By Mike Lotzer
Without courageous actions, our faith is incomplete; some might even call it dead.
James was the half-brother of Jesus. He served as the leader of the Church in Jerusalem for 20 years before he was murdered for his insistence that Jesus is the Messiah. Throughout his short and powerful book James offers multiple lesson in Biblical courage. In this post, we’ll examine three faith-fueled behaviors that take tremendous courage.
- The courage to THINK before you SPEAK?
In chapter 3, verses 1-12, James compares our tongue to the rudder of a ship. The thoughtful and thoughtless words that we utter steer the boat. They take us and others in a particular direction. If your words are taking you and others somewhere it is worth slowing down and considering the destination.
James then offers another metaphor, comparing our speech to a tiny spark that can burn down a massive forest. Fire can bring warmth and destruction and so can our speech.
Imagine what a different world we would live in if our political and cultural leaders thought about what honors God before they spoke, tweeted, texted, or commented?
Do you remember that time you said something you regretted because they burned down a relationship? Or perhaps you were the recipient of words and it felt as if someone was steering the ship you were on right into the rocks.
It takes great courage to be silent rather than react impulsively and go on the verbal attack. When we witness injustice or are sinned against, we feel justified to blurt out whatever comes to mind. Yet the courageous and more painful way is to stop and think, to pray for wisdom, before we speak. It is the way of Jesus. Words can bring life or burn it all down.
2. The courage to GIVE God your FUTURE?
Most of us have a script for our life. We have a general (or specific) sense of how our life ought to unfold in order to bring us meaning and satisfaction. James warns us that this can easily cross over into arrogance. He then writes:
“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – 4:13-15
When I served in the Military the local leaders of the Middle East used a phrase when arranging a time and place to meet with American Military Leaders. After agreeing upon a time and place to meet they would say with sincerity, “Insha’Allah.” In English this means, “If God wills it.” The phrase often drove my Commander crazy as the culture around us moved at a different pace than American culture. “Insha’Allah” seemed to mean, “I’ll meet you when and if I’m ready.”
Nevertheless, perhaps they are onto something.
“If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4
Are you a planner by nature? My wife is. In fact, within 24 hours of proposing to her, she handed me an excel spreadsheet with tasks and a timeline to prepare for the upcoming wedding. If you’re a planner it will take courage to make plans and simultaneously hold them loosely. Are you a promoter by nature? You know what I mean, the kind of person who can paint a preferred picture of the future for people. Promoters need courage to hand over their dreams and visionary strategies to the Ultimate visionary.
James is telling us to make our plans but let God change them at any time and this takes courage and humble dependance. It means we cannot cling to the genuine comfort of feeling in control, of predicting and shaping outcomes. Thankfully the One who is on control and who shapes eternal outcomes invites us to participate by giving Him that which He already owns, the future.
3. The courage to SHEPHERD a BLACK SHEEP. – James 5:19
James ends his letter with a call to go after those who have wandered away from the truth about God (James 5:19). Recently I saw a viral video clip about a sheep that had been lost in the hill country for years isolated from his flock and his shepherd. Although he had been found his wool had grown so thick over his eyes the poor sheep couldn’t see anymore. He was vulnerable and could hardly navigate his terrain. The video showed the transformation of sheering off all that matted and heavy wool. He was free to see and jump and run again. He was in the presence of a protective shepherd and a family who loved him.
The Bible, over and over again, compares us all to sheep and God to a shepherd. We need to br drawn back when we wander. James is laying out a final courageous act in the fifth chapter. He’s asking some key questions, “Who do you care about that is wandering from the truth?”
“Do you have the courage to help bring them back?”
It is easy to lose our way and fall into a posture of backsliding. Consider that you may be the only person someone you know will listen to. There is of course only one true shepherd and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yet He invites us to shepherd one another tenderly and lovingly. To do so we would need to think before we speak and trust God with the future. To do so we need courage that comes from a fierce trust in our Shepherd.
May you feel God’s provision of courageous today my friends.