Courage: Some Step Up When Others Step Back

Sermon Summary
This message deals with the Christian character trait of courage. The Biblical text for this sermon is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. In these two verses Paul gives an action list of five things a follower of Christ should do: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Do everything in love.” Courage is the center piece of these five actions. The dictionary definition of courage is “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” There are different motivations for courage, but the best motivation comes from convictions and principles which kick into gear because it's the right thing to do, even if there is no personal gain or reward. Courage that is based on trust in God’s presence and leadership brings a super-natural wisdom and strength into a person’s life which can prove invaluable during difficult times. The message ends with the example of Jesus Christ stepping up for you and me when He allowed Himself to be arrested and eventually taken to the Cross. He stepped up when others stepped back!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Give an example of a time in your life that required the exercise of courage or an act of courage you witnessed in someone else’s life.

2. The kind of courage that constitutes a Christian Character Trait is not selfishly motivated, but is motivated by convictions and principles which put the needs of others first. Do you believe it is more or less difficult to stand up for Christian convictions and principles today than 20 or 30 years ago? Why or why not?

3. Paul says to be on guard. The writer of Proverbs wrote we are to guard our heart. First responders have to be on their guard for physical dangers on a daily basis. Why is it so important to be on guard in a spiritual sense?
Proverbs 4:20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.
21Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
22for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.
23Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

4. Besides being on guard, Paul says we are to stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, to be strong and to do everything in love. Which of these five action items do you find most challenging and why? Jude gives some practical advice which can help as we seek to live lives of courage and live out these action items...
Jude 1:20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22Be merciful to those who doubt;
23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—
25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.



Sermon notes
The song the praise team just sang speaks about the refiners fire. You know, sometimes we must go through the refiners fire in life to become all we are meant to be. It's not an easy thing! It never is! It takes courage to face the refiners fire. It purifies, cleanses, and strengthens. Our first responders go through the refiners fire of training and that training is not easy for law enforcement, EMS, or fire fighters.

Our firefighters are ready to face the challenges when a fire is called in because they've been through the refiners fire of training where they encounter the real deal.  Getting through the fire academy is no easy task. Some go home.  
The refiners fire has not been an easy one for the good ole USA either. We've been through our trials and our fires. Our values have been attacked, we've been attacked. Many brave and courageous soldiers have fought to defend us abroad and sacrificed much!

But one thing that reminds us we can weather any storm is our great flag, the symbol of our freedom and our unity. If you are not already standing and you can, please rise as our Fire District One Honor Guard presents the Colors!


Courage: Some step up when others step back!

Why is it that some step up and others step back?
What gives some people amazing courage while others seem to cower in a corner? Is it only super heroes who should have the character trait of courage? Is it only for first responders and military warriors, or should we all have a measure of courage?
The answer is clear! We all need the Character trait of courage!  

Although our message today will give specific application to first responders, it would be a mistake to think the principles do not apply to all of us. Today we're going to look at the definition of Courage and some of the possible motives behind courage! Not all courage is created equal!!
We're also going to seek to discover the meaning of Courage as a Christian Character Trait!
Let's ask God to guide our time this morning! PRAY!!

Ok, the definition of courage according to The Merrium-Webster Dictionary puts it this way…..

cour·age
noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\:
the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous


Another Dictionary puts it this way...

Courage - the ability to do something that frightens one.

Okay, what are some of the reasons or motives people have courage? There could be many answers to this question. Remember not all courage is created equal. Some people are willing to do things that frighten them, things that are difficult or even dangerous in order to impress others. How many times have we heard the stories of a young person who yielded to peer pressure and mustered the courage to do something dangerous and paid for it in a tragic way. This is not the kind of courage we need or want!

Others might have courage to do something difficult or dangerous because of the rewards that await them on the other side of the task. Not a totally bad motive! We talked about the refiners fire of training earlier. It's not a bad thing to look forward to graduation day and the rewards that come with the completion of your training. However, if courage is only motivated by what's in it for you, then you may step back when others need you to step up!

We desperately need people in our world today whose courage comes from convictions and principles which kick into gear because it's the right thing, even if there is no personal gain or reward! I believe a majority of our First Responders fit into this category. They certainly are not doing what they do because they get paid the big bucks, because they don't! As I've said before, it's not a job, it's a calling. A calling to make a difference in this old world.

Now I know it sometimes gets difficult for first responders, and you may wonder if you're really making a difference, but you are! Courage motivated by a higher calling keeps you going when personal gain is not to be found! Why? Because you've been called to put others ahead of your self! Because you've realized life lived selfishly is really not very much of a life!

