Courage

Courage

This is a report from OSWM (Old School Watchman), a Watchman behind the walls at a west coast state prison.

Today I would like to write about the blessings that come to the courageous. Let’s begin with a quick review of Revelation 21.

There John writes of what it will be like to be with God in Glory. In verse 3, John exclaims, “we will dwell with God.” In verse 4, John notes that our loving God will “wipe away every tear…[and there will be] no more sorrow, nor crying…[and there will be] no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

The promises are precious and plentiful. But who are the recipients of these promises of God? Verse 7 provides the answer, which is an echo of Rev. 3:5, 21. The answer is, “he who overcomes.” Notice it is not, he who goes to church, or those who survive the Tribulation, or lives a perfect life. No, it says, he who is in the spiritual battle, and, in the midst of it, boldly watches, witnesses, and warns. To overcome means to persevere amid pressure and opposition. This requires courage.

We live in an age where people believe mental acknowledgment that there is a God is sufficient. Others teach that a few good deeds are adequate to assure God will accept us into heaven. However, James distinguishes between those who merely believe, and those who believe and act or do – the latter are True Believers.

James 2:19 notes that it is not enough to believe. James writes, “even demons believe, and they shudder.” In chapter 2, James clarifies that True faith must be accompanied by good works (James 2:14, 20, 22). Jesus said it this way:

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away…He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit…” (John 15: 1-2, 5).

No one will want to be “ashamed” (1 John 2:28) or found lacking (Matt. 7:21-23) on Judgment Day. So again, the key question is, What will Jesus be looking for at the judgment?

Revelation 21:8 provides a glimpse at the answer by presenting a list of those who will not enter the Kingdom of God. The list, predictably, includes sorcerers, idolaters, murderers, and the unbelieving. What many may be surprised to learn, however, is that in Rev. 21:8, the #1 answer to the question, who will not be accepted into the Kingdom of God, is “the cowardly.”

God expects His people to demonstrate that they are sanctified by demonstrating courage. The term sanctified means set apart, or a new creation.  It takes courage to speak truth, witness, exhort and serve, and give and love as Jesus did. Believers desiring to please God must ask themselves, Am I courageous for God?

I have witnessed many things from behind prison walls. I have witnessed vicious threats, assaults, fights, a drug deal gone bad, men being driven toward suicide, and COVID-positive inmates taken out on gurneys by medical staff in hazmat suits. Yes, I have witnessed the bad and the frightening, but I have also seen incredible good and remarkable courage.

I have witnessed a great eagerness to receive the Gospel. I have seen new believers witnessing to “hard” men who do not know God. I have seen rival gang members holding hands in prayer, in the public YARD area, an action that, according to code, warrants a severe beating. I’ve seen men take significant disciplinary measures for those they thought could no endure it. And I’ve seen a man stand by another when five men threatened the first man. The thought was, we will not win this fight, but at least the first man will not “go down” alone. Courage.

James wrote, “even the demons believe, and they shudder” (James 2:19). At the Triumphal Entry, Jesus said, “If the crowds cease their praise even the stones will cry out” (Luke 19: 39-40). I don’t want to be outdone by a rock in how I praise him. I don’t want to be outdone by a demon in what and how I believe. Although many inmates are still children in the faith, their spiritual walk is developing as they maneuver a difficult and often dangerous road. Their courage is admirable, and something many of us can learn from. Fulfilling your calling in Christ begins with being willing to be courageous for Christ, no matter the circumstances.

The Holy Spirit has been given to help believers become all God wants us to be and do all that God wants us to do. In Christ, I challenge you to be courageous in your service to Him. As Christ leads, be willing to confront your Pharaohs as Moses did, face your Goliaths like David, take a stand for your faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and take up your cross like Jesus.

These are important days. The Lord cometh. Let His people be found doing the right things, the right way, and with the right courageous heart when He appears in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

“Therefore be very courageous to keep and do all that is written in the book” (Josh. 23:6).

 

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