God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
2 Timothy 1:7
What does it mean to be bold? Brave?
I think it means to do the hard stuff even when our knees are knocking, when our hearts threaten to beat right out of our chest, and when we know we will be met with opposition and criticism.
I think it also means doing what we know is right, even when everything in us screams to run the other direction, to take the easy way out.
We can be considered brave in any number of pursuits, but only the ones that really matter are the ones I want to put my full effort into.
Many things are called brave in our culture today. I've seen blatant sin called "brave" in the media and by our leadership.
What would a life of true bravery look like? What are examples of lives lived in true bravery?
We don't have to look very far in the Bible to find examples. One of the greatest is Paul. Paul who started life as Saul, the man who was so religiously devout that he hunted and condoned the murders of countless Jesus followers.
One of the many things I love about Paul is that once he saw the light (literally on the road to Damascus in Acts 9), there was no hemming or hawing, no wishy-washy dipping in of the toe. There was no "finding himself" time or "last hurrah" before launching into ministry. Instead, he jumped in head-first with everything he had. And he had a LOT to lose.
As a result of his dogged determination, he experienced no less of the following in his lifetime: He was flogged, lashed, shipwrecked, and stoned.
We can look at any of the Disciples. All of the original 11 (not including Judas, who killed himself after betraying Jesus) met a miserable and horrific end.
Our greatest example, Jesus, gave the ultimate sacrifice of His life, but also of having the Father turn away from Him...all for our benefit.
So...how do we live a life of bravery?
Where I live, I don't foresee being stoned or hunted down and beheaded for my faith, although that reality is becoming more and more real as we see evil rising up and creeping ever closer.
In our culture, we tend to expect life to go smoothly, Major hindrances and obstacles aren't expected. Maybe small ones like traffic jams, spilled coffee as we're walking out the door, or a canceled babysitter on date night.
But what about the BIG ones like cancer, abuse, betrayal, death of a loved one, losing a child?
Or even ridicule, contempt, and condemnation for speaking the Truth and defending the Word?
In those situations we tend to question God. Sometimes we ask "why us?" Even if we don't give a voice to our thoughts, we still argue silently with God about all we've done for Him and demand to know why He'd allow such things in our lives.
Sometimes we try to live very "safe" so as to avoid the unpleasantness that often accompanies living on this planet.
Like when we stay silent when we watch a friend careening off the tracks of life.
Or smile and nod and remind ourselves not to "judge" others when we see them making choices that grieve the Holy Spirit.
What about when we withdraw from loved ones when they are struggling in life?
Perhaps when we withhold forgiveness or reconciliation from a brother or sister who has "sinned big" and let us down.
Maybe it's when we hold leaders in our church to impossible standards and cast them out without following Matthew 18 or Galatians 6:1 when they've been caught in sin.
What does bravery look like?
Could it mean taking a stand and speaking the truth in love, but with firmness?
Could it mean letting go of a hurt and forgiving even when everything in us wants vengeance?
Could it mean acknowledging that we all sin, even when we're leaders in the church, even when we "know better" and that restoration and reconciliation is offered to all...regardless of our sin?
Could it mean withholding bitterness and contention from someone, even when we've spoken the Truth in love to them and they choose a different way anyway?
Could it mean loving someone regardless of when they hold diametrically opposed views from our own?
Could it mean going against our cultural norm and what is considered "politically correct" when it flies in the face of God's Word?
Could it mean giving up certain things that aren't edifying and aren't serving to bring us closer to God, but drive us further away?
Could it mean actively digging into the Word so that we know what and who God is, rather than taking our pastor's/friend's/priest's/parents' word for it?
Could it mean making sweeping changes in our lives where needed even though we may be seen as "weird" or "fanatical"?
Could it mean hitting "publish" on a post that could be received as "judgmental," but doing it anyway because you feel called to do it?
Those and a million different scenarios are brave.
Regardless of the consequence, the backlash, or the pain, how are you going to be brave today? This week?
What keeps you from being brave?
With God on my side I'm fearless, afraid of no one and nothing." Psalm 27:1
Stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." 1 Corinthians 15:58