worship.

There are more ministers in America than there are Ford and Chrysler employees combined.

If religion in America were a business, it would rank number five in the Fortune 500. Its $50 billion income would put it just behind IBM and ahead of GE.

If the volunteer hours rendered through churches were calculated, they would total over $75 billion a year.

However, the real importance of the church isn’t indicated by these facts. The basic nitty and fundamental gritty regarding the importance and impact of the church is found in the loving relations between the Head, Jesus Christ, and the body, His loving followers, and how they interrelate compassionately.

It is expressed in the comfort given in time of grief, the reassurance afforded in times of loss, the support given in hours of extenuating circumstances, the cup of cool water given on a hot day, a warm coat given to protect against the winter’s chill, a shelter on a stormy night, a hot meal, a missionary sent to a spiritually dark corner of the earth, a holy embrace for an exhausted friend, and a warm smile for a wounded colleague.

It is the gospel explained, the truth exposed to an inquiring mind, morality stimulated, and ethics inspired in the market place.

It is souls saved from an eternal hell, families bound together in love, broken lives restored, people stabilized when their dreams are broken, the sick visited, a fallen brother or sister restored, and the prayer circle activated in support of a need. That is the church.

Galatians 6:2 gives insight into a functioning body: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you can fulfill the law of Christ.”

IT IS THE JOYFUL SHARING OF OUR COMMON LIFE IN CHRIST.

Let’s play the devil’s advocate for a moment. What would you do if you wanted to stop Christ’s church from achieving that which pleases Him? Here is what I would do:

Under the guise of wanting to popularize Christianity, I would make it a pop church in which:
A. I would make the basis of faith something other than the Word of God. Secular psychology would be a good basic core curriculum for Sunday School classes, pulpits, and seminaries. I would provide a smorgasbord of entertainment instead of teaching people how to apply the Word to daily living.

B. I would move the focus of faith away from Jesus Christ. This fantasy-faith would be based on health, wealth, and prosperity. Thus, I would appeal to the flesh.

C. I would advocate something other than holy living as the result of faith.

D. I would cause every person to have an unpleasant experience at church. I am going to be transparent. I have had a bad experience at church and I am no different from most people. As a matter of fact I have had more than one unhappy experience at church. The first one I remember was as a teenager. Our church was in a revival. The preacher preached over 90 minutes every service. That in itself is a bad experience. Our church had posts along the side. I was sitting with friends in the area behind a post. The preacher was a screamer and had been blazing away for over an hour. As a youth I was trying hard to stay with him. I leaned forward and propped up on my hand. Evidently only half my face was visible to the preacher. My finger slipped over one eye and it was the eye he could see. Assuming I was asleep he pointed at me and said, “A lot of you are going to hell like this kid sitting over here sleeping.”

I didn’t want to go back the next night. As a matter of fact I didn’t ever want to go back to church.

Honestly, I had a bad experience at church.

I felt like the man whose wife was begging him to get up and go to church. He said, “I don’t want to go. People don’t like me. Some don’t even speak to me. They criticize me and say bad things about me. I don’t want to go.” His wife said, “But you’ve got to go, you’re the preacher.”

I am going to be transparent. I have had some bad experiences at church. Let’s be open. If you have ever had a bad experience at church would you lift your hand.

Most people have. We just have to get over it and quit punishing ourselves by staying away. If you have been inactive and you resolve to resume involvement, I guarantee you Satan is going to do everything possible he can to make your return unpleasant. He doesn’t want you involved in church. Anticipate it and recognize it as his plot. Your former unpleasant experience was his work. If your unpleasant experience has caused you to drop out or become less active that means Satan’s strategy is working.

If you resolve to resume involvement the Lord is also going to be at work to encourage and enable you to find the joy of involvement. Trust Him and try it!

Now turn with me to our text in Ephesians 4 and let’s apply it to the process in which our Lord wants you to become involved simply because it will add meaning to your life.

With Christ as the head of the body, let’s evaluate it.

I. UNIFYING “JOINED AND KNIT TOGETHER”
This speaks of the skeleton of the body. The skeleton gives structure to a human body. Likewise, there are certain things that give structure to the church.

