Courage is the state of mind that makes us willing to risk losing something dear to us for the sake of a greater purpose. While courage could be defined as the absence of fear, I think it takes far greater courage to overcome your fear.
It might be a willingness to die for what you believe in. It is seen in those willing to risk their popularity to stand up for an ideal. It is demonstrated in the hero who, without thinking, jumps in front of an on-rushing car to push another person out of its path. It might be seen in the mother willing to give her life to save her children. It takes real courage to take a leap of faith when God calls us out of our silver-lined comfort zone and asks us to spend the rest of our lives in Ethiopia to share the Gospel and serve mankind. It was seen in Jesus in the garden, sweating drops like blood, overcoming His fear of crucifixion and separation from the Father.
It takes far more courage to perform an act of bravery when you have the chance to consider all the consequences, than it does to perform an impulsive act of heroism, spurred into action in a moment of time. In the latter scenario, fear hasn't had the chance to form. The kind of "laying down your life for your friends" that Jesus had in mind (John 15:13) when He said, "greater (agape)love has no one", was the kind of sacrifice that allowed much time to consider the consequences. This kind of sacrifice calls for taking up your cross on a daily basis for the sake of God's kingdom.
Jesus wasn't asking anything He was not willing to do Himself. From the time He was able to comprehend His calling, Jesus had more than twenty years to consider the consequences of laying down His life for us.
Note that, that type of courage is sourced in agape love. "Perfect love casts out fear."(1John 4). Unless that love has taken over our being, we, in our own strength, are incapable of making such a sacrifice. In the incredibly complex interaction of human responses, courage is born in an intricate weave of love, beliefs, values, priorities and passions. The early disciples found great courage came out of the unwavering belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
The incredibly complex workings of the human psyche intertwine the qualities of honesty, passion, honour, courage, love, humility and nobility in ways we cannot understand. I am actually finding it difficult to isolate them and write about them individually. But rather than write one huge essay on the lot, I will continue to do my best to keep them separate and draw out the links as they become obvious.
So I think one of the first things to establish is why Jesus definitely was and is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. This is the very foundation of our faith. If Jesus wasn't the promised Messiah, I am utterly wasting my time with this website.
There were many contenders for that place in history at the time the Romans ruled the world. The Jews were eagerly expecting Him, as you would at a time of being controlled by dominating and abusive foreigners. The envisaged role of their Messiah was one of 'Deliverer' from oppression, someone to set them free. There are few records relating to the other contenders, as they were relatively insignificant insurgents, zealously trying to muster opposition to the Roman rule. Most of them would have been anonymously crucified, leaving no legacy of wisdom of any sort.
When Jesus was arrested, the rug was pulled out from under His disciples, whose thinking patterns still ran very much along secular lines, expecting Jesus to set them free in a worldly sense. When Jesus was crucified, all their expectations were thrown into turmoil, and it would have seemed that the battle was lost, as if somewhere along the line things had gone wrong and God had been defeated by a worldly power. They would have been extremely frightened, as evidenced by Peter's three-fold denial during Jesus' trial, and would have come away with all of their dreams shattered. The most convincing evidence that Jesus truly was the Messiah is shown through the sudden turn around in the attitude of the disciples - they went from hiding like frightened rabbits, uneducated men, totally lacking in true appreciation of the stupendous and pivotal revelation confronting them, to being bold and courageous apostles, having no concern for their own welfare, openly declaring the good news of the Gospel. No such change could have been accounted for through a self-deception. The only possible explanation is that they were utterly convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as had been predicted by their Master Himself.
Resurrection on the third day is based on the prophetic element of the story of Jonah. (Reference Jonah 1:17, Matthew 12:40, 1 Corinthians 15:4). I have often struggled with the apparent inconsistency between the recorded facts and the detail prescribed in Matthew 12 (three days and three nights in the belly of the earth). Jesus was dead for part of three days and only two nights. I struggle with this no longer, believing that the misunderstanding of the prophecy lies in our interpretation of the words "the belly of the earth". I suspect it refers metaphorically to the length of time that Jesus was separated from the Father, not how long He was dead. But even if that is not the correct explanation, I am sure that a valid explanation exists. It is interesting that most Bible commentators deliberately try to avoid the issue.
