Most of us don’t really understand what courage is, and few of us rarely if ever see ourselves as very courageous. I think that’s because courage most often shows itself when a person faces a challenge that they didn’t foresee – maybe even a situation that they would prefer not being in if they had their druthers – yet one that they won’t turn and run from. I don’t think it’s an independent characteristic of a man or woman. I think it’s a fruit that blossoms forth to “prove” to both the individual and those around them their integrity, credibility, faithfulness and sincerity in what and in whom they believe.
These past few days I’ve witnessed true courage in a number of different settings. I saw it in a young man a few days after his mother was gunned down by a racist fanatic in a Sorth Carolina church – when he spoke of forgiveness and God’s love. I read it in the words of the Supreme Court justices who disagreed with a recent majority decision, who were not deterred by the anticipated criticism and vitriol of the mainstream media. I saw it on display when a state police sergeant made an on-the-spot decision to take down a man he believed was an escaping prisoner before he disappeared back into the woods. Had the officer been wrong, had the man instead been a homeless person just reacting to his fear of law enforcement in general, the officer would most certainly have been viciously attacked by those intent on finding fault in every such decision and behavior. But as so many of his law enforcement brothers and sisters do every day in spite of the severe criticism and the watchful eyes around them, he went about his job focused on protecting the innocent. Finally, I saw courage in a young man who for the past three of his mere twenty-two years of life, left the comforts of metro-Detroit suburbia to venture into one of the poorest neighborhoods of Mexico to minister to the needs of its children. Daniel’s courage is evident every day, but for me it budded forth when he set up a “gofundme” account to cover the costs of taking a group of his kids outside the slums they lived in for a week of camp, promising to humble himself in his physical appearance in exchange for peoples’ support.
As I stated earlier, few of us rarely if ever see ourselves as very courageous. Jesus put it this way: “Someday you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” In other words, if you’re sincere in your beliefs and faithful to the One in whom you believe, if you’re a person of integrity and faithfulness, then courage and wisdom will be manifest in the words of your mouth and in your actions – because they’re already buried deep in your heart. You’ll say the right thing; you’ll do the right thing.
I see courage in everyday people that they likely don’t see in themselves. I see it in my daughter as she balances a life of teaching middle school youngsters at the same time as she faces the challenges of raising three young children and pleasing a sport’s enthusiast husband. I see it in my oldest son who gave up a stable career as an engineer to evangelize on the campuses and streets around the world. I see it in my youngest son who was saddled with several physical and medical issues from a very young age; yet attained the highest rank in scouting, graduated from college, established a career in the arts and works hard in a difficult economy to earn supplementary income – all the while his compassionate heart causes him to help those in even more difficult circumstances than his own. And I see it in my wife who, in the face of numerous setbacks continues to pursue the vision God gave her for a ministry that brings people of all Christian faiths together to honor their Savior.
Perhaps you’re much more courageous than you think! The young man in Sorth Carolina would have easily given up his ten minutes of fame at a microphone to have his mother with him that day. I’m sure the minority in that Supreme Court decision would have much rather gone home that afternoon and not touched off the vindictiveness of the Left against them personally. The state police sergeant would much rather have had one of his friends be faced with making the on-the-spot decision whether or not to fire his weapon. And I doubt if young Daniel, the day he left to be a missionary in Mexico ever anticipated having to step into the role of father and older brother to so many children who have been abandoned by their natural fathers and older brothers. Each of these faced the challenge before them, and their courage is now on display for all to witness and commend. Perhaps that next challenge will be the trigger to cause your courage to blossom forth.