Verses 3 and 13 speak of the “unity.” With all of our diversity, unity is a miracle. It is only possible where there is “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Vs. 3), and “unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God” (Vs. 13).

A structure is something on which you build. The church must have unity on certain structural beliefs in order to build.
A. The Virgin birth.
B. The Virtuous life.
C. The Vicarious death.
D. The Vindicating resurrection.
E. The Valedictory ascension.
F. The Victorious return.

Everything the church is and does must be built on those structures.

II. SUPPLYING “BY WHICH EVERY JOINT SUPPLIES” AND “BY WHICH EVERY PART DOES ITS SHARE”
The Greek text speaks of “every joint of supply.” That is, the joints of supply are the bonds that bind the members of the body together, and the channels through which the source of supply of life comes from the Head. This energy joins believers close together and enables their growth.

In reality we don’t attend church because of what we get out of it but because of what we can contribute to it.

When the word contribute or contribution is mentioned, many people think of giving money. That is merely a byproduct of giving of ourselves. If we haven’t given our self to Christ and His body, the church, we sure won’t give our money. If we aren’t giving our money, we might need a spirituality check.

Students of the new tax laws say they are likely to increase giving to charitable causes by $1.6 billion this year. It will be to your tax advantage to give more than ever to your church this year.

The Scripture says where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure. Think about it! Don’t stop there, do something about it.

However, money is only one way of giving. Your regularity in public worship is a form of giving testimony.

In another state I preached a series of services. There was a gracious lady at every service. She was hearing impaired. I like that term better than the old terms “deaf and dumb.” Incidentally, our friends visiting here from Israel recently often used words that were almost right. For instance, they referred to a person who was “deaf and numb.” I thought that sounds like some congregations I have preached to – – – in other places.

Near the end of the week it was explained to me this lady could not hear a word I had said all week. Instantly, the question came to my mind as to why she had attended. An explanation came immediately. I was told she said she always attended public worship even though she could not hear because it was a way in which she could let others know of her faith. She was contributing by being present.

That reminds me of a sign in front of a church: “We hold sit-in demonstrations every Sunday.”

Another I saw speaks of the church’s purpose: “Come in and let us help prepare you for your final exams.”

How can the church demonstrate to the lost world it has the answers to their many bewildering needs? James gives the answer in chapter 2, verse 14: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Then he added, “…faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (Vs. 17).

He adds a challenge, “Show me your faith without your works…” It can’t be done.

If in New York City, one delightful place to visit is Rockefeller Center in the heart of Manhattan. There is a lovely plaza with a sunken garden. The place is alive with flowers and flags and in winter, skaters. One focal point is a plaque inscribed with the personal creed of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a Baptist. It might well appear in any church.

“I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, and obligation; every possession a duty…”

That is a commentary on the clause “every part does its share.”

The spirit of the body should be one of joy, love, and cheer. Christ said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

What part are you supplying to the body of Christ?

The church must be big enough to provide for you and small enough to care about who you are. One role of the church is to tell the lost world God knows you and cares about you.

After World War I the American government brought four bodies of unidentified servicemen to Washington, D.C. Sgt. Edward Younger randomly selected one of the four to be buried where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was later built. Inscribed on that tomb are these words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

That grave marker notes a great truth. It indicates we are known to God. That is our message to people apart from the Lord. God doesn’t only know you, He loves you.

III. MULTIPLYING “CAUSES GROWTH OF THE BODY”
Notice in the text, it isn’t until the body is unified and supplied that it is multiplied.

Spiritual and numerical growth are both incorporated in this statement.

The First Century church would have been given little hope by an objective observer. Its leader was executed as a common criminal. The eleven wavering students who had followed Him for three years had only one in their rank with the equivalent of a college degree, Matthew.

At the time of Christ’s death His followers numbered less than 100. The population of the Roman Empire was about 120,000,000. The civil and religious leaders who opposed them imposed sanctions such as executions, imprisonment, and public beatings.

They grew by faithfully proclaiming a simple message of God’s love. At the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, over 3,000 Greek speaking Jewish pilgrims from Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were converted. In one day the church body had become international.

