Do I dare claim His name and not care for others? Do I dare have His joy and not pass it on? Do I dare know His peace and not tell my neighbor? If I don't care for others, do I dare? Do I dare claim His name and not care for others? Do I dare ask His help and not share His Word? Do I dare take His blessings and not help the lonely? If I don't care for others, do I dare? Do I dare claim His name and not care for others? Do I dare call Him Master and not be a friend? Do I dare seek His power and not spread the Gospel? If I don't care for others, do I dare?
On the evening of the first Easter the disciples huddled in a closed room and bolted the door to keep out the world. The were afraid of those on the outside, so they used locks to protect those on the inside.
Today we Christians, out of fear, hide behind the doors, walls, choir robes and Sunday school literature of our churches. We preach, praise, sing and pray, but we are still afraid.
Just what is it that frightens us?
We are afraid of losing the approval of the leaders of our church. We fear openly opposing the sins of some of the influential people who attend regularly and contribute generously. We don’t want to face the possibility that some of our deacons or teachers or singers might leave and start attending another church.
We fear the opinions of other Christians. We don’t want to do anything that might cause our friends in the church to think we are going overboard in our loyalty to Jesus. We don’t want to introduce or join a ministry that might upset those who make our small groups so enjoyable. Sometimes we fear the disapproval of other Christians more than the criticism of a lost world.
We fear dedicating ourselves to any ministry that might interfere with the time we have available for family and friends. Giving up our independence so we can serve others is frightening.
We fear new ideas about how to worship. New songs and musical styles call for change and change is intimidating. We are not sure just what might ultimately develop if we leave our comfort zone.
So we close and lock our attitudes, just as the disciples locked the upper room. We live in fear of anything that might challenge us to examine ourselves and our relationship to God. Jesus said “God is the one you must fear…” (Luke 12:5) He also said “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matthew 5:16). We must not let our fear dim our light!
Jesus was courageous. He expects his disciples to be the same
Courage to refuse. This courage enables us to avoid participating in sinful behavior. We are familiar with this concept. Even non-believers realize certain actions are off limits to Christians. God has said “Thou shall not” to many activities that provide temporary pleasure and social acceptance. The sincere Christian must have the courage to “Just say no” to those things God has forbidden.
Courage to give. This courage is necessary to take part in activities intended to help others. They are the “cup of cold water” activities that indicate we care for our fellow man. Sometimes such behavior brings ridicule, even from those with whom we worship in a local church. Our courage is tested when we feel led by the Spirit to lend a helping hand and we are told by other Christian that we are foolish or naive.
Courage to care. This courage allows us to have deep emotional concern for the spiritual welfare of others. We become concerned about their relationship with God. We are drawn into intercessory prayer. We agonize about their alienation from the Father. We may even become bold enough to give the unsaved a personal, verbal witness about our Savior.
The courage to refuse often becomes stronger as we grow older and form habits of obedient living.
The courage to give is sometimes strengthened because “Good Samaritan” actions bring praise from others.
But the courage to care remains elusive, demanding and difficult. We may pray for some lost people for years and never see any sign of change. Face-to-face witnessing will likely remain difficult when we are rebuffed or ridiculed. Jesus’ courage took him to the cross. Will we let ours take us across the street?
When did Jesus know He was going to die on a Roman cross as a common criminal? At birth? At age twelve? Certainly by age 30.
At some point his divinity gave a fore knowledge of his death. How did his humanity handle this look into a future that promised such pain and suffering? How did He maintain a sense of joy and peace in the shadow of the cross? What allowed Him to laugh, sing, joke and smile during his ministry?
And He did each of those things. Grown men didn’t leave home, family and careers to follow a sour puss. Children didn’t flock to be picked up and held by a grouch. Crowds didn’t contribute their donkeys and cloaks to form a parade for a “gloomy Gus”.
How did He avoid a constant feeling of dread and sadness as He healed and taught the people of Judea and Jerusalem? As he conquered disease and death in others, surely the specter of his own future hovered in the background of his mind.
The answer to the question has to be in his total trust in his father’s wisdom, power and love. Long before Gethsemane his daily mantra was “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42.) He was fully convinced that only by following Jehovah’s will could He provide a way for the human race to be ransomed from the power of sin. He had heard “With him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) as He stepped out of the waters of John’s baptism and He had to die to hear it again.
What am I willing to do each day to hear it from Jehovah God?
For the disciples this trip across the lake began as a normal, routine activity….no adventure, no danger. Then the storm struck and everything changed. They faced circumstances beyond their control. They were scared. They needed help. Peter wanted to go to Jesus. But in order to do so, he had to leave the boat. Jesus did not offer Peter a life preserver or inflatable raft. His only choice was to get out of the boat – totally, completely, entirely out of the boat.
For us life can be much like that midnight cruise. We sail along, comfortable and satisfied, with all our life problems under control. Each day is like the last. Life is good. Then the storms hit. We do our best to solve them and save ourselves, but soon realize we can’t. Then we turn to Jesus, call his name and beg for assistance.
And his reply to us is the same as it was to Peter….”Come.” But it will require us to get out of the boat.
At this point we tend to want to negotiate with Jesus. We say “Lord, you know I want to come to you, but I want to stay here, too. Can’t you come closer and get in the boat with me?”
And He replies “Come.”
Each of us has our unique boat that we hesitate to leave. It may be labeled Financial Security, with seats named mutual funds, savings accounts, IRAs, stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Another may be labeled Comfort, with seats named home, health, friends, community or church.
Some boats are named Family, with seats called husband, wife, parents, children or grandchildren. If our boat is Reputation the seats will be Chairman, CEO, President, Pastor, fame, recognition , champion or title.
Still others of us may have a boat called Pleasure, where the seats have names such as plane, sports car, fishing, hunting, golf, music or liquor. In the boat Knowledge are the seats of published paper, debate, expert, accuracy, or tenure. Some boats are even titled Church where the seats are pastor, deacon, teacher, singer, elder or tradition.
Moving closer to Jesus almost always involves moving further from something else. What seat is so comfortable that I will not leave it to go to Jesus? Do I really believe that what I will gain will be better than what I might lose?