But there were many other predictions made regarding the coming Messiah, all of which, when seen in the right perspective, were fulfilled in Jesus. Once the disciples were empowered and spiritually enlightened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, there was no stopping them. It is this same spiritual enlightenment that made Paul turn from being a persecutor of the Christian movement to being one of its most ardent supporters. It is the same enlightenment that has Christians the world over make a stand for Jesus at the risk of their own lives, and even that of their families.
And the persecuted people who are prepared to make such a stand, often still don't have all the facts and head knowledge as to why the One they love, and are prepared to die for, qualifies as the Messiah. Many don't even have a Bible to read. They make their stand often based solely on spiritual experience and revelation. I call that heart knowledge. Their great courage is to be commended and rarely seen, or even needed, in Western society. I think it is important for all of us to know why Jesus is the Messiah. Whilst knowing 'why' is not absolutely essential, as demonstrated by all those who have made such courageous stands for their Lord throughout the ages, if we do know, it will boost confidence in our walk of faith and can summon overcoming courage if ever we should need it.
In the up-and-down relationship between God and His people, the need for Israel to be delivered from its enemies has been frequent. From Egypt to Babylon, the need for a Deliverer was an all too common circumstance. So they all knew the prophecies about the coming Messiah, prophecies probably made so there would be no mistake made in recognising Him when He arrived. And yet they did make that mistake.
PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE MESSIAH FULFILLED
(If I recall correctly, this analysis came from a book called: "Jesus - The Great Debate" by Dr. Grant R. Jeffrey, published by Frontier Research Publications, Inc.)
1.He would be born in Bethlehem.
Predicted in Micah 5:2. Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1.
2.He would be descended from the tribe of Judah.
Predicted in Genesis 49:10. Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1.
3.A messenger would precede Him.
Predicted in Isaiah 40:3. Fulfilled in Matthew 3:1,2.
4.He would enter Jerusalem on a colt.
Predicted in Zechariah 9:9. Fulfilled in Matthew 21:1-7.
5.He would be betrayed by a friend.
Predicted in Psalm 41:9. Fulfilled in Matthew 26:47,48.
6.His hands and feet would be pierced.
Predicted in Psalm 22:16. Fulfilled inLuke 23:33
7.His enemies would wound him.
Predicted in Isaiah 54:5 ? Fulfilled in Matthew 27:26
8.He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Predicted in Zechariah 11:12. Fulfilled in Matthew 26:15
9.He would be spit upon and beaten.
Predicted in Isaiah 50:6. Fulfilled in Matthew 26:67
10.30 pieces silver would be paid for the Potter’s field.
Predicted in Zechariah 11:13. Fulfilled in Matthew 27:5-7
11.He would be silent before his accusers.
Predicted in Isaiah 53:7. Fulfilled in Matthew 27:12-14
12.He would be crucified with thieves.
Predicted in Isaiah 53:12. Fulfilled in Matthew 27:38
13.They would gamble for his garments.
Predicted in Psalm 22:18. Fulfilled in John 19:23-24
14.His side would be pierced.
Predicted in Zechariah 12:10. Fulfilled in John 19:34
15.None of His bones would be broken.
Predicted in Psalm 34:20. Fulfilled in John 19:33
16.His body would not decay.
Predicted in Psalm 16:10. Fulfilled in Acts 2:31
17.He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Predicted in Isaiah 53:9. Fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60
18.Darkness would cover the earth.
