April 15, 2008

Three kinds of courage

This morning another Christian told me about a friend of hers who professes faith in Christ yet is afraid to open his mouth and tell anyone. As I think about his fearfulness, which I’m sure many of us have experienced, I notice that the Bible talks about three kinds of boldness.

The first is a brash, I-don’t-care-about-anyone kind of boldness. 2 Peter 2:10 talks about the judgment reserved for those who “follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.” It adds that they are “bold and arrogant” and not afraid to slander anyone, even angels. This is a bravado that flies in the face of any threat, but is often a front.

I’ve tried being brave, putting on a courageous face when it was not in my heart, but this boldness lets me down. It has no foundation, only my own determination.

The second kind of courage is what God gives to those who ask Him for boldness. It is what all Christians need so we can speak about Him, even in the face of ridicule and persecution. In Acts 4:29, the disciples prayed, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.

This kind of boldness is not natural, but it is contagious. When Paul was in jail for speaking about Christ, he continued to share the Gospel with his guards and anyone else he encountered. Because of this, he wrote, “Most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14).

However, there is a third kind of boldness that probably has much to do with the other two, even though we seldom see any connection. Without this one, a person who does not know the Lord might fake being brave, or those who do know Jesus might be too afraid to speak about Him. Yet with this courage, everything changes.

It is described in Hebrews 4:16. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God tells me to fear Him, but this is not the kind of fear that makes me terrified to come near or approach Him. He wants me to know that a fear of sin and of being judged for sin is a good thing, but I must be aware that I can come to Him anytime and with anything, any sin, any guilt, any problem or need, and He will receive me and take care of my need.

This boldness is described in the Old Testament book of Esther. A pagan king had taken this Jewish woman to be his queen. Then he was duped into a plan to kill all the Jews in his kingdom. Further, no one could approach this king unless they had been summoned. To do so meant death. Everyone feared him.

Esther could have destroyed herself and all her nation had she given in to this fear, yet, as her uncle Mordecai told her, she alone was in a position to do something about this plot. Instead of giving in to any weakness of the flesh, Esther sent word back to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:15-16).

While prayer isn’t mentioned here, it no doubt was part of what she asked. After three days, she boldly went into the king. When he held forth the scepter as acceptance of her presence, Esther touched it, and she and her people were saved.

The application for me today is never to let fear, guilt, sin, shame, discouragement or any other thing keep me from drawing near to my King. The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit not only encourages me to do so, but also enables me to approach Him. When I do, I am blessed. I enjoy the liberty of access to God, a great freedom, and even experience a spirit of prayer and a renewed power to take hold of God. I might wrestle for a blessing, and sometimes agonize with sighs and groans, but in that place where I am invited to boldly come, I am given a holy boldness that overcomes every negative thing. Not only that, by boldly talking to God, I don’t need to fake courage; He gives me His boldness to talk to everyone else.

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