The Call to Courage
Among a display of male statues (Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and others) in London’s Parliament Square, also stands a lone statue of a woman. The solitary woman is Millicent Fawcett, who fought for the right of women to vote. She’s immortalized in bronze and holding a banner displaying words she offered in a tribute to a fellow suffragist: “Courage calls to courage everywhere.” Fawcett insisted that one person’s courage emboldens others—calling timid souls into action.
As David prepared to hand his throne over to his son Solomon, he explained the responsibilities that would soon rest heavy on his shoulders. It’s likely Solomon quivered under the weight of what he faced: leading Israel to follow all God’s instructions, guarding the land God had entrusted to them, and overseeing the monumental task of building the temple (vv. 8–10).
Knowing Solomon’s trembling heart, David offered his son powerful words: “Be strong and courageous. . . . Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (v. 20). Real courage would never arise from Solomon’s own skill or confidence but rather from relying on God’s presence and strength. God provided the courage Solomon needed.
When we face hardship, we often try to drum up boldness or talk ourselves into bravery. However, God is the one who renews our faith. God will be with us. And God’s presence with us calls us to courage.
Shackled but Not Silent
In the summer of 1963, after an all-night bus ride, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and six other black passengers stopped to eat at a diner in Winona, Mississippi. After law enforcement officers forced them to leave, they were arrested and jailed. But humiliation wouldn’t end with unlawful arrest. All received severe beatings, but Fannie’s was the worst. After a brutal attack that left her near death she burst out in song: “Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.” And she didn’t sing alone. Other prisoners, restrained in body but not in soul, soon joined her in worship.
According to Acts 16, Paul and Silas found themselves in a difficult place when they were imprisoned for telling others about Jesus. But discomfort didn’t dampen their faith. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 25). Their bold worship created the opportunity to continue to talk about Jesus. “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house” (v. 32).
Most of us will not likely face the extreme circumstances encountered by Paul, Silas, or Fannie, but each of us will face uncomfortable situations. When that happens, our strength comes from our faithful God. May there be a song in our hearts that will honor the Lord and give us boldness to speak for Him—even in the midst of trouble.
“God Saved My Life”
When Aaron (not his real name) was 15, he began praying to Satan: “I felt like he and I had a partnership.” Aaron started to lie, steal, and manipulate his family and friends. He also experienced nightmares: “I woke up one morning and saw the devil at the end of the bed. He told me that I was going to pass my exams and then die.” Yet when he finished his exams, he lived. Aaron reflected, “It was clear to me that he was a liar.”
Hoping to meet girls, Aaron went to a Christian festival, where a man offered to pray for him. “While he was praying, I felt a sense of peace flood my body.” He felt something “more powerful, and more liberating,” than what he felt from Satan. The man who prayed told Aaron God had a plan and Satan was a liar. This man echoed what Jesus said of Satan when He responded to some who opposed him: “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Aaron turned to Christ from Satanism and now “belongs to God” (v. 47). He ministers in an urban community, sharing the difference following Jesus makes. He is a living testament of God’s saving power: “I can say with confidence that God saved my life.”
God is the source of all that is good, holy, and true. We can turn to Him to find truth.
Lisa felt no sympathy for those who cheated on their husband or wife . . . until after she found herself deeply unsatisfied with her marriage and struggling to resist a dangerous attraction. That painful experience helped develop in her a new compassion for others and greater understanding of Jesus’s words: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7).
Jesus was teaching in the temple courts when He made that powerful statement. A group of teachers of the law and Pharisees had just dragged a woman caught in adultery before Him and challenged, “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (v. 5). Because they considered Jesus a threat to their authority, the question was “a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him” (v. 6)—and getting rid of Him.
Yet when Jesus replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin . . .” not one of the woman’s accusers could bring themselves to pick up a stone. One by one, they walked away.
Before we critically judge another’s behavior while looking lightly at our own sin, let’s remember that all of us “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Instead of condemnation, our Savior showed this woman—and you and me—grace and hope (8:10–11; John 3:16). How can we not do the same for others?
The Heart of Fasting
Hunger pangs gnawed at my nerves. My mentor had recommended fasting as a way to focus on God. But as the day wore on, I wondered: How did Jesus do this for forty days? I struggled to rely on the Holy Spirit for peace, strength, and patience. Especially patience.
If we are physically able, fasting can teach us the importance of our spiritual food. As Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Yet, as I learned firsthand, fasting on its own doesn't necessarily draw us closer to God!
In fact, God once told His people through the prophet Zechariah that their practice of fasting was useless since it wasn't leading to service for the poor. "Was it really for me that you fasted?" God asked pointedly (Zechariah 7:5).
God's question revealed that the primary problem wasn't their stomachs; it was their cold hearts. By continuing to serve themselves, they were failing to draw closer to God's heart. So He urged them, "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor" (vv. 9-10).
Our goal in any spiritual discipline is to draw closer to Christ. As we grow in likeness to Him, we'll gain a heart for those He loves.