Notice how they multiplied. They started with 120. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 were saved (Acts 2). A few days later 5,000 more came to the Lord (Acts 4). A short time later 20,000 were saved (Acts 6). In one generation they numbered over 100,000 in Jerusalem alone.

They built on the framework, the skeleton. That is the only way we can grow.

IV. EDIFYING “EDIFYING OF ITSELF IN LOVE”
The warm, sweet spirit of a Spirit-filled church is good for you in every sense. It has been demonstrated that isolated and neglected babies don’t grow properly and are more subject to disease. Apart from the loving environment of a caring fellowship, a babe in Christ does not develop properly.

We are to build up each other.

Scientific evidence now exists that proves it is advantageous to have a strong personal faith and express it by regular worship attendance. David B. Lawson, a senior government research advisor in Washington, D.C. and senior research consultant for the National Institute for Health Care Research has done research that demonstrates this.

He reviewed numerous psychiatric journals for empirical evidence to see if the facts show religion has influence on individuals. What the research showed was that religion was highly beneficial in more than 80% of the cases found in psychiatric research. He also said his study shows the exact opposite is taught in schools.

Lawson further found empirical evidence that persons with a strong faith in God who experienced a crisis were much better able to cope with it.

His research found that 19 of 20 studies he researched showed that religion appears to prevent problems. In light of our social ills and mounting costs, this is meaningful.

He also found a clinically significant difference in blood pressure levels between churchgoers and non-goers, with those who have strong faith having lower rates.

Religious faith has dramatic positive influence in lowering post-operative depression.

If you are part of an edifying church body, they will build you up in love and hold you up in prayer.

Those are mere physical side benefits to having a strong personal faith. Come let us help prepare you for your FINAL EXAMS.

Verses 11 and 12 notes our Lord has given certain gifts to build up his church. Some are preacher/teachers. (Apply Granville Sharp’s Rule) A role of the preacher/teacher is to build up the body for the work of ministry.

I want to appeal to you to identify with the only organization that has a supernatural head, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1: 22, “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…”

Become a functioning part of the body.

Hope Helps

Psalm 31:19 – 24

Hope is the happy anticipation of good, favorable and confident expectations. It is earnestly anticipating and expecting through experiencing delay and disappointment.

Little wonder God calls hope “the anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:19 NASB)

Hope realizes that it sometimes takes God time to work. It is the catalyst which makes divine ferment possible. It is the incentive which leads to unrealized perfection. Without hope man is less than a beast, he is a malfunctioning organism.

The media has exposed us to persons devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, raging fires, floods, and crimes in homes, schools, and streets. Many have been absolutely inundated with sorrow and grief resulting from these tragedies. Some have rebounded, some have not. Often one thing makes the difference —- hope.

Doubts often slip into our lives like termites in a building. These termite-like thoughts eat away at our faith. This happens when:

Things I think should not happen, happen.

When things I think should happen don’t happen. Then what do you do?

When things I think should happen NOW, happen later.

God knows what He is doing regardless of the waiting period.

These three things cause termites of doubt to work.  It is then that the All-Pro of termite extermination is needed. That is, hope. 

Famed American cardiologist, Dr. R. McNair Wilson, remarks in his autobiography, Doctor’s Progress, “Hope is the medicine I use more than any other …. Hope can cure nearly anything.” 

“Saturday Review” reported “Hope …. is medicinal. This is not merely a statement of belief, but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiments.”

To be most effective this hope must be Christo-centric. Timothy expresses this in four all-inclusive words: “Christ Jesus our hope….” (I Timothy 1:1).

There are two ways of looking at life’s defeats and delays:

THE WAY OF THE DISILLUSIONED – Some become disillusioned because of the three factors mentioned above. 

They fail to realize hope in the future fills the present with energy.

THE WAY OF THE CHRISTIAN – Hope accepts trials. It exists alongside the potential for despair. Hope isn’t blind – it sees through the eyes of God.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

On Being All Heart

Psalm 31: 19 – 24

HEART is the Hebrew word for mind, purpose, intention, or insight.

