Let Your Heart Take Courage

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“Let your Heart Take Courage.”

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday, 9th August, 2020

It’s great to be with you again.  And even though we might not be meeting together right now – God is still speaking…. His word is still alive and sharp.  It has a supernatural strength to impart to us if we will only hear it.

I was in the car earlier this week, thinking about this message as I was driving – and I knew I wanted to speak on courage.

After last weeks message on the church thriving and flourishing as Jesus continues to build according to His plans for His church – not ours – I felt the Holy Spirit say – it’s true – the church will grow and flourish – but not without God’s people being strong and of good courage!

As I was thinking about these things, an interview came on the radio.

It was a discussion about the effects that the pandemic is having on the general population.  I thought – this is interesting timing.

They were saying, that apparently with the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 1900’s, one of the terrible things that was happening was that young people in particular were succumbing to the disease.  They were the ones out in the workforce – exposed to one another and to the virus.  

The older people seemed to have had a certain amount of resistance or immunity to the virus.

This meant that a whole generation – the most productive generation – were all but taken out.  The long term effect was devastating – not just because of the tragic loss of life – but because of the ongoing economic impact.   It created long term anxiety and fear in those left behind.

With Covid-19, up to this point, it’s mainly the elderly that have been dying.  And the younger generation have for the most part, fought it off.  I know there have been some exceptions.

But the fear this time round is not only the long term physical health effects from the disease, but the economic consequences on our young people, the loss of income, the unemployment, the closure of businesses – but probably more than anything, it’s the ongoing  mental and psychological health of young adults and young families that have many experts worried.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the consequences of this disease are going to profoundly affect many generations to come.

The fear is not simply about people getting sick and possibly dying.  It’s far more complex than that. 

There’s the uncertainty of when this will end. There’s the uncertain future career opportunities or lack of them, particularly for young people. 

 And of course the media love to escalate the fear of food shortages and worst case scenarios.   One thing I read this week said that “the media has become a feeding trough for fear.”  And it’s true.

This world needs hope.  It needs you and I – the church – to truly be strong and of good courage.

We need to rise up with courageous hearts, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of all the generations that we are part of.

Ps. 27: 13-14 (Amplified),   I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage;

Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”

I did a bible search for the phrase “good courage.”  There are at least 17 times that these words are used.

And I thought – what is “good” courage?

Well it seems that courage is good courage when it is connected to faith.  It’s about what a person believes to be true – regardless of the threat or the danger that is before them.  And it’s about acting in faith – rather than cowering under fear.

But it’s particularly good, when it is faith in the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  Faith that comes from knowing that Jesus Christ lives in us – and the Holy Spirit empowers, comforts, strengtheners and leads us.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV),  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

And this scripture gives us a key also to what courage is.  It’s to do with knowing God’s power, his love and having a sound mind.

That’s why Ps. 27 says – “be strong and let your heart take courage.”

Your heart is where your courage resides.

We are not facing a traditional kind of war or a foreign army – which is where God originally spoke those words through His prophets – to “be of good courage.”

Or when they were facing giants and obstacles in a new land – the promised land…. Or the time when King David spoke those words over his son Solomon….   Or when he wrote them in his psalms to encourage himself and others in life itself…

But we are facing now a moment in history that we could never have imagined just 6 or 7 months ago.  Many started out by saying these are “unprecedented” times.  I think everyone is over hearing that word – unprecedented.  

But now I think we could say – these are very extremely “uncertain” times – unpredictable – and unstable times.  And uncertainty about the future is causing a lot of anxiety and fear in the hearts of people.

How long will the borders be closed?  How long will Covid restrictions be in place?  Will we ever get back to some kind of normal?  These questions are constantly on people’s minds.

So this is our moment as the church, to minister hope and life to those around us.  To minister from a place of Holy Spirit power, love and with a sound mind….  

But first, our own hearts have to be at peace.  Our own hearts have to be full of hope.  Our own minds need to be secure in the knowledge of God and His Word.

And above all of that – everything that we say and do has to come from a place of love – God’s love for this frightened and broken and uncertain world.

Your neighbour needs you right now.  They need your peace.  They need your courage.  Their mental health and their future might depend upon it.

It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan.  I think I used this example just recently – but just maybe it’s a word for the season we are in…

At the time that Jesus told this parable, the two words, “Samaritan” and “good,” would never have been used in the same sentence by the Jewish people.

But Jesus was confronted by a Jewish religious scholar and lawyer who wanted to know what it meant to love his neighbour.  Who was his neighbour?

So Jesus tells the story of the man who was attacked by thieves, stripped of his clothes, wounded and left for dead on the side of the road.

A Jewish priest walks past, sees the wounded man, and passes by on the other side.

A Levite, also a Jewish man…. he too passed by on the other side.

But then it says in Luke 10:33-37, (NKJV),  “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 

(Jesus then said to the Jewish scholar)

36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

There’s something about this story that speaks into our situation as the church right now.

There are wounded, broken, fearful, anxious people all around us.  