And even when personal gain is not evident, there is a wonderful satisfaction to be found in knowing you've helped a fellow human being live another precious day!

And for our law enforcement folks, you should never forget that just your presence in a community or on the road many times brings a sense of security to folks and brings a level accountability to people. You know what I'm talking about, even when you're not speeding and you see the boys in blue, you still tap the brake. Just in case! But seriously, knowing you're  a phone call away, is a wonderful thing. Let me put it this way….

I know bad things still happen and you guys and gals have to see so much. What you can't see is all the bad things that would have happened if you weren't out there doing your job! We thank you!!
And what a difference it makes when you have a medical emergency and the Fire Department and ambulance service arrive to render life saving first aid!
Your courage to show up to work every day makes such a difference!  We thank You!!

As I was preparing and praying about this message God led me to a passage of Scripture in Paul's letter to the Corinthian Church.  It's just two verses, but it list five actions a follower of Christ should take every day.  Courage is dead center of the list! It is a list of actions, if followed, will cause a person to step up when others step back.
Let's read it together. It is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14...

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

14Do everything in love.

Action #1
Be on Your Guard!

Why does Paul start off saying, "Be on your guard?"
There's always danger. First responders face these dangers on a daily basis. They are trained to be on their guard. If they are not on their guard they may become the victim instead of helping a victim. I remember one of the most important pieces of my training the few years I served as a volunteer…

"The life you save may be your own!" Risk assessment is a constant and important part of decision making! Critical thinking is a must! A first responder’s job comes with inherent risk and they can’t all be removed, but you must remember your ability to help stops if you become the victim. This is no less true when it comes to our spiritual lives. If we are not on our guard we can fall victim to many spiritual dangers and when this happens we are no longer able to help others, like our family, our spouse, our children, or our fellow man. God's Word has so much to say about this. The writer of Proverbs put it this way in Proverbs 4:10-23...

10Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.

11I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

12When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.

13Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

14Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

15Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.

16For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.

17They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

18The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

19But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

20My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.

21Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;

22for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.

23Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Now you might say to me, "Chaplain, that sounds good, but how in the world am I supposed to guard my heart? I'm not sure how to do that." Well, first of all let me put it like this: Garbage in garbage out! If you are not guarding what goes into your heart, then you shouldn't be surprised when trash comes out. Did you notice what the Word said. "Guard your heart for it is the well spring of life!" Another translation put it this way…"Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life!"

There aren't too many people today who remember letting a bucket on a rope down into the well to bring up drinking water. My great grandmothers home had a well and she would keep the bucket on a table on the front porch filled with water. There was a dipper in the bucket to pour water into a cup. Back in the day, sometimes a well would go bad. Know how they knew if it was bad or good?

What's in the well always comes up in the bucket!! It's the same way with your heart and your life! What's in the well always comes up in the bucket! I know it's hard to guard your heart in this modern world with the constant temptations afforded by modern media and internet. However, it is a spiritual life safety issue that we protect our heart. And by the way, we do have an offer of help...

14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Aren't you glad we're not left alone to face the battles of life. Jesus has given us His presence and His power by allowing His Holy Spirit to live in our very lives. He's always there to help. We just have to ask Him to help and let Him help!!
Okay, let's look at the next action in our list...

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; ...

Action #2
Stand firm in the faith!


First responders all have faith. In fact without faith it would be impossible for a first responder to do his or her job. Firefighter, law enforcement, or EMT. You may say, "wait a minute, I know a first responder and he or she is not much on religion!" Maybe not, but I can tell you they've learned to have faith in their training, their equipment, and their partner or fellow first responder. Without that faith, you wouldn't be able to do your job! You would be paralyzed wondering if what you were taught was really correct! Wondering if you can trust your equipment! Wondering if your buddy has got your back! Now here's where I'm going to tell you a fact of life. Take it from an old man whose been their a time or two. There are some situations where your training, your partners, or your equipment are not enough. It's in those times your going to need faith in God to do what only God can do!

This is also true in our spiritual lives! We should have faith in our training, and faith in our brothers and sisters in Christ to be there for us, but there will be times when even with all the book knowledge and training, we're not going to understand what to do next and we're going to have to have faith in Almighty God!  
Jude, one of Jesus' brothers wrote an open letter to churches scattered throughout the Roman empire. Listen to Jude 1:20-25.

20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.

21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22Be merciful to those who doubt;

23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

So we've got be on our guard and stand firm in the faith! The next action we are told to take is the Christian Character Trait we are focusing on today and it is a must if we are to survive...

