Listen to Psalms 78:1-33
Now hear Hebrews 10:35-29
Today we move from misplaced fears that mess up faith, to confident trust the builds up Christian courage.
Thus far in our Fall campaign group ministry we’ve covered Previewing the Promised Land and Failing to Enter the Promised Land looking at Numbers 13-14. There we read about how Israel sent 12 spies into the land on a 40 day survey trip. When they returned they all agreed that the land was good, but 10 of the 12 said that the people there were too big and strong for Israel to conquer. Only Joshua and Caleb, two against 10, trusted the Lord and urged Israel to obey God and go in to take the land. Then the other 10 spies spread a bad report about the land among the entire community building fear and rebellion instead of the obedience of faith. Israel listened to this bad report and believed these 10 spies instead of God. In fear and anger they rebelled against Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb and God Himself.
This fearful faithless decision cost them their lives. God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until everyone who rebelled and did not trust Him was dead and buried in the desert. The children of this rebellious generation who endured this great trial became the generation of faith that finally took courage to enter and began to conquer the land.
The past two week’s sermons were on, “How Misplaced Fears Mess up Our Faith. This evening we will discuss the first few chapter of the book of Joshua where we read about how that next generation of Isrealites learned to value faith and courage over fear and rebelliousness. And so we come to this morning’s sermon entitled, “From Fear to Courage.” We will meet Rahab from Jericho who by faith hid the spies Joshua had sent and see how when God’s people turn to Him and trust Him, God causes others to fear us! When our faith is strong and our courage in Christ deep, we become fearless, but those who oppose us become fearful of us.
As a side note: This week’s bulletin blooper was discovered by John Curtis who made me aware of our “fearful” mistake with a text message not long after the bulletin was emailed out to everyone. I’ll let you look for it yourself. Needless to say we had been praying for Butch just before this mistake was made and the misprint somehow managed to get past any and all editing eyes before it was published.
Moving from misplaced fears to faithful courage in Christ is a vital part of growing closer to God and closer to one another. In your groups this evening I hope you will pay attention to how God himself called for courageous leadership. Strong leaders must be guided by faith and have the courage to take steps that seem dangerous to the fearful and those of lessor faith. As the tide of moral chaos rises in our nation we who are followers of Jesus Christ will face more and more opposition at work and in school and from those around us. We must prepare ourselves to be strong and courageous when the easiest and most comfortable path would be to either blend in or isolate ourselves.
We have historically been a church that has focused on restoring New Testament Christianity. Our main targets have been about how to become a Christian according to the scriptures and how to worship biblically and obediently. These two matters are still critical issues, but they are far from the only issues that we face. We must now prepare ourselves to face giants in the land that are not far from our camp and are marching this way, picking up speed and growing as they come.
Now is no time to be like the 10 spies who failed to trust God’s strength. Now is the time for faith and courage that leads by following God’s word and listening to God’s will and asking first and foremost what does God want us to do, then secondly, walking in obedient faith to do it.
Courageous leadership recognizes that fearfulness is more dangerous and blinding than we can predict. God’s word tells us in Revelation what happens to the cowardly. Look at Revelation 21:7-8 and notice what is listed first among the things that will send you to hell. Which is worse: cowardly or murderers? Actually, the cowardly come first because they end up destroying as many lives as the murderer, but they also have the tendency to be contagious. They can seem so responsible and reasonable in their fears. They never move forward to take the land God commands them to take, but instead they discourage others who would do so through promoting misplaced fears that mess up faith.
Watch out for this: The courageous are ridiculed by the cowardly. Remember Joshua and Caleb? Cowards do not trust God’s power, but their own. They also tend to be threatened by those who do trust God and they seek to shut them down.
A coward may sound wise and careful, but actually they are simply unbelieving and fearful souls disguised in platitudes of powerlessness.
How do we find strength to face a fallen world when among our own ranks are those who are afraid to lead with faith and courage? How can we carry out the commission God has given us through Christ to make disciples of all nations when we can’t even go next door and ask our neighbors to come to church with us? What does God think of us as a people? Does he see us strong and courageous in Christ, or fearful and immobilized so that, like Israel, we are unwilling to go forward and take the land? How can we find strength and courage today?
Let’s look briefly at how God took a small group of fearful disciples and transformed them into a courageous team of conquerors for the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God.
When Jesus was betrayed, tried and crucified, all the disciples fled in fear. The shepherd was struck and the flock was scattered, just as the scriptures had foretold would happen. Those fearful and confused disciples looked like a broken group. They had put all their hopes in this one man, Jesus. But now He was dead. Their own national leaders had given Him over to be killed and cried for His blood. Their own supreme court had condemned Jesus as worthy of death. These fearful disciples were facing the massive machine of Roman power and their own nation’s condemnation.
What kind of leadership would it take for them to turn that all around? What kind of faith would they need to push back against such a giant force against them?
They were uneducated. They were from Galilee, that despised place from which “no prophet ever arises.” Let’s assess their power for a minute. Hmmm. Eleven red necks and a few women against what?
Listen church. That’s how God started this whole movement called Christianity. He didn’t want it to be a movement of men of greatness, but a movement of the Holy Spirit through men of humility who were just foolish enough to trust Him and courageous enough to obey Him.
So. What did God do to supply the faith and courage this rag tag team needed to be strong and courageous? One thing. He raised Jesus from the dead and showed them the truth: Nothing can beat you if you trust and obey God. Nothing. Death lost. Jesus won. The sting of death is sin, Jesus died to take your sins and give you His righteousness. That is if you trust and obey Him.
No cowards need apply. No matter how smart, popular, puffed up with what looks like power, or pervasive they may be. But if you will walk by faith and not shrink back in fear, God can give you strength and courage that will conquer even death.
I close with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians In chapter 3:14-21.