You might have named some soliders or well-known world leaders.
Perhaps you thought of a family member - your father or mother or grandparent.
You could have listed numerous people for numerous reasons.
The names - the faces - you remembered greatly depends on your definition of courage.
Today, I want to us to look together at some courageous men and women from the Bible. We will see how God used these individuals at different times in different ways to accomplish His divine plans and purposes throughout the course of history. We will see how these men and women stepped up to the plate and carried out the often monumental tasks asked of them. We will see how these men and women impacted countless lives during their physical time on earth, but also how they set a standard for us today and thus forever changed the course of the world.
Before we put these courageous men and women on a pedestal so high we can't ever dream of climbing to their high prestious or living with the same boldness, determination, and confidence they did back in the day, let us also remember that these famous individuals were NOT perfect. They made mistakes. Many of them. They had questions and doubts. They experienced setbacks. They encountered opposition. They were NOT the richest, smartest, best looking people on the face of the planet. Rather, for the most part, they were the misfits, the outcasts, the ones overlooked, picked over, rejected, abandoned, ignored, cast aside, left behind, not given another thought. Until God came along and informed them HE had different plans for them.
Bigger, wilder, crazier plans then they could have ever imagined.
God was going to do something in and through them that they NEVER could have done on their own.
Yet, with HIS power and wisdom and strength and everything else they would need, they WERE able to do amazing things - things we still remember and talk about with awe thousands of years later.
As we look back at these men and women whom we would certainly describe as courageous, let us not forget they BECAME that way because of GOD.
Let us take hope that the God who worked in and through these men and women of old is the SAME God who is alive and on the move TODAY. And if we LET Him, He can use US too...
More on that in a minute.
First, let's actually meet these courageous men and women I have been blabbering about for some time now:
Joseph - second in command to Pharaoh, movies have been made about this Prince of Egypt who saved the country and many surrounding nations from starvation during an extreme famine
Moses - runaway murderer turned shepherd who then returned to Egypt, demanding that Pharaoh let God's people go and invoking 10 dreadful plagues until his request was granted and then leading the thousands upon thousands of Israelites through the parted Red Sea into the wilderness and to the border of Canaan, calling down mana and quail from heaven and water from rocks along the way
Joshua - first a spy who went against the crowd and gave a good report, encouraging his people to go in and take the land the Lord had given them then the commander of Israel's armies who did just that, marching around fortified cities like Jericho and watching the walls come tumbling down at their feet
Rahab - prostitute who hid the Israelite spies, knowing her people would be defeated and requesting that she and her family be spared when her city was conquered
Elijah - prophet of God who called down fire on a soaked altar and watched it go up in flames
Gideon - army commander who went to battle greatly outnumbered and still defeated his enemies, using clay pots and laterns to do so
Ruth - widow who committed to taking care of her mother-in-law, willing even to leave all she knew and go to a strange land and spend her days picking up leftover wheat as the workers harvested the fields
Esther - orphaned girl who became queen and went before the king uninvited, risking her life to save her people who had been set up to be destroyed without a way to defend themselves
David - youngest of seven sons, this shepherd boy faced a giant all other grown men were too scared to take on, bringing him down with a single rock and then cutting off his head
Daniel - captured refugee who refused to eat the king's delacies and later spent the night in a den with hungry lions, waking up without a scratch the next morning
Peter - wild, brash, fisherman who often spoke before he thought but walked on water, raised people to life, and helped lead the first Church as they spread the good news of salvation to the entire known world after Jesus' death and resurrection
And who could forget JESUS - Son of God, Creator of the world, left all heaven's glories to come to earth to save lost mankind by giving His own life in our place, calling out the religious leaders of the day for their hypocrisy, making the lame to walk and the blind to see and the deaf to hear, raising the dead back to life, YET in the Garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest BEGGED God if there was any other way
I am sure we could list so many more courageous men and women of the Bible. Check out Hebrews 11 for a pretty in-depth record of the Heros of the Faith. Even now, I think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel's 3 friends, and Paul. We could talk for days about various characters who displayed courage in one way or another.
