Thursday, August 14, 2014

Courage

"I honestly expect and hope I will never do anything to be ashamed of. Whether I live or die, I always want to be as brave as I am now and bring honor to Christ. If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. I don't know what to choose. I could keep on living and doing something useful. It is a hard choice to make. I want to die and be with Christ, because this would be much better. But I know that all of you still need me. This is why I am sure I will stay on to help you grow and be happy in your faith. Then, when I visit you again, you will have good reason to take great pride in Christ Jesus because of me."  Paul to the Christians at Philippi (Php 1:20-26)


Courage. When I have lived courageously I have not felt ashamed, but when I sinned and covered it up out of fear I felt great shame. Are courage and shame opposites? It takes courage to live in the light, to tell others that you are struggling or have fallen down. It takes courage to say "I need help, will you help me?" It takes courage to tell the truth about ourselves, who we are, what we have done, where we struggle. "I want always to be as brave as I am now and bring honor to Christ." Being brave brings  honor to Christ. Hiding the truth and living in shame hurts us and dishonors him. Be brave. Tell the truth.

Sometimes my thinking grows twisted and I convince myself that if I tell the truth about who I am, then people will say "OMG, pastor Smith is like that! How awful! Christians should never be that way." They are probably right, we should never be "that way" but the truth is we sometimes are (whatever "that way" is: greedy, lustful, angry, spiteful, addictive behavior, etc.). If I fear what others will think about me, then I will hide the truth and live in the dark, pretending to be something, someone I am not. The truth is: I am a sinful man, saved by the grace of God, who is learning to live in the light, learning to admit weakness, struggle and sin, learning to live courageously. 

Ione once told me "the old Allan" wasn't afraid of anything. Where did that guy go?" That guy got deceived into thinking that truth would wreak destruction, but instead it brought healing. Light has power to heal. Living in the light, telling truth about our struggles and sin is essential to healing. Hiding and pretending only brings shame and pain. "I want always to be as brave as I am now." 

Living courageously is to embrace life. Paul's courageous decision is not to die and be with Christ - that was the easy way out for him - so tempting. No more beatings, no more chains, no more hungry sleepless nights, just the wonderful presence of Jesus - that would be FAR better. Not yet - the Christians still needed Paul so he needed courage to stay on, to live, to serve, to build them up in the Lord. 

When I was sick with the preliminary diagnosis of aggressive untreatable cancer, I didn't want to die. I also didn't want to tell the truth about my struggles. I told myself over and over, I would die first, before telling the truth about what I had done, what I was struggling with. I knew my illness was from God, but I was stubborn, so stubborn. "God just take me home. I am NOT going to tell Ione and others about my struggle and sin. You can kill me now." I didn't want to die. I was just afraid of the light and what it would do. Turns out: light heals. Truth liberates. Courage brings honor to Jesus.  Be brave.