History is a funny thing. When we look back through time we see people in the context of who they eventually become, NOT in the context of what they faced along the way.
Because of that historical distortion, it’s easy to forget just how tough the lives of Biblical saints would have been if we saw them play out their stories in real-time, with an uncertain outcome awaiting them.
Think of the towering examples in scripture like Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah… or more recently, the Apostles, not to mention a parade of faithful men and women down though time who often stood, like Athanasius ‘Contra Mundum’ (Against The World).
Some of them changed the world, some were chewed up and spit out by it. But either way, they held fast to their courage and remained faithful.
It’s easy to shrug as though that kind of courage is a rare and special gift to special people in special circumstances. That it’s NOT something we can see in our own lives here and now.
Our Adversary is certainly HOPING we’ll think of ourselves in those terms. We’d be a far less serious threat to him that way.
Abraham was the Father of the Faith, right? Sure. He believed God and it was accounted him as righteousness. He was prepared to sacrifice his own son.
But he also wavered at the promise. He laughed when God promised a son through his WAY-past-menopausal wife. He tried to lower the bar for God and make it more achievable.
The powerful local warlord was also timid in the face of a stronger ruler like Pharoah — and made Sarah (formerly Sarai) claim to be merely his sister (and not his wife) — TWICE. He did it because he was afraid.
What about Moses. He wasn’t gutless in the face of Pharoah, was he?
No, but like so many others, he was terrified of public speaking. Does this really sound like a ‘mighty man’ of faith?
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. — Exodus 4
David faked insanity so he could live among the Philistines, while busily ducking the wrath of King Saul.
Elijah, right after his dramatic victory over the Prophets of Baal, calling down fire and seeing the false prophets killed, bravely ran away when the Queen threatened to kill him.
Even the Apostles were no better. The TWELVE who walked with Jesus in the flesh scattered like children when Jesus was arrested. And Peter himself cussed a blue streak when a servant girl ‘outed’ him as a disciple.
Those are some real ‘profiles in courage’, right?
That’s the point. They were all like us. In a passage talking about prayer, we are reminded:
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. — James 5:17-18
These are not a different class and quality of person. They were the same broken, fallible people we are today… with a twist.
SOMETHING made them bold.
SOMETHING made them courageous.
SOMETHING made them the kind of people that can flip a city on its head by speaking a few words in public.
It’s not often that we would cite a quote from Nietzsche in any positive sense, but he once said that ‘he who has a ‘why’ can endure any ‘how”.
What set the Saints of Old apart from the more ordinary figures of history?
SOMETHING made them care more about God’s opinion of them than the world’s opinion of them.
SOMETHING made them decide that the fear isn’t going to stop them from doing what they knew they must do.
SOMETHING made them care more about Heaven’s opinion of them than man’s opinion of them.
There is a reason the milquetoast PC preacher doesn’t often change the world. He’s busy trying to walk the line between angering the world and angering God.
Sometimes, there IS no fence to straddle… it’s a chasm and you’ll have to choose.
People who are bold, and have conviction stand apart in this world.
Are you willing to be such a person?
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