Predicted in Amos 8:9. Fulfilled in Matthew 27:45
Notice that all but numbers 4 and 11 were totally outside of His control. No one could possibly arrange his own crucifixion, especially at Passover, when the religious authorities wanted no such distraction during a religious festival. Yet that very timing was so meaningful in the context of the prophetic meaning of the Passover, when a lamb was slaughtered to set the people free. That festival has its origin in the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
In addition, the Messiah would be a prophet 'like unto Moses'. (Acts 3:22-23).
(Refer also to Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 6:14; John 1:21, 45; Acts 7:37-38)
Comparing Jesus to Moses, we see incredible similarities:
They were both Prophets, Priests, Lawgivers, Teachers, Leaders.
They both taught new truths from God and performed miracles.
Both spent their early years in Egypt, supernaturally protected from evil kings.
Their families initially rejected their role, yet they were the wisest men of their day.
They both confronted demonic power.
Both appointed seventy rulers/disciples, and sent twelve spies/apostles
Both fasted forty days and rebuked a sea (Red Sea/Sea of Galilee).
Both their faces shone with glory on a mountain
Both rescued Israel from dead religion (pagan Egypt/letter of the Law).
Both cured lepers.
Both conquered enemies with upraised arms.
Israel was ungrateful to both of them.
Both promised another to come (Messiah/Comforter)
Once you see the phenomenal fulfilment of prophecy, there can be no doubt left in any but the most stubborn of minds, that Jesus was the predicted Messiah. And if your mind is convinced, consider what you should do about it, personally. Consider whether this is something that merits giving you heart to, making it the core of your being, bringing you a reason for living surpassing any other offer you have ever been made.
And if you do accept the offer, to live under a New Covenant with the living God, to receive salvation and be part of His eternal purpose, then consider how muchyou are prepared to give of yourself, in exchange for that privilege.
Has this filled you with courage? Boldness to speak out? Courage which awakens a passion not previously known and which makes you capable of doing things you didn't know you had in you? Or are you still hesitating, questioning whether what you've just read is Truth. Is there a faint whisper in your ear, claiming that all this is academic and intellectual nonsense? And is this whisper awakening fear instead, the urge to hold onto what you have and who you are, the instinct for self-preservation?
This cuts right to the core of what Jesus was talking about when He said:
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mathew 16:24-26. (For a deeper understanding of this scripture, see my essays 'Body, Soul and Spirit' and 'Crucifixion').
Let's look at this objectively. Let's look at fear and the fruits it can bear in your life. Let's gain an appreciation of two life-controlling principles, courage and fear, that are at odds with each other on a spiritual plane.
There are two distinct meanings to the word 'fear'. One, as in the 'fear' of God, conveys respect for something good, yet powerful. The other conveys fright of something bad and corruptive in its influence. Right now, we are talking only about the latter meaning.
Fear is the opposite of courage, and the evidence of fear in our lives is not pleasing to the Lord (Hebrews 10:36-39). The many scriptural instructions to encourage (give courage to) one another, show that our Christian walk is intended to be victorious over the many potentially fear-inducing experiences that we expect will confront us during our lifetime. In Isaiah 41 and 43, God tells us through the prophet, "Fear not, for I am with you!" The source of ultimatecourage in the life of a Christian is the Holy Spirit Himself. And it arrives at it's destination through faith. This is true heart knowledge.
If you find yourself becoming afraid, you can be sure that the bad guy with the pointy tail is at work. And you can then examine your own heart, only to find that you are lacking in faith that God is in control. Satan sowed doubt in the garden of Eden ("Has God really said...?"). He even tried to make Jesus Himself doubt ("If you are the Son of God..."). That's the way this guy works. Just as faith is the source of courage, so doubt is the source of fear. Satan understands this spiritual principle only too well, and takes full advantage of it. If he can sow doubt into your mind, he knows your growth will become stunted. Your effectiveness as a Christian will diminish and your fear will increase, the start of a vicious and destructive cycle.
There is another daunting characteristic of fear - it works in the spiritual realm to make negative things happen, just as faith can make positive things happen. Job complains that, "what I fear comes upon me and what I dread befalls me!"(Job 3:25).
