Bread – Courage

February 1, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, February 1, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 22:1-18; Heb. 11:23-31; John 6:52-59; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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Where does courage come from? Is it from blind ignorance of possible outcomes – “I’ll go jump in the river to save someone because I don’t know that I can sink?” Is it from an overwhelming sense of pride, of invulnerability – “I’ll go jump in the river to save someone because I think [I know] that I am the best swimmer in the world?” Is it from a cavalier attitude toward life – “I’ll go jump in the river to save someone because I don’t care to live anymore?”

I don’t think so. I think today’s readings give us some idea about where courage comes from. I think it comes from an attitude born of faith, born of the certainty that God is in control of all things, born of obedience to a higher calling, a greater demand, a summons from the Lord of Lords.

For example, in Genesis we are told the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Abraham, in obedience to this most daunting task, boldly and courageously takes Isaac to the place of worship, prepares him for the sacrifice, and takes up his knife to complete the deed. Abraham’s courage to complete the task in the knowledge that Isaac was the son promised to him by God, in the face of common sense and worldly wisdom which would tell him to stop, is founded upon his attitude of faith, of his knowledge of the truth of God’s promises – “We will worship and then we will come back to you” and “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Gen. 22:5b, 8 He acted courageously because he knew that God would provide. Even if Isaac died upon the altar, he knew that God would provide.

In Hebrews, faith is the foundation of one act of courage after the other. Moses parents defied Pharaoh – “they were not afraid of the king’s edict” – when they courageously hid Moses. Heb. 11:23 Moses courageously rejected his position in Pharaoh’s household because “he was looking ahead to his reward” [from God]. He was able to look ahead to his reward because he had faith and through faith, “because he saw Him who is invisible.” Heb. 11:24-27

In John, Jesus’ disciples courageously accepted the hard teaching from Jesus that “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:53, 63. Although many fled, many through faith saw that there was nowhere else to go, that Jesus has “the words of eternal life.” Courage to hear the hard and to obey God – a courage bound to faith in the promise and in the one who makes the promise, God.

If we lack courage today in whatever we do, perhaps it is because we are looking at things through the eyes of man, ourselves or others. Perhaps it is because we have faith in ourselves first, others second, and God last. If so, our faith is built upon weakness and it is no wonder our courage fails. If it is grounded on ourselves and others, it is grounded on shifting sand.

Do we want courage to love others, to live life in victory, to “be all we can be”? If so, the formula is not to change the order of faith, to make God first, ourselves second, and others last. No, the formula is to have faith in the only place where it belongs – God first, God second, and God last. With faith like that, there is no room for anything except courage. With faith like that, there is no room for anything except life.

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