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage;

Action #3
Courage

Remember our definition of courage...

cour·age
noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\:
the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

If you are on your guard and standing firm in the faith, then you will have the ability to do difficult and even dangerous things, because you'll know you've done all  you could to be prepared and ready. You'll know you've trained for as many scenarios as possible, and you'll have faith in that training and those who work beside you. And it is my prayer you will have ultimate faith in The One who knows the scenarios you could never train for.

Trusting God with your life allows you to have a courage to face things you would not be able to face alone! Sometimes our human pride keeps us from admitting we need God. Somehow we think it's not manly or cool to depend on anyone else but ourselves! This kind of thinking is not only dangerous spiritually, but is very dangerous in the first responder community.  A person who is not a team player and decides to go it alone, is at a huge risk of hurting himself or someone else.

Now here's a weird thing. Most first responders and law enforcement people realize this, but when it comes to our spiritual lives we sometimes get prideful and closed off and say it's a personal matter and we don't need anyone's help. This is a dangerous attitude and sometimes leads to personal tragedy. Sometimes the courage we need is the courage to admit we need each other and we all need God! In fact, listen to our forth action Paul says we are to take...

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

Action # 4
Be Strong

If we're going to be men and women of courage, we will have to be strong. Physically strong, mentally strong and spiritually strong!Yesterday I was visiting our newest fire station just off Highway 11, just north of inters tae 12. It's beautiful and will give our guys much quicker access to the interstate than the old station on Brown Switch. As Chris Kaufman was giving me the tour, I saw two places where there was weight training equipment.

Many times a first responder is called upon to do things that take great physical strength. In order to be ready, they need to stay physically fit and strong! As we've already stated, they also need to be sharp mentally. They have to make quick decisions and judgments that can literally mean the diffence between life and death. But our First Responders also need to be spiritually strong! They see so much! Without a spiritual and moral center they could be quickly overwhelmed and become cynical and without hope.

A few months ago I preached eight funerals in seven weeks. If not for my personal relationship with Christ and the spiritual and emotional strength that flows from that relationship it would be easy to become hopeless! Remember our guys and gals see sick and injured folks on a daily basis. Our Law enforcement folks see the worst side of humanity on a daily basis. It could be real easy to begin to think everyone is a bad guy!

I had a law enforcement guy who worked as a volunteer when I was a youth minister years ago in Baton Rouge.  He worked with juveniles who had gotten in trouble with the law. I asked Him why he would take his spare time and travel as a youth chaperon on youth trips. He said, "being around these kids who want to live for God and are trying to do the right thing gives me hope for the future of our nation! It helps me to know not all of them have an attitude of rebellion."

God wants us to be strong physically, mentally and spiritually!
Paul tells the Ephesian church in Ephesians 6:10-11...

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Now we come to the last action in our text for today. Remember, earlier today I told you motives behind courage can be different.  Paul gives us the fuel that ought to fire up our courage. Let's read our text one more time...

 Action # 5
Do Everything in Love!

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

14Do everything in love.

I was with some guys years ago on a very tragic scene. Some troubling things were said. Later, I prayed and asked The Lord to help me never get to the place where I no longer cared about the hurts and tragedies of others. I made a commitment that day. If I ever get to the place where I don't care anymore, then I'll find something else to do. Because if  you don't care you won't do your best! If you're not motivated by love you can't do your best!

I realize first responders have to have a certain toughness emotionally when dealing with things, especially while on scene. They can't let their emotions take over or they won't be able to do their job, but that doesn't mean they don't care. It doesn't mean they don't have feelings or think about and even lift a prayer for those they've helped. Chief Kuhn was telling me yesterday that sometimes people tell him he seems as excited about his job as a new recruit. His response, "I am as excited! I love what I do!"

That's the kind of attitude that makes the difference between just getting the job done and picking up a check, and having the courage to step up when others step back. It's the kind of attitude that can literally make the difference between life an death! Because a person who loves what they do and the people they serve will go out of their way to do the best job they can possibly do.

Courage is a Christian Character trait. This means that courage was a character trait in the life of Christ. One day He stepped up when others stepped back. He did this because of His love for those He had come to serve. Listen...

47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

48Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”

49Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

51With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.

56But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Jesus stepped up and everyone else fled the scene. Jesus knew what was coming and He willingly laid down His life in order for us to be saved. I like to call it the ultimate rescue.
Paul put it this way in Romans5:6-9

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 Pray!!