I recall an incident very early in my Christian walk. One of my relatives owned a bomb of a vehicle, can't remember its make, but it carried no insurance and was mechanically suspect. One day some friends urgently needed transport, and my relative offered to lend them this car. Something weird happened. First someone mentioned, "What if they have an accident? Who will pay?" Then debate commenced, with more and more people joining in. My parents were particularly concerned, having come through the wars and hence being very much security conscious. More theoretical scenarios were painted. And the legal implications of vehicle ownership came up. Then the possible denial of responsibility for mechanical failure was introduced. Very quickly the situation turned, from one of concern for responsible action, to extreme fear that something bad would happen. Satan had a field day! We became convinced the friends who borrowed the car would have an accident. So, of course they did!
Fear is contagious. In Deuteronomy 20:8, the fearful soldier is instructed to go home, as his fear may spread to his brothers. Fear can spread through a crowd so fast, it will make your head spin. Cry "Rape!" in a crowded store, and you will probably be ignored, because the threat doesn't affect them. However, cry "Fire!" in the same crowd, and fear will spread even between floors, panicking the shoppers into rushing for the exits, in a stampede driven by the need for self-preservation.
Fear tends to make us ashamed to approach God, because He is not the author of fear:
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
I don't want to dwell here for too long on the negative implications of having fear rule our lives. I think I have said enough to give adequate understanding of the two opposing principles that can control our journey.
When we are no longer afraid of losing our life, we become willing to surrender it to Him. When we give up our efforts to preserve what we have, and even who we are, we find ourselves in the most caring and protective place imaginable - the loving arms of our Redeemer! When the human instinct to stay in charge is overcome, we learn to trust Him with our soul, to mould us, until we are that perfect piece of the completed jigsaw puzzle that will spend eternity with Him. Is it any wonder that Paul tells us:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
The courage to stand up in all circumstances for Jesus, your Saviour and Redeemer, comes from the unwavering belief, faith and trust, that He is the genuine article. Through a combination of head knowledge and heart knowledge, comes the conviction that He is exactly what and Who He claims to be in His Word, the Bible. And if you truly believe that, your courage will know no bounds. If you doubt it even a little, fear creates access to make you stumble.
Let's always remember that we are designed to function in relationship, encouraging one another, being there for each other, laying down our lives for each other. We are not here to tear each other down, but to build each other up. Just as fear is contagious, so courage is contagious. (eg. Acts 2 and Acts 13:46-52). The circumstances in which we find ourselves don't matter, be they poverty or wealth, freedom or persecution, sickness or health, community or imprisonment.
When just a few of us find ourselves on that incredible road of discovery, constructed using the golden pavers of total trust in God, others can't help but be caught up with us in our enthusiasm and join us in a new journey, full of faith and courage, totally pleasing to Him.
With faith comes conviction; with conviction comes courage; with courage comes action; with action comes leadership; with leadership comes social change. That chain could easily encapsulate the main storyline of Hacksaw Ridge, an engaging and sobering biopic focused on the heroic acts of World War II medic Desmond Doss.
Desmond Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist when he enlisted in the Army to fight during World War II. His faith had deep personal roots, a reaction to his violent childhood where he was physically encouraged to fight with his brother and was abused by his alcoholic father. His pacifism arose in the aftermath of a fight where he nearly killed his brother as a child (at least in the film version of the story). He interpreted the commandment “thou shalt not kill” as literal and universal (he was also a vegetarian). Allegiance to this commandment wouldn’t normally be a problem, unless you enroll in the Army during wartime. Doss felt the call to serve his country after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and he reasoned he could serve his country by saving the lives of men as a medic. So, he joined as a Conscientious Objector, and became one of the few enlistees to be granted CO status.