And again, we could deceive ourselves and think these men and women have something special you and I lack. That they were superheros with superpowers. That they were immune to fear. That they never questioned God or His ways. That they knew everything was going to work out and could face the situation head on without any doubt or worry. We would be wrong, dreadfully wrong.
Let's go back through our list and take a closer look at these courageous men and women. I think we will be encouraged. And hopefully emboldened too.
Joseph - was despised by his family as he shared his dreams and eventually made his way to Egypt as a slave, sold by his own brothers; was wrongfully accused of raping Potiphar's wife and thrown into prison where he stayed for YEARS; interrupted dreams and hoped for someone to remember him and still waited YEARS more before being released and elevated to his position by Pharoah's side... how many times do you think he questioned what God was doing or wondered how being in prison was a good thing bringing about God's good plans. Do you think it was EASY for him to forgive his brothers and realize God has used their evil for HIS good, to save his family and countless lives from so many surrounding nations?
Moses - ran away after killing an Eygptian beating an Israelite man; told God in the burning bush that he did NOT want to go back to Pharoah, to send someone else who was a better speaker; got so infuriated with the Israelite people he was leading through the wilderness that he thew down the original tablets with God's laws on them and hit a rock instead of speaking to it. Moses made quite a few other mistakes along the way too, and actually missed out on entering the Promised Land of Canaan all together because of them.
Joshua - he may have been 1 of 2 spies who wanted to take the land originally, but when it was time for Joshua to take Moses' place as the leader of Israel, God had to remind him numerous times to be strong and courageous. Do you think he immediately thought God's plan to march around Jericho - without talking - was the best military tactic? Do you think he wondered if God would truly part the Jordan River once the priests put their toes in the water to lead the entire nation across to the other side? Do you think he never got frustrated or discouraged as he led the people in one battle after another?
Rahab - she was a PROSTITUTE, who LIED. Yet, God used this woman, not only to hide the spies, but if you look in Jesus' geneaology, you will find her. She was a great-great-great-great (and so on) grandma to JESUS!
Elijah - after defeating the false prophets of Baal, he ran and hide on a mountain, scared for his life and worried that he was the only one left who followed God. He had just experienced an awesome act of God - fire coming down from heaven and engulfing a drenched altar is pretty incredible - yet he doubted and cowered in fear. God spoke to him - not in the wind or storm, but in a still small voice. And THEN Elijah was ready to go back to it and finish what God had called him to do.
Gideon - he was hiding in a wine press when God came to him. He reminded God he was the youngest of his family, who happened to be one of the least in all of Israel. He tested God not once, but twice with a fleece. FINALLY, he was ready to answer God's call. I wonder, though, what he thought of God's plan to go up against the enemy with only 300 men? I am thinking he might have secretly questioned God's idea to use clay jars and laterns to "attack" the opposing army. BUT, he did it all anyway. He even smashed his own father's idols to smitherines. He rose up and BECAME the "valiant warrior" God saw in him.
Ruth - she was from Moab, NOT originally from Israel. She was a GENTILE. A woman. A widow. The lowest of low in that day's society. I bet she missed her mom and dad and family when she moved to Israel with Naomi. She might have been homesick, but she didn't have time to think about it. She had to spend all her time gathering food for them to survive. And as she did, her CHARACTER stood out to Boaz. Eventually, the two were married. They had a son Obed. Obed had a son Jessie. Jessie had 7 sons, the youngest was David. Did you see that? Once more, God used a woman to change history, as she too was a great-great-great-great (and so on) grandma to JESUS!
