Bible Verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
This year the summer blockbuster movies are conspicuously absent. There are no superheroes flying across movie screens; no daring adventurers seeking lost treasure in humid jungles; and no comic book heroics delivered with comedic one-liners. The only heroics we’ve seen lately are the workers on the front lines, whether in the fight against the pandemic, the relief work in Beirut, or the advocates for social justice. Their courage is real and genuine, not the make-believe hype of Hollywood.
Real courage is a frightening word. More often than not, real life heroism in the face of a tragic event is inspired as a matter of impulse. There is little time for the person to think about what needs to be done, only time for reflexive action. Afterwards, these heroes frequently have trouble processing what just happened and are shaken by their experience.
Courage, on the other hand, requires the person to count the cost, face the danger and do the right thing anyway. Courageous people are always heroes because they are not motivated by sudden impulses. I’ve lived through times when violence electrified the air around me, and people were fighting everywhere I looked. Truth be told, I didn’t choose those occasions, nor did I feel very courageous, but I did what I had to do to protect the ones I loved. But, this forced courage is different from chosen courage.
Most people don’t think about courage, yet many choose to face their hardships rather than quit. Many choose to battle through adversity rather than abandon their responsibilities. Many choose to help others rather than leaving them to suffer. Life requires choices. Think of the choice Jesus had to make in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what lay ahead for Him and could have taken the easy way out. He could have called His legions of angels for protection. He could have avoided the pain and ignominy that lay in wait for Him just hours away by saying “take this cup away from me”. Instead, He weighed the options, counted the cost, and chose to die on the cross so that we might live in eternity.
We all have opportunities to choose wisely in life. The weak are beaten down by life. They live in their regrets, wallow in their need, whine in their excuses and often live in bitterness, resenting their challenges, other people and, ultimately, God. Everyone has enough hardships in life to become overwhelmed and succumb to disillusionment and bitterness. Any one of us can allow our thoughts to flow through the gutters and sewers of life, and waste our lives when we squander it on lust, greed, selfishness or anger. But, Jesus offers us another option, the option to love, which He demonstrated in His sacrifice for us on Calvary.
Acting on this choice to love requires courage. Abundant living isn’t for the weak of heart. Life is, after all, a contact sport. We can choose the easy, the alluring and the comfortable, but that only results in a weak character. Our society needs those who choose right over easy, who choose pure over alluring, who choose best over comfortable. Our society needs those who put the welfare of others ahead of themselves.
In Philippians, Paul encourages us to live courageously. He says that if there is anything that is praiseworthy or admirable, choose to dwell and act on those thoughts. Therefore, choose to accept God’s love and make a difference in the lives of others. Choose to be courageous.
Praise be to our God and King!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.