The story, however, is as much about Doss’s comrades as it is about his own life. Doss (played artfully in an understated performance by Andrew Garfield of The Social Network and Spider-Man fame) remains steadfast in his faith and pacifism even as he is faced with physical abuse by his fellow recruits in basic training, relentless pressure by his commanding officers (played by Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) to quit, a court martial that nearly landed him in jail for the remainder of the war, and a relentless deluge of bullets, mortar shells, and artillery barrages in one of the bloodiest battles of the war (Okinawa). His fellow soldiers are resentful of his unwillingness to even train with a rifle, believing his beliefs are simply cover for cowardice. This resentment continues as they enter battle, but are won over by Doss’s unflinching courage and dedication to saving them as their company is decimated and eventually overrun by the Japanese.
Doss saved at least 75 U.S. soldiers in real life, and the movie does a great job of giving the audience a close up of many of them as Doss carries them on his back in the midst of battle, hides them from roving Japanese patrols, and lowers them down a 400 foot cliff to safety on the beach. He stayed on the ridge to save his comrades, despite their abuse and doubts, even after his company had abandoned their positions. His bravery and commitment to each of them, regardless of how badly they treated him, changed their hearts and their understanding of courage. Doss was the first Conscientious Objector to earn the U.S. military’s highest honor—the Medal of Honor—and viewers will have no doubt why at the end of the immersive film.
Hacksaw Ridge takes a few liberties—Doss actually served in three major battles in the Pacific in addition to Okinawa (Guam and Leyte), and his heroic acts unfolded over weeks rather than days, among others more minor—but the film stays largely true to the real-life story. The battle scenes have been likened to Saving Private Ryan in their realism, earning a R rating and an element that shouldn’t surprise audiences that have seen director Mel Gibson other movies such as Braveheart or The Passion of the Christ. He doesn’t spare his audiences from the brutal horror of war, and that serves the purpose of the story while honoring the faith-driven courage of Doss. Indeed, the graphic nature of the scenes, death, and injuries on both sides of the battle are essential to conveying the depth of his faith. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, Doss keeps his faith, imploring God to give him the strength “save one more.” These aren’t mere words in dialogue; they were words he uttered to himself at the moment as a video interview of the real-life Doss shows at the end of the film.
The cinematography is awe inspiring, from the vistas of the land beach to the devastated ground strewn with corpses, maimed humans, and burnt foliage even though the film is a bit plodding in the first 30 minutes as Doss’s backstory is fleshed out. The pace quickens, however, once Doss enters boot camp, and he faces the hostility of other recruits. Gibson uses several pivotal plot points, including a moment when his fiancée encourages him to quit to avoid being imprisoned for disobeying an officer, to bring the audience along as Doss’s each test solidifies his convictions and emboldens him to continue. One of the more memorable moments in the film is near the end the battle, when Doss picks up the rifle of a wounded soldier as the Japanese advance on their position. The soldier—his drill instructor (Vaughn) from boot camp—smiles wryly thinking that Doss is finally going to give in and take up the rifle to defend himself and their position. Instead, he uses the rifle to fashion a stretcher to pull his abusive sergeant to safety (as the sergeant shoots at the enemy during their retreat).
Libertarians and conservatives put a lot of thought, time, and effort into the importance of building the voluntary institutions necessary to maintain a civil society. Too little attention, in my view, is put into the importance of faith in providing the courage to challenge and overcome those political and social forces that undermine and destroy it. Hacksaw Ridge uses the faith and courage of Desmond Doss to show just how important those elements of character are, and how their sincere and steadfast application change hearts and minds. Although Hacksaw Ridge can be viewed as an anti-war film, the story is more than testimony to the brutality of war and the nobility of pacifism; it’s an extended, unflinching reflection on the nexus between faith, courage, and leadership in a place where the descriptor “hell” understates the true magnitude of the horror people face and how souls are tested.
Tags: anti-war, antiwar film, character, Christianity, conscientious objector, courage, Desmond Doss, faith, Hacksaw Ridge, heroism, Integrity, Jesus, Mel Gibson, pacifism, World War II