Are we going to hurry past them – getting on with our busy lives?   The Priest and the Levite probably had urgent things to attend to.  They obviously decided they weren’t going to get distracted and involved in some unsavoury situation.  It would have been a fairly violent looking scene.

But there was one man who stopped.  In many ways, it was a courageous thing to do.   Not courageous like going to war or fighting off a wild animal.  But courageous as in getting involved in another person’s life.  That takes courage some times – especially when there’s a lot of fear and distress involved as well.

There certainly would have been fear and distress for the man lying wounded and naked on the ground.

So which one are you in the story?  I’d like to think I was the Samaritan guy.  But I’m busy too.  I’ve usually got a plan for the day.  I’m not a fan of interruptions.  

What need is there as you walk your road each day?  Who is your neighbour?  What needs do you encounter?

Are you courageous enough, caring enough, generous enough, to stop and get involved?

I think courage and compassion are great companions.  Courage and love and the power of God all go together.  

They are all heart issues.  

Perhaps God is bringing all of us back to the heart issues of our Christian walk.  You can’t get much more stripped back than what it is at the moment.

Remember – courage is about what you believe in your heart.  But it’s not just what you believe – it’s what you do with what you know to be true!  Especially in the face of fear and anxiety – whether it’s your own or someone else’s.

Let your heart take courage.  You have to take it – receive it – open the door to your heart by faith and trust.

There’s a friend of ours that always signs off with their little hashtag – “Just trust.”

There couldn’t be two more appropriate words right now.  And it’s true.  We need to trust.  Trust, regardless of the circumstances. Because we know our faith is not ultimately in this world.  It’s in a Father who loves us.

Ps. 46:10 (Passion),  “Surrender your anxiety!  Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.”

It’s interesting that God says – let your heart take courage – and then – surrender your anxiety.  It’s that constant exchange that He invites us to be part of.  Surrender your anxiety – take His courage…

When fear tries to come around you – or someone close to you – perhaps to your neighbour, whoever that might be – remember the words of Jesus:

Matt 10: 29-31 (NKJV),   “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

We need to know that God cares about even the finest details of our life.  Your neighbour needs to know that.

This pandemic has come as no surprise to God.  But whatever happens – even as we do everything in the natural that we can possibly do – our assurance and security is not in the fact that we can save our own life through our own efforts.  The truth is we can’t.

Our security is in the fact that God our Father knows us – He knows us intimately.  At any moment he can tell us how many hairs are on our head.

Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing – and we are worth so much more than the lives of many sparrow.

Many people are falling around the world.  He cares about each one.  He’s made a way for every person to spend eternity with Him.  Some have taken that into their heart.  Others have not.

Our job is to express our faith through courageous acts of love and kindness, to open our eyes to see the wounded and broken and reach out to them.   Be courageous enough to stop and get involved.

Just let me finish with this thought.

Courage and mission go together.  God doesn’t offer for you to take courage without also having in mind a way for you to demonstrate it.

All throughout the bible there is story after story of ordinary men and women, just like you and I, who have taken courage into their heart and accomplished some extraordinary mission or calling for God.  Often, he uses the most unlikely candidate to do the job.

Nothing of significance ever happens without courage.

Moses faced up to Pharaoh and led the people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry land.

Joshua fought and overcame great armies.

Joseph slayed a giant.

Gideon – the man hiding in the wine press – he became a great warrior for God under extraordinary circumstances.

Esther, under the potential fear of execution, bravely came before the King on behalf of her people…

Daniel faced a den of lions.

The list is endless.  And we are in amazing company with incredible men and women of faith and courage.

I want to encourage you in these uncertain and unstable times – to surrender your anxiety to God – stop striving as the word says – and take courage to your heart.

Take the time to stop and get involved in the lives of people you come across on the road of your life.  Do it for Christ’s sake.

He is actually the greatest example of courage that we will ever have.  Jesus courageously demonstrated divine love to a whole world that was broken and wounded.  

He wasn’t just willing to cross the road to help – He stepped from heaven to earth.  He faced tremendous opposition – and ultimately went to His death for the sake of you and I and every person that has ever lived.

The message and hope that we are able to bring to our world – as the Church of Jesus Christ – is that even death doesn’t have to be the end…. It can simply be a doorway to eternal life with our Father in heaven.

Be strong and of good courage.  That’s what I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us today.  Live a courageous life – a life that isn’t afraid to cross the road to help another be healed and restored – just like the Samaritan did on the road to Jericho.

Be courageous in sharing the gospel – that Jesus Christ offers every person the gift of eternal life.  If we humble ourselves and repent – recognise that we will never be able to save ourselves – He is ready and willing to forgive, and fill our hearts and lives with His presence.  

Let’s pray:

Dear Father in Heaven,

We could never strive enough in our selves to overcome the anxieties and the circumstances of this world.

But You have invited us to surrender every anxiety to You – and take hold of Your courage in our heart.

And Father, we ask that You help us to live courageously in a world that is unstable, uncertain and unsure of the future.

Reveal to us the one – our neighbour – that you want us to walk to the other side of the road for – to show love and compassion and to bring healing and restoration – to bring life!

We place our lives fully into Your hands.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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