It is said of God “He will strengthen your heart.” Such a concept has been veiled in meaning. The organ of the heart is a marvel. This rugged four-chambered, four-valved pump handles 5,000 gallons of blood a day, almost enough to fill a railroad tank car. It supplies the circulatory system through 12,000 miles of vessels, and in the course of the average lifetime beats two and one half billion times. There is an additional strategic function of the heart long unknown.

Now without regard for that statement a British researcher at Southampton University and author Dr. Alan Watkins helps our understanding. In his book Mind-Body Medicine: a Clinician’s Guide to Psycho/neuro/immunology he speaks of the heart as the body’s powerhouse which has a “hitherto unrecognized role in balancing the entire human system.” He states the heart produces 50 times more electrical energy than the brain and a thousand times more electro-magnetic energy. Being the strongest power source in the body, it coordinates all the other body systems, including the brain, commonly thought to be the dominant organ. 

The process is known as “entrainment,” meaning working together. It produces harmony throughout all of the body. 

Dr. Watkins says biological systems entrain. The heart sets the pattern. In humans it only happens in response to a positive emotional state. All body systems have their body clocks which have their own rhythm.  When there is a positive emotional state, these rhythms synchronize. When this happens the brain works better, the immune system functions better, and your hormonal system is at its best. 

When our Lord says He will strengthen our heart He is saying  He will help your brain, immune system, and hormones work together to your fullest advantage.  All of this happens when the Lord is allowed to strengthen your heart by you thinking with the mind of Christ. That is, having His thoughts on each issue. Such positive thoughts impact all areas of your life.

Little wonder the Scripture says, “Man looks upon the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart.”

Your heart is the center of your intellectual, moral, emotional, and spiritual life. Is it right with God?

Like most fine devices, the heart needs to be re-calibrated with Scripture being the standard. Remember, “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I may not sin against you.” “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Joseph of Arimathea: A Covert Plodder 8/8/99

Luke 23:50-53

Jesus Christ said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

In the Biblical era as in every age there has been a legion to do so. Today there are many who march in the ranks of the loyal. In matters of faith as with all disciplines there have been plodders, people who hang in there for the long run. These are people of purpose. They are not necessarily front runners but they are finishers.

To refer to them as plodders is by no means a slur. The term isn’t a synonym for klutz or buffoon. Nor does it means to poke or drag along. It means to consistently pursue with a purpose. I aspire to be a plodded.

Conversely, unfortunately at all times there have been those who are slow learners and reluctant to fully obey Him. Happily some become late bloomers because they do quietly plod along.

Athletic annals are filled with examples of plodders.

One of my favorite announcers who was one of my favorite baseball pitchers is Don Sutton. June 21, 1986, Don became only the thirtieth pitcher to win over 300 games.

He performed few extraordinary feats. Only once did he win more than 20 games. Only once did he lead the league in any category (2.21 ERA, 1980).

He said of himself, “I never considered myself flamboyant or exceptional. But all my life I’ve found a way to get the job done.” Plodders do, they get the job done.

Sutton called himself “A grinder and a mechanic.” America saw six presidents come and go while Don did what a pitcher is suppose to do; he won games. With tunnel-vision he spent twenty-one seasons redefining greatness. He was a plodder. He was reliable.

Follow this plodder. In high school his sports career almost ended when he broke his ankle. His mom wanted him to quit football because he was too small. Slowed by the break the coach moved him to quarterback. When he finished high school he wanted to go to Notre Dame. However, the Irish were reluctant to gamble on a six foot, 138 pound quarterback. The University of Louisville took a chance. His college career blossomed enough that the Pittsburgh Steelers took a chance and drafted him as their 9th pick. They cut him right away. The Cleveland Browns promised him “next year” but he never heard from them. A year later the Baltimore Colts did take a chance on him. In the fourth game of the year with the Colts leading the Browns 20 – 14 their quarterback broke his leg. The aspiring young quarterback went in and threw his first pass for a touchdown as the opposing safety intercepted and ran it back. On the first play after the kick off he fumbled and the Browns covered it for a touchdown.

He lost 58 – 27.

