Are You a Coward?

Cowardice is a sin. Did you know that?

That shocks me every time I remember it. Maybe because I seldom hear it preached.

We modern American Christians are pretty soft. We think we’re being persecuted if someone looks at us funny because we have our Bible out at lunch time or if we catch someone rolling their eyes when we look up from saying grace. Our felt need for courage isn’t that great right now but it’s not like that in most every other part of the world.

In many countries, people kill Christians simply for being Christians. Do a quick Google search for modern martyrs and you’ll find a ready supply of men, women and children who have been beaten, imprisoned or murdered for identifying themselves with Jesus Christ – in China, Colombia, many Mid-Eastern countries and all across the globe.

The on-line dictionary says that a martyr is one who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion; a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle; or a great or constant sufferer. They’re out there. Believers who experience daily the need for courage and who understand the price of cowardice.

God’s pretty serious about this bravery thing. When the Israelites were planning to march against the Midianite army under Gideon, God told Gideon his army was too BIG! He wanted Israel to know that their strength came from Him, not from their numbers so he ordered Gideon to send away every man who trembled with fear. The Bible says that twenty-two thousand men left while ten thousand remained.

Eventually God whittled Gideon’s army down to three hundred men and they defeated their enemy. The everlasting lesson being that three hundred brave men and God is better than thirty-two thousand men who quake with fear.

The Israelite leaders were actually under orders from God not to bring frightened men into battle. In Deuteronomy 20, God told them “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” They were ordered to ask the soldiers: “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.”

Over three hundred and sixty-five times in scripture, we are commanded NOT to be afraid and in Revelation, first in the list of those who find their place in “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” along with murderers, idolaters and liars are the COWARDLY. Braveheart isn’t just a movie, my brothers and sisters; it’s the way of life for those who follow Jesus Christ.

There is no place for cowardice in the army of God because if we truly know who it is we follow into battle, we will not fear. We who experience the great freedom from persecution that we do in America or Europe should be in prayer for those who suffer in the rest of the world. I also believe we should make it a habit, a spiritual discipline even, to face whatever we fear and conquer it in the name of Jesus Christ.

I experience cowardice in the face of many things but through Christ, I believe I can renounce cowardice and train my heart for courage – even me whose heart beats faster just climbing the stairs from a dark basement. Life is good and it is a gift from God. I don’t believe anyone should seek out martyrdom unless they are called but I do believe we should train our hearts for courage so we are prepared should martyrdom show up on Main Street.

It’s not enough to simply give our lives over to Jesus, show up at church and give up obvious immorality. Are we satisfied with being merely defenders of the faith or are we ready to march into enemy territory and claim new ground, new hearts, new souls for the kingdom of God? We have to go deeper, all the time deeper with Jesus.

So, how about you? Are you content being a church mouse or are you ready to be a Braveheart? Will you be an overcomer, receiving a white stone with your own name from the Jesus Christ or will you be looking at a white feather knowing your name is Coward?

Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you out.  I’m calling us all out.  I’m starting to hear hoofbeats – how about you?

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    The Conversation

  1. Just got caught up on your last three posts. You have blessed and challenged me, as always. I’m sorry things are so rough right now, but I really appreciate your candor and your stubborn faith. Thanks for going deeper and encouraging the rest of us to head that way too.

  2. Sometimes. That’s my answer. Sometimes I’m a coward.

    It helps me to remember the massive cloud of witnesses–those who have completed the race. It helps to be surrounded by the brave at heart. I find when I’m surrounded by weenies, I too become a weenie.

    This post is dear to me as I have been challenged in this area. I hate the fear that creeps in and makes us all question and doubt. I hate that stupid white feather. I want to be brave. I want to be strong. So, I look to Christ who is both, and I hope I will one day reflect His image of bravery into the world. It’s something we can never have enough of.

  3. Thank you for this awesome teaching on fear, it certainly does make us question and doubt. I will use this as my devotional this week. I love the title of the book by, Anne Graham Lotz, Just Give Me More of Jesus.” That’s my prayer to have more of Jesus, a deeper and deeper relationship with Him! Hugs, Rita

  4. Betsy, I like that phrase “stubborn faith”. Boy, do I have that in spades! Thanks for your prayers.

  5. Shannon, I too struggle with fears, I’ve blogged about it alot (Courage in the Face of Cool, Be Afraid, Be very Afraid, A Lethal Weapon Kind of Faith, etc). I’ll pray for you as I pray to conquer my own fears. I take heart that the same disciples who fled from the garden were also the ones who faced persecution and martyrdom with bravery – once they were filled with the Holy Spirit. We, too, are filled with that same spirit and we WILL have whatever courage our circumstances call for. Stand firm, sis.

  6. Thank you for coming by, Rita. I love the writing of Anne Graham Lotz, too. There’s a spiritual I love called “Give Me Jesus” – In the morning when I rise, just give me Jesus! It all comes down to Him doesn’t it! Go ever deeper with Jesus.

  7. Diana says:

    Once again Lori, and awesome post!
    I am still dealing with wanting to be a coward to prevent more pain from others. After being hurt so bad, it is hard to get out there and stand up for what I believe in.
    Thanks for a reminder that that is what I need to do and what Christ wants of me.

  8. Praying for your continued healing, Diana. It will come and so will the courage. I am terribly afraid of deep water but if one of my children fell in, I wouldn’t hesitate. So it is that the more we love Christ and the more our love for others grows, the more courage we have when faced with deep waters.

  9. Cheri says:

    Wow! God uses you to inspire me, Lori. Every post. Amazing!

    Hearing that “cowardice” is a sin was just a startling to me as when God told me self-sufficiency is a sin.

    You said: “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.” It’s true. When we grumble and complain, give a bad report, we dishearten those around us and steal their joy and their faith. I’ve had it happen to me; I’ve been in a posture of faith, and when the fearful person shares their fear, I find myself fearful too.

    You said: I also believe we should make it a habit, a spiritual discipline even, to face whatever we fear and conquer it in the name of Jesus Christ. This is how I face confrontation, because it intimidates me to have to confront someone, even my own kids. And it is how I face speaking to a group of people; I am terrified to get up in front of a bunch of people and speak, but I find that every time I forge ahead and do it anyway, “do it afraid” so to speak, that it becomes that much easier the next time around.

    You said: I do believe we should train our hearts for courage so we are prepared should martyrdom show up on Main Street. I couldn’t agree with you more!

    Hugs and blessings,

  10. Karen says:

    I came over from Cheri’s blog…great post…I am ready to be a Braveheart!