I attend Community Bible Study during the school year but I was missing the fellowship and in-depth study this summer. So, in an effort to meet some new neighbors and spend quality time with some friends, I started a summer Bible study in my home for a few ladies and myself. We are reading and discussing:
Character: Reclaiming Six Endangered Qualities, InterActions Series
By Bill Hybels / Zondervan
Yesterday, we met for the first time and discussed Session 1: Character. I thought that I would share each week what I have learned here on my blog. This study was written for men and women. However, I am facilitating this study for ladies so I will be using female terms.
The courage session focuses on courage in every day life versus the big once in a lifetime acts of heroism that we hear about in the media. The type of courage that it takes to be a wife, mother, and friend. The Bible passage for this session is:
1 Timothy 1:7-12 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
The author uses Paul as a Biblical example. Through his trials, suffering, imprisonment, etc., Paul is someone who exhibited every day courage because of his faith in Jesus Christ. I want to point out here (even though it is not mentioned in the book we are reading), that it is a pet peeve of mine when Christians say “God will not give us more than we can handle.” This is not Biblically based at all. It is misconstrued with God not allowing us to be tempted beyond what we can handle and that there is always a way out of temptation. However, Paul is the example time and time again that a Christian can and will go through trials, suffering, pain, hardship… even to the point of death. Paul says in
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him. And he can always use our testimonies to impact other people and draw them into His kingdom. It takes great every day courage to keep our faith as we go through hardship.
This session is divided into three sections: Spiritual Courage, Moral Courage, and Relational Courage.
The author points out that we often hear from non-believers that Christianity is for weak people, cowards, and is a crutch. He uses the example of non-believers who are confronted with their sin but who do not have the courage to admit their sins before a Holy God. They justify themselves by saying that they are a good person and the sins they have committed are just little mistakes. They falsely assume that God will allow all “good” people into heaven. He says that it takes much courage for someone to become a Christian, admit that they are a sinner, and follow Christ in a secular world.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [emphasis mine]
When speaking of a non-believer deciding to follow Christ or a Christian continuing to follow Christ in a secular world, YES, it does take great courage. However, I went a different direction with my thoughts on this. I AM weak but because of Christ, I am made strong in spite of my weakness. Without Christ, I am nothing and can do nothing of value. With Christ, I have the ability to do great things and stand strong in a fallen world.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The author gives several examples of areas where it might be easy to fall into temptation… even as a Christian. Income taxes, sexual purity, bending truth to avoid conflict, etc. How do we handle the temptation when it comes knocking at our door? How do we react after giving into temptation and being caught?
Christ calls us to have integrity and courage even when no one else cares or notices. We should have the courage to be truthful in all things, to have integrity behind closed doors, and to exhibit Christ to all people we encounter (in person or on the internet).
The author focuses on marriage and parenting but this also applies to friendships. It takes courage to be vulnerable in marriage and admit when things are not going well. Sometimes counseling, meeting with accountability partners, and/or sitting down to have a serious discussion are important to help repair a marriage. It takes courage to discipline children when they need correction and to train them in the way of Christ even if it is not popular to do so in our entitled, government knows what is best society.
Have you seen a marriage fall apart because of adultery, pornography, alcohol, abuse, or just plain selfishness? Many marriages end in divorce because one or both parties just give up and go their own way with out consideration of the effects their decisions have on their children and future.
On the flip side, have you seen marriages recover from any of the above circumstances? My marriage has recovered from extreme circumstances and I have witnessed other marriages recover as well. Almost always, the common denominator is Christ. When both spouses are willing to admit that they are wrong, when both spouses are willing to forgive each other the way Christ forgave us, when both spouses are willing to get the outside help needed, then there is a good chance that a marriage can recover from extreme brokenness. This takes courage because most often it is a long road to recovery. It takes courage to stand strong when society says to just take the “easy road” out.
Overall, I have learned to be more aware of areas I can exhibit courage on a daily basis… even if it is not recognized by others. One of my group members said that sometimes it takes courage just to get out of bed in the morning! I want to be like Paul and show courage in the midst of trials and suffering but I also want to be able to show courage in all things even when everything is going well.