Esther - she originally told Moredcai that she couldn't go before the king for risk of death; she took 3 days to fast and pray before making a decision about what to do (it was NOT an immediate thing where she fearlessly stepped up to do what only she could); she "chickened out" during the first dinner party she had for the king and threw a second one before letting him know about wicked Haaman's plan to destroy the Jews. Esther may have been put in her position "for such a time as this," but it took some convincing for her to believe that and to accept the role she had been given. Thankfully, she didn't let her fear stand in her way for too long...
David - yes, he was a man after God's own heart, but he sinned GREATLY. Adultery. Murder. Not the best father to all his children - they actually rebelled against him and tried to KILL him. He had many faults and made many mistakes. YET, God used him to lead the nation, to write words we still read today and connect with because of their genuiness and heartfelt passion. David was far from perfect, but he too was Jesus' ancestor - both Joseph and Mary came from his line (see Matthew and Luke)!
Daniel - we know he refused to eat unkosher foods and to pray to the king and stood up to leaders when they weren't obeying God and even interrupted dreams with less than favorful meanings. BUT, I wonder how many times Daniel was shaking when he did those courageous thins. I am going to guess he was pleading with God to save him from the lions - not running up to cuddle with them. We see the boldness and steadfastness in Daniel, but we don't know what was going on behind the scenes either. Regardless of his feelings, he did what was right and set an amazing example for us today.
Peter - yep, he did get out of the boat, but remember that minutes later he was sinking and calling out to Jesus to save him. When Jesus was on trial, Peter followed, but then denied even knowing Him. Not once, not twice, but three times! And then, after Jesus died, Peter went back to fishing - until Jesus showed up and reminded him to "feed His sheep." Peter was quick to speak, but his fear got the best of him at times. Still, God usesd him to start a movement that would alter the course of history. Peter was not the most educated, yet he spoke to huge crowds in a way that moved their hearts and resulted in thouands accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
JESUS - He sweat blood in the Garden that night. He was greatly distressed. He knew His time had come. Yet, He prayed, "not My will but YOUR will be done." He surrendered Himself to the Father and carried out the plan that had been set in motion before time even began. He willingly subjected Himself to phsyical torture. He didn't defend Himself when mocked or scorned. He didn't save Himself on the cross, when He so easily could have come down in the blink of an eye. He stayed. For me. For YOU.
Once more, we can all agree these men and women displayed courage.
But let's not forget: they acted - not without fear, but inspite of it.
Their FAITH was bigger than their fear.
They believed their God - our God - was bigger, more powerful than their situation/circumstances.
They trusted Him.
And did as He asked.
And a whole host of other emotions we might not know about - at least not from the written story.
Yet, we KNOW because we feel the same way.
We face the same fears.
Even if we aren't in the exact same situations as these heros of the faith, we can relate.
And we have the same choice each one of them did.
We can cower, flee, hide, doubt, say no.
OR we can stand, step out, trust God, believe He is going to come through for us, and say YES.
If we turn down God's invitation to be part of His kingdom work, He won't go sulk or throw a pity party. He won't get exasperated or put His hands up in the air, wondering what in the world He is going to do. He will just find someone else who is willing.
You see, God doesn't need us.
He can run the world perfectly fine without us
And probably a lot better without us, if truth be told.
YET, He is gracious and kind and DOES invite us to be part of the work He is doing.
We has different roles for each one of us.
These are the purposes for which we were created.
These are the very reasons we were placed on this earth.
Should we choose to say YES to God, we experience something amazing.
We live out the passions He puts in our hearts.
We live up to the potential He put inside of us - for He carefully and intricately designed us in specific ways for specific reasons.
We fulfill the dreams HE has for us.
We BECOME who we are meant to me.
Who HE created us to be.
What is YOUR choice?
Will you believe you are made for more?
Will you trust God to act on your behalf, to carry out the plans and purposes HE has for you?
Will you let your faith be bigger than your fear?
Will you be courageous?
Remember, it's okay to be scared.
Let's be scared together.
But let's also be COURAGEOUS together.
Together we can do this.
Together we can make a difference.
Together we can change the world.