New Hope Notes
Pastor Francis Chan
I want to talk about courage today so let us learn from Apostle Paul who said, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” (Phil. 1:27) Paul writes that whether he comes to visit or not, he wants to know that they are living a way that is worthy of the gospel. What Paul wants to hear is that they are striving with one mind side by side and not frightened by anything.
Does this describe you - not frightened by anything - even all of your opponents? God says that when we all can strive side by side and fearless, the world will believe our faith. But most of us struggle with our fears so we should pray.
Paul also requested, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Eph 6:18-20) Paul asked other people to pray for him so that he could teach the gospel boldly. I believe that Paul is one of the boldest persons in the Bible and we should follow his example.
People were blown away and impressed by the courage of Apostles Peter and John because they were common ordinary men taking on an immensely dangerous mission of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Peter and John successfully stood up to the authorities. This should be encouraging to all of us, because Paul said we were not given a spirit of timidity or fear - we were given a spirit of power. We should all be like that. We should all walk around with courage and not fear.
But even I myself have issues with fear. I was once on an airplane and a girl was sitting on the other side of the empty seat next to me. I prayed to God to give me the boldness to speak to this girl. But I was nervous and couldn’t approach her. It doesn’t take much effort for me to speak to an audience, but one on one with a stranger talking about Jesus was terrifying for me. Thoughts filled my mind that she might think I was flirting with her. I ended up not speaking to her through the whole flight. Ironically, I was on my way to speak to a huge audience about courage! I felt like a loser on the way home. But at the airport was the same girl! I told her that this was not a coincidence and that I had prayed for her that morning but chickened out in speaking to her. I asked about her life and how I could pray for her. She shared her life and we had an amazing time. Our time was all orchestrated by God. I thanked God for helping with my courage in speaking to this girl. After all, no one wants to be known as a coward.
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But how many of you really believe? Let me illustrate by telling you about the stupidest thing I ever did. I once held a BB gun and asked the audience if they thought I could shoot a balloon with it. About 80% of the church raised their hands. Next I asked how many dared to hold that balloon while I shot at it. Still maybe 20% said that they would hold the balloon. Only one hand went up when I asked if they would hold it with their teeth! A young boy stood with the balloon in his teeth while it was shot from his mouth!
The point was how many people really believed, the 80 percent, the 20 percent that would hold it or that one young boy? Who are the true believers? “Who ever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16) How many believe that verse? You see, it is easy to believe when nothing is at risk, but when something is at risk in declaring your belief, then you will truly know if you really believe or not.
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) I wanted to do just that so I journeyed around the world to places like India, China and Thailand, where Christians are persecuted.
An Indian lady shared that she was pregnant when she became a believer. When the village found out that she was a Christian they all came to her and begged her to return to Hinduism. They brought her a headless lizard so that she could drink its blood and convert back. Her response was “I will not deny Jesus Christ”. She and her husband ran with their Bibles to live in the jungle to survive. They had nowhere to go because they had decided to follow Jesus. She gave birth in the jungle with only her husband there.
The pastor that showed me around his country shared that at the age of 11, his father threw him and all his belongs into the mud when he became a Christian. His father told him not to call him Father anymore. But a few months ago, his father was baptized!
It seemed that everyone was intense about their faith in those foreign countries. Jesus said this was going to happen when we become followers.
I shared that where I come from, there are many churches, and we just openly pick which services we want to go to and that is Christianity here and that there is no persecution in the United States. The people all laughed about what we call Christianity.
There are 1.2 billion people in India and 1.4 billion people in China. They have an all or nothing belief in religion over there which may seem strange to us. Those that believe in those countries are willing to risk everything. Maybe they are not the strange ones but we are!
When I was in college, I went back to Hong Kong to visit relatives. Everywhere I went; all my relatives said the same thing, “wow, you so big!” As you can see, I’m actually pretty short by American standards so it was not that I was so big – it was because they were so little.
So sometimes I wonder, is it that I am so big in Christian spirituality or is it that others in America are so small in their Christianity? Christians in other countries are willing to risk their lives for Christ. What are we willing to do for Him?
From reading the Bible, I know that God has more blessings for me and more for me to do, so live courageously and do not let anyone talk you out of your mission for God.