The other morning, I met an acquaintance from a foreign mission agency. He shared about his work in countries where Christianity is banned by the authorities, and this was the first time I had heard directly from a person who lives out his faith in such dangerous circumstances. What courage he has to serve God knowing that his life is in danger! I admire men and women who are fearless enough to answer God’s call to serve where there is no freedom of worship.
A common definition of courage is the willingness to act on the truth felt deep within oneself and to live out one’s convictions. There are many quotes describing this kind of courage, such as: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act in the presence of fear.” A courageous individual is one who is true to their conscience and to the knowledge of the truth that is available.
The Bible has many stories of courageous acts. In 1 Samuel, we are told of David’s courage to bring down the giant, Goliath, with just one shot from his sling when surrounded by jeering Philistines and fearful Israelites. We know that the victory came not from that sling shot but from David’s unshakeable faith in the Lord Almighty.
In the Book of Esther, we learn of the courage of Mordecai and Queen Esther in the face of a king who had decreed an unjust law against the Jews. Mordecai quietly worked on a strategy to save the Jews through Queen Esther, who subsequently risked her life to save the Jews. “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish,” she said (Est 4:16b). Hers was a courageous act, albeit without a host of spectators.
In the New Testament we read Paul’s words: “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Phil 1:14). Persecuted, Paul endured pain and torture, and in so doing became an encouragement to other Christians who would, in turn, risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
In these examples of Christian courage, believers risked their lives to protect their faith and, in doing so, save lives. Courage continues to be a core attribute of the character of a Christian because he accepts to live against the grain.
A born-again Christian is called to live by faith. This, in itself, needs courage. They have to be courageous to lead a holy life in a fallen world; courageous to make choices that glorify God and not to please or glorify man; courageous to speak for the weak and the marginalised; courageous to stand up for the truth and society’s well-being.
Christian courage begins to become part of our lives the day we profess our faith in the living God. We have decided to follow Jesus whatever the cost; there is no turning back. Christian courage comes at a price, but we are strengthened and encouraged to persevere for Jesus said, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33, NRSV)
The Rev James Nagulan was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) in 2016 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Tamil Methodist Church (Short Street) and Seletar Tamil Methodist Church.
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