“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Courage is tenacity in the face of adversity! Lord Moran, Winston Churchill’s physician wrote a book called The Anatomy of Courage. In that book he stated, “Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not one but many times by the power of the will. Courage is willpower.” It is said of Winston Churchill that a commencement address he gave consisted of only three words, “Never give up.” He just kept repeating these three words. It’s great advice. The courage of the Christian manifests itself in trusting God above all else: above feelings; above sufferings; above seen circumstances. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2Corinthians 1:9) The Christian trusts God in all of life’s circumstances! This trust is what is meant by courage which comprises biblical faith. Take Abram as an example. At the age of seventy-five, God called him away from his country of Haran, from his kindred, and from his father’s house to go to Canaan, a land that God promised him. So Abram took his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, some of his family, servants, and his possessions and went where God directed him. He went to Canaan, was afflicted by famine, went to Egypt to escape it, and after a fruitless trip came back to Canaan. After being separated from Lot, God says to Abram, “…Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever….Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” (Genesis 13:14-15,17) At the age of seventy-five Abram was told by God that Canaan belonged to him. However, people were living there. Seen circumstances told Abram that the land belonged to other people, yet God told him that it belonged to him. Who was he to believe: his eyes or God? Abram believed God, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) Abram was God’s friend. (2Chronicles 20:7) This cold turkey choice to believe God rather than seen circumstances made Abram a hero of faith and God’s man! Notice that Abram not only received the promise of the land from God, but God told him to “…walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it….” (Genesis 13:17) Abram had to act on his faith in God. It took courage to walk in a land that God told him that he owned but was inhabited by other people! Imagine if God told me that your house belonged to me. I go to your house, walk around the yard, look in the rooms, sit down and watch some TV, make myself at home in my home, since I believe God rather than your possession of it or title deed to the house and property. That was the position Abram was in. Yet he did that very thing. He walked the length and breadth of the land God promised him. That took courage! Don’t worry. God didn’t promise me title to your house. But Abram believed God and that’s what made him righteous and courageous. God calls us to courage! He calls us to trust Him regardless of seen circumstances such as disappointments, illnesses, accidents, career disasters, pains in interpersonal relationships, or anything else. If we don’t trust Him regardless of seen circumstances, what separates us from non-believers? Anyone can believe what they see. The Christian is called to believe what he or she doesn’t see! We just had the honor of hosting the Rev. Elder Troy Perry. Rev. Perry, knowing he was gay from an early age, originally didn’t believe God could love him. He believed the lies told by many fundamentalists in the churches with which he was involved, and by which he was licensed as early as the age of fifteen. After a suicide attempt, he cried out to God that he knew that God couldn’t love him and that God then spoke to him “in that still, small voice,” saying to him, “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. I love you!” At that moment Rev. Perry knew that God loved him and a few months later recognized that if God loved him, God loved other gay people too. It was at that point that he stepped out in faith and began a church in his living room that originally had a congregation of twelve people, and that now is a world-wide denomination that contains over 44,000 people. Can you imagine the guts, the faith, that it took to take such a step in 1968? We all must, like Rev. Perry, put legs on our prayers, listen to God’s still, small voice, and have the guts to do what God wants us to do regardless of what others think of us or think of our God-ordained ministries! As I read somewhere, “We are not here to prove ourselves to the world! We are here to be ourselves in the world!” We are called to be courageous, and live as authentic human beings, knowing that God is ever-lasting, omnipotent, omniscient, and has our best welfare at heart. Seen circumstances may seem to belie the fact that He has our well-being at heart. However, the man or woman of God says, “Damn the circumstances, I trust God regardless of what the world throws at me!” We are to never give up! The world, the flesh and the devil, indeed all the powers of hell, can never overcome the power of God! If we truly believe that, we are God’s people! If we don’t believe that fact, now is the time to start!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.