Courage to Face Life's Challenges
"Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go."
Joshua 1:7 (RSV)
Normally, you think of war heroes as the ones who have courage. You might think of police officers or fire fighters who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001 as having “courage” in a difficult time. You think of heroes as people with extraordinary courage for a difficult moment. Actually, our faith requires we have the courage to stand up for what is right. It requires us to have courage to do what is right no matter how much our lives or reputation or future are put in jeopardy.
Among Time magazine’s persons of the year for 2002 is a trio of whistle-blowers. Sherron Watkins, wrote a letter to the CEO of Enron stating that what he was doing was unethical (the courts agreed). She was fired for writing that letter. With her was Coleen Rowley who pleaded with the F.B.I. to investigate an individual who would turn out to be a key player in the September 11 attacks. Also, there was Coleen Cooper who went to the board at WorldCom to inform them that the company had hidden several million dollars in losses (which the accountants had done illegally). All three women risked their careers, friendships, and private lives to "blow the whistle" on injustice. In an article about these women, Richard Lacayo and Amand Ripley wrote:
- “These were people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly—….and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never know if we do. Their lives may not have been at stake, but Watkins, Rowley, and Cooper put pretty much everything else on the line. Their jobs, their health, their privacy, their sanity—they risked all of them to tell the truth…" even when it hurt.
Now, I don’t know if these three women are Christians or not, but they sure act like it. They exhibit great courage in the struggle for justice. Martin Luther King once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." If we are silent when wrong things go on around us, what does that say about our God? If we live in fear of what others think of us, and are unwilling to do the right thing because of how it might appear to others, where is our faith? Courage is required of the faithful. It is something we all count on. God even expects you to have it.
In the Bible, after Moses died, Joshua was named to lead the people of Israel. He was to lead them into the promised land, into a blessed new home. However, that new territory held its dangers. The people needed faith and courage to overcome the obstacles. Joshua spoke to the people about going into this foreign land, and about how they were heading into the unknown. Joshua wanted them to have the courage to face the challenges. God said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.” In order to succeed in his journey, Joshua had to be courageous, very courageous. He had to be strong in faith when leading the people. He had to keep the faith, and God would bring him success.
One of the reasons I believe that Christians do not have success in life is that they lack courage. They have faith in God, faith that God is with them, faith enough to pray and study their scriptures, but they lack the courage to follow God when the going gets tough. Courage for Joshua meant that he was going to have to trust that God would watch over all the "what-ifs" as Joshua led the people into the promised land. Courage for you and me means we have to trust that God has told us what to do and that we follow God’s leading. We must not be afraid or as the scripture says here… to turn right or left (thus, compromise). We have to follow God straight down the path HE has set before us. We can’t waver. We must remain true to God, to our faith, and to our values.
Faith involves courage… the courage to stand up against what is wrong, the courage to be faithful when others are wanting you to do something wrong. Courage is being strong of heart, fighting against the odds to accomplish something right. Do you have courage?
Peter Cartwright, a nineteenth-century circuit-riding Methodist preacher, was an uncompromising man. One Sunday morning when he was to preach, he was told that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation, and warned not to say anything out of line. When Cartwright stood to preach, he said, "I understand that Andrew Jackson is here today. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Well, I want to begin this morning by saying that Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn't repent."
The congregation was shocked and wondered how the President would respond. After the service, President Jackson shook hands with Peter Cartwright and said, "Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world." (Leadership, Vol. XII #I Winter, 1991, p. 49) Andrew Jackson recognized courage when he saw it. He realized that Pastor Cartwright had the courage to tell him the truth about God and to say it faithfully no matter what the situation.
Sometimes, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have the courage to be faithful in difficult moments. Have you stood for faith when others wanted you to do the wrong thing? When friends pressured you, did you throw out your values and do what was wrong? When you felt in your gut that God wanted you to do something, did you come through, or was it easier just to let it go, walk away, forget about it?
After 9/11, a Survivor was interviewed about what happened at the Twin Towers. People wanted to know why God let this tragedy happen. Her response inspired many They asked her, “Where was God in all of this?” She said….
- "God was in the rescue workers who were running into the buildings as most people were running out. God was in the flight attendant who called her husband as her plane was being hijacked to tell him that she loved him. God was in the two men who carried a wheelchair-bound woman down 70 flights of stairs to safety. God was in the people who stood bleeding, but they were in line to give blood. God was in my neighborhood where I saw flags waving from every home. God was with the heroes, most of whom will never be on the news, whose stories will only be told to their closest friends and family; but who saved someone's life with a single act of kindness, compassion and bravery. God was not in the hearts of the people that caused these inhumane events. However, God was indeed there, where he was needed the most. God was in the people who did small and big acts of courage."
When people are courageous, wonderful things happen. Twice in our scripture, God asks Joshua to be courageous. God is also wondering today…Do you have courage; the courage to stand up for what is right; the courage to put your life on the line to save another like did Christ for you? Do you have the guts to be strong even when your body is tired and you are weak? Are you going to have the courage to answer HIS call in the day you are needed. In small and big ways, God continues to find out who has the courage to stand up and be counted, to get the job done, to come through for the needy neighbor, to do the right thing even if nobody knows it but God alone.
God doesn't want wimps in the faith. God doesn't want the lukewarm soul (Revelation 3:15-19). God wants those HE can count on and among them I pray……. I pray…… I pray…. Among the ones God can count on is……… you.