He was a plodder. He being, Johnny Unitus, who when inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame was called “the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.” Unitus, called “the golden arm,” holds the record for the most consecutive games in which a TD pass was thrown. Johnny Unitus, was a plodder, a winner.

Come with me now to the Scripture as we consider the second plodder in our series. The first was Anna who had prayed for the coming of Messiah and at the age of 84 saw the infant in the temple. She was a plodder present at His birth.

Now at His burial we find another plodder, Joseph of Arimathea. He was a rich intellectual plodder who asked Pilate for the lifeless body of Jesus Christ that he might bury it. That was a bold open identity with the man crucified. It was a dramatic departure from his past.

Joseph is described as “being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly” (John 19:38). The reason for being a covert follower is given “fear.”

He was a member of the equivalent of the Supreme Court of that day, the Sanhedrin.

Noted in Luke 23:51 is an important event. He, a disciple of Jesus, was there the night the Sanhedrin, afforded Christ a mock trial, falsely accused and condemned Him to death. However, Luke notes “he had not consented to their counsel and deed.” He was a decenter.

Logically the term secret and disciple don’t go together. A disciple is a learner, one who follows the teaching of another. Against a lifetime of learning one system of religion He had been awakened to the truth taught by Christ. His faith was strong enough at this stage of his development to want to learn and grow. However, old beliefs like old habits are hard to break away from. He had enough faith to want to learn from Christ.

He had enough fear that he was reluctant to be identified with Christ openly. All the time his faith was covert he was learning.

He knew he would be the object of derision, would lose his leadership role, disrupt friendships, and negatively impact his financial fortune if he openly identified with Christ. All of those things still serve as significant centennials used by Satan to keep people from taking a stand for Jesus. We are prone to ask of ourselves: “what will my friends think?,” “will I lose my position?,” and “how will it impact me financially?”

Though those costs must be considered there is one question that must take precedence over them. It is, “what does Jesus Christ want me to do?” It is often said, “Is there a decision that you know it would please Christ for you to make? If so make it without regard for anything or anyone else.”

In the gospel there is a group of people that typify many today: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43).

A person professed faith in Christ and let it be known in a small group. There was no follow-up, no public profession of faith. No evidence of wanting to obey Christ and experience New Testament believers baptism. Upon being asked why not the answer was, “I have prayed about it and God and I decided to keep it a secret.”

In making that statement I am convinced the person was conscientious. However, our thoughts and opinions should be measured against the Biblical norm. Let’s measure that position against God’s standard. The decision to trust Christ as Savior is the most personal decision one will ever make. However, in the Bible this highly personal experience was never private. At this stage of our story Joseph’s faith was still private. You may be at that stage at this point. However, momentarily you are going to know what caused Joseph to overcome all his fears and go public. At that point you should do as he and go public.

Joseph was in process. He was learning.

Luke gives him an admirable identity. He is depicted as being “a good and just man.”

“Good” describes what he was personally internally. His goodness resulted in the second trait, he was “just.” This describes his external conduct in dealing with others.

If good works saved a person this man had a lock on heaven. He was intellectual, as evidenced by being on the Supreme Court, he was described as wealthy, and characterized as good and just. Even those admirable traits don’t save. Reflect on this summary:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

Anna, in the temple, is depicted as waiting for the kingdom. Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:52).

That is the quality that kept his faith alive. He lived a life of expectancy. That energizes life. It frees a person to celebrate life.

The waiting is about over. The center of Joseph’s universe is about to change.

In the cartoon “the Wizard of Id” the dwarfish king of Id enters the workshop of Wiz and finding him staring through a telescope asks, “Whacha looking for, Wiz?” The astrologer answers, “The center of the universe.” The little king answers, “Speaking!” That is a powerful statement of self- centeredness.

The self-centered world of Joseph was about to become a Christ centered world. The same reason that effected this change is the one that should change ours. In a moment it will be noted.

After his colleagues condemned Christ He was immediately crucified. His disciples who had followed Christ for three years were without means and unavailable to bury Him. It was common for the corpse of persons crucified to be thrown on a pile of unclaimed corpses.

