The times we live in require courage on the part of God's people. Our faith is assailed from various angles in our culture. We need courage to hear and do God's Word. We need courage to preach the gospel in a culture that is increasingly hostile Jesus and his truth. We need courage to stand against influences that come from the entertainment industry, civic leaders, and news media. We need courage to resist the temptation to panic in the face of pandemics and politicians, rioters and newscasters. Remember: There are people out there who want you to live in fear. If you become fearful, you are easier to control, easier to manipulate.

C. S. Lewis rightly regarded courage not a separate virtue but as the testing point of all the other virtues. If we lack courage, all our other supposed virtues will fail when they come under fire, which is perhaps why Scripture is so emphatic that cowards will not inherit the kingdom of God (Revelation 21:8). The Christian faith is not for cowards.

G. K. Chesterton rightly captured the paradox at the heart of courage: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. A man must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water, yet drink death like wine." We can further unpack Chesterton's insight: Courage means a strong desire to be liked taking the form of a readiness to be despised and vilified. Courage means a strong desire to be successful taking the form of a willingness to lose everything, if faithfulness requires it. And so on. Anais Nin further underscores the value of courage: "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Courage means doing the right thing even when facing your worst nightmare for doing so, but this is precisely why courage opens up new possibilities and brings us maturation.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn noticed the waning courage of Western man in famous speech: "A decline in coruage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days." He then went on to ask the question: "Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?" Our culture is undergoing a failure of nerve, and many in the church are contributing to this deficit of courage. Billy Graham once made the point that courage can spread: "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened." But of course, cowardice can also spread like a virus through a community or a culture, leaving it in shambles.

We must set an example of courage for our children. We need to teach our children stories of noble bravery. Lewis again: Since it is so likely our children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least heard stories of brave knights and heroic courage." We can especially draw courage from Scripture. In J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells the fearful King Theodan, "Your fingers would remember their strength better if they grasped your sword." But in our case, courage will be fortified if our fingers grasp the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

We must remember that as Christians we are a race of dragon fighters and serpent-skull crushers. God commands us again and again in his Word to "Fear not." Our courage arises from our faith in the God who is with us. It's been rightly said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Saint Patrick sang, "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity" -- and thus he did not fear any thing or any man in all of creation. We can do the same, and God helping us, we will.

This post is based on the exhortation given before worship on August 16, 2020.

Our highest privilege is gathering for the divine service each Lord's day. What we do in the liturgy not only cleans up the messes we made in the previous week (as we confess our sins and hear absolution), it also lays the foundation for the week to come so we have strength to serve God in love and wisdom. This is the pattern of the Christian life. Grasping this pattern is important if we are to live faithfully in a culture that is falling apart.