The Courageous Christian
John Patton, Scottish Presbyterian missionary in South Pacific in the 19th century, was told by an older fellow Christian, a Mr. Dickson, that he “cannot go to the South Pacific.” He said because, as he said to Patton, “You will be eaten by cannibals!” To which Patton responded, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
That’s courage. Have you ever wanted courage like that but failed to produce it? The early church was certainly characterized by that kind of courage, and they had good reasons for it.
The Early Church was courageous and we must be too, because, like them, we know: 1. That Our Lord made everything (23-24).
Now, the disciples know that they are in for a challenging time and things are heating up. Two of their leaders have been recently arrested and threatened. And so as they call on God for boldness (29), they remind themselves of the simplest of truths: that their Lord (Master, Authority), (look at verse 24) made “heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them.” “i.e. All things.” And that gives them (31) extraordinary courage.
Here’s how this works in principle: “A 5th grade boy disrupted his class by flicking the ear of the kid sitting in front of him. To which, the new teacher in the class, responded: “Young man. Do that again and I’m sending you to the principle.” The young man returned to his work, and then, once again, “Flick.” Again, the new teacher said, “That’s two strikes. One more and you are gone.” The boy, this time, didn’t hesitate and immediately began flicking the ear of the boy in front of him. Well, the new teacher was indignant now and said, angrily: “That’s it. You’re gone to the principal’s office.” The boy stood up and stopped at the doorway to look at the teacher and say: “Mrs. Teacher, do you know who my daddy is?” To which she responded: “No I do not, but if he were here I would give him a piece of my mind. He must be some kind of dead-beat to raise a disrespectful, smart alleck like you.” To which he responded, “Well, I’ll be sure to tell him when I see him in a minute. He’s the principal.” You see, he wasn’t afraid of anything in the school could do to him because he was related to the one who held authority over it.
Why and who and of what should we be afraid when we know who our Daddy is? That it is our Father who holds makes, governs over all things. Peter knows it was His Lord who made who his opponents from the dust of the earth, His Father who made the the metal in the prison bars, His Master who caused the sun to rise. And that gave him and his church family tremendous courage.
Again, a note from John Patton’s journal. In the morning at daybreak I found my house surrounded by armed men, and a chief intimated that they had assembled to take my life. Seeing that I was entirely in their hands, I knelt down and gave myself away body and soul to the Lord Jesus, for what seemed the last time on earth. Rising, I went out to them, and began calmly talking about their unkind treatment of me and contrasting it with all my conduct towards them. . . . At last some of the Chiefs, who had attended the Worship, rose and said, “Our conduct has been bad; but now we will fight for you, and kill all those who hate you.” (p. 115). [Once] when natives in large numbers were assembled at my house, a man furiously rushed on me with his axe but a Chief snatched a spade with which I had been working, and dexterously defended me from instant death. Life in such circumstances led me to cling very near to the Lord Jesus; I knew not, for one brief hour, when or how attack might be made; and yet, with my trembling hand clasped in the hand once nailed on Calvary, and now swaying the scepter of the universe, calmness and peace and resignation abode in my soul. (p. 117)
- The Lord always wins (4:25-28) [READ]
Notice how the early church appeals to the Lord. They reach back to a Psalm of David, psalm 2 (turn there). They do that because they are seeing themselves in line with the experience of David, God’s anointed. The nations (like all of the known world at that time) raged against David (Psa 2:1-3). And here, verse 27 [READ]. Herod (Jewish Power), Pontius Pilate (Roman power), the Gentiles (everybody else), and the peoples of Israel (even your own people) raged against Jesus. Just like what happened then, is also happening even now, to the church.
But notice the church isn’t complaining. This isn’t a Merle Haggard ballad. Look at Psalm 2. They’re asking with the psalm, “Why are all the people raging?” They plot “in vain.” Because the anointed will rule them “with a rod of iron” (Psa 2:9). The nations will always lose (2:8). The nations: Pharaoh, Goliath, Absalom, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas, Nero, Herod (worms), Pontius Pilate.
And so the church reminds themselves of the inevitable victory of God.
What’s awesome, here, is that the early church recognizes that it wasn’t just the resurrection of Jesus that was a part of God’s plan. It was also the suffering of Jesus that was according to the predestined plan of God. And, I think, what they’re also recognizing is that even their suffering, persecution, like Jesus’, is also a part of God’s plan.
You see how that truth spurs tremendous courage? The question, in difficulties, becomes: “Why would you follow Christ, when you get cancer, when your daughter gets pregnant at 15, when your husband gets caught running around on you, when your boss demotes you, when for the sake of your faith you don’t get invited to parties at the river, or when for the sake of your faith, you get sentenced to beatings in prison?” Why would you continue to trust in the hands of the Lord?
Answer: because God uses even crosses for his purposes. The Lord was not off his throne when your world got turned upside down. He was and is and will be on his throne, right where he was when the snake was in the garden and his son was on the cross.
Some of you have been watching your neighbor for years, seen the beer case boxes by the trash can and the car parked on Sunday morning. You know that family is lost. But every time you see them, you don’t take the chance to speak truth. You’re scared to witness to your neighbor. What do you think is going to happen; do you think God is going to stop ruling the universe if you say something about Jesus to them? You’re working out in 4th block and the boys are pulling up porn on their phone and you don’t want to be the “weird kid who ever does anything wrong.” What are you worried about? Do you think Jesus is going to leave your body in the tomb if you stand up for Christ in the gym? At the mill on shift and the men are complaining and swearing about their kids, their wives, their managers, and they look at you laughing expecting you to laugh and play along. Do you think an employee at Boise has more power than the one who conquers Death? If Isis lops off some heads, if churches are fire-bombed, if somebody who should be in the nut-house gets in the White House, you know what? The Lord wins. Why so downcast, O my soul. Put your hope in God? You Be courageous because all of history belongs to the Lord.
So What Keeps Us from Boldness?
Put simply, because we are more worried about losing the world than the Lord. Like our first parents, we want the pleasure of the fruit of this world now, rather rather than the promise from the Lord of something better later. How does the hymn say it: we aren’t bold because we’re too interested in gaining the crowns of this life more than the crown of life. (The Old Rugged Cross). “Till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”
How Jesus Helps You?
- He does everything he is telling us to do. (You ever noticed how uncaffeinated Jesus is?) Suffered as a “holy servant” with incredible boldness.
- He is life. I am Bread. I am Living Water. I am the Gate. I am the Shepherd. I am the Vine. I am the Resurrection and the Life. Paul, If I have Jesus, and lost it all, I have everything. Do you know Jesus that way? Or are you clinging to something other than the cross?
Hugh Latimer, 1555, Bloody Mary (Mary Tudor). The Oxford Martyrs.
Nicolas Ridley: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out!”
Be of good courage, not like John Wayne show-off. But because you know who you have believed in. And He forgets not His own.