Enter Joseph. The secret disciple is about to remove his disguise and acknowledge His allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Joseph was a wealthy man who owned a tomb in a garden near Calvary where Christ was crucified. He went to Pilate and asked to be allowed to bury Christ. What a moment that must have been. In that moment the most powerful religious leader of the day looked into the face of this legal leader and saw a new loyalty. Joseph was a secret disciple no longer. What a murmur must have gone through the assembly. Joseph did not care.

Realizing how cowardly he had been at the trial he became bold in asking for the body of Christ. He was indecisive no longer.

Joseph was about to step on the stage of history as a main player in the fulfillment of prophecy. When he placed the body of Christ in his own personal tomb he was fulfilling prophecy. Isaiah (53:9) had prophesied centuries before Messiah would be buried with the rich.

There is a painting by Peter Bruegel entitled “The Blue Cloak.” In it he has combined at least 78 proverbs, maxims, rhymes, and symbols. One shows a woman carrying fire in her right hand and a bucket of water in the left. It represents an old proverb, “she carries fire in one hand and water in the other,” meaning she carries two contradictory opinions.

Jesus put it simply: “You cannot serve two masters.”

The apostle Paul was equally direct: “Be of one mind.”

Now comes the reason the secret disciple was no longer covert but committed openly.

All the time he had been learning from Christ He had been searching the Scripture. Though secret He was searching. Fortified with facts one act completed the transition.

What was it?

The thing that moved Him to acknowledge his faith and openly demonstrate his devotion was the death of Christ. In that he saw the love of Christ for Him. That love took precedence over all else and he could restrain himself no longer. Out of the depth of love he responded publically. That is the highest form of motivation. The love of Christ enables us to overcome our fears and take a stand regardless of the restraints. It moved Joseph from the category of secret disciple to stalwart disciple. He was no longer a covert disciple but a committed disciple.

The plodder went public.

Mark 15:43 reveals that Joseph “boldly” went to Pilate and asked for the body of Christ. The coward became courageous motivated by Christ’s compelling love as demonstrated on the cross.

Courage Not Conformity

Psalm 31:19 – 24

Jesus loves the hopeless. He loved Zacchaeus who was hopelessly lonely. He loved Mary Magdalene though she was demon possessed. He loved Mary and Martha whose brother Lazarus died.

A sense of futile hopelessness is so foreign to the Lord that the word “hopeless” does not occur in the Bible.

Knowing human nature, our Lord realizes it exists and proposes an antidote. The Psalmist describes himself as a person for whom persons have set a snare and caught him in their net. Have you ever felt trapped, hopeless? Framed in such a feeling three release principles are noted. These are to be dealt with in this three part Post series. They are:

God’s people need to study God’s Word in order to understand our times and know what to do. In this time of uncertainty and apprehension let’s explore a rich passage. The first is:

COURAGE  (Psalm 31:24a)

This brings to mind what has been called Jesus’ favorite text: “Be of good cheer.” This He said to the helpless paralytic, the woman who touched the hem of His garment, the terrified disciples in the storm.  Before His ascension Jesus said, “In this world you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer.”

Fear of conditions might cause some to try to retreat into the past or flee into the future, but reverence for God brings us to confront the current with courage. Almost anyone can show physical courage. It refuses to abandon convictions. Don’t be a moral turn-coat. Be courageous enough to die rather than compromise.

In the day of Charles II, Margaret Wilson, a woman of great faith, was falsely accused and sentenced to death. She was tied to the stake on the beach at low tide and offered release for recanting as the tide rose. Her last words – “Christ only is my Master.”

Our word courage comes from the Latin word meaning resulting from two basics: cor and ago. “Cor” is the word for “heart” and “ago” the word for “to put in motion.” When the heart is put in motion there is courage. Courage refers to the condition of the heart. Heart is the summary Hebrew word for mind, purpose, intention, or insight.

Spiritual courage is a human’s inner strength and determination. This is strengthened by a knowledge of and application of Scripture. The Bible says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I may not sin against you.” 

Being strong and of good courage means trusting in the Lord as our true source of strength. “When I am afraid I will trust in you.” Remind yourself of that and purposefully turn to Him and trust Him.