What Comes To Your Mind?
Courage . . . what springs into your brain as you ponder that particular word? Perhaps it is the example of the early church in proclaiming the Gospel amidst great persecution and opposition. Maybe a picture of Luther fighting against the Catholic church vividly comes forth in your mind. Then again, it could be men like our founding fathers who stood up against the tyrannical British government. Churchill’s stance against Hitler could be another courageous moment you might lock in upon, or it could be the impassioned bravery Bonhoeffer showed against the Nazis. Indeed, these are all courageous, dare I say even heroic moments of history we can and should be amazed by in life. Yet, I wonder if there is another illustration we might glance over, one that is all too common, all too simple, all too normal that we just might overlook it.
Perhaps when thinking about courage we immediately dart forth to specific moments of historical consequence. No doubt, there is good reason to give those a high place. However, in doing so, if we are not careful our view of life can be skewed. We can be prompted to only live for the moment when that final battle comes, that imminent moment of history encroaches, and neglect the beauty of everyday courage. Take William Carey as an example. The man is known as the father of the modern missions movement. We might look at him as one who must have some sort of singularly defining moment of greatness by which we can remember his life. Yet, Carey teaches us a lesson here, he says:
“If he give me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond that will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”1 -William Carey
What made Carey a great Christian man was not merely one defining moment that fleets away in the twinkle of an eye, but a lifetime of faithfulness. It was constant, steady dedication towards the same objective. No matter the obstacles, regardless of what stood in his way, he pushed forward simply plodding along at what Christ had called him to undertake. Carey’s life was remarkable precisely because he was committed to doing what from a human standpoint likely seemed to be unremarkable mundane work. He was a shoe cobbler and a Baptist preacher. In his labor, he sought to start a college in India, translate the Bible, plant botanical gardens, preach Christ, and much more. Imagine Carey, the father of the modern missions movement, out planting gardens in the dirt. Picture the painstaking hours of translating the Bible. Vividly imagine in your mind the trials of starting a college along with the duties of organization, administration, and practical details. Now, add to all of this the duty of making shoes to provide for his family. Carey described himself rightly, he was a plodder. He learned to be faithful and courageous each day in the seemingly small details of life. Yet, when each day compounds upon the next, the results were astounding. That, my friends, is an example of courage we must consider!
Most of us, will not have history books being penned to account for our life’s story. The overwhelming majority of us shall not have a singular moment of courage like Luther at the Diet of Worms. Neither shall we be famous or experience the unique life that comes thereby. More than that, we should be absolutely content with all these realities. John The Baptist, put it plainly, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).” Servants of Christ should not care about their fame, but His. Yet, it is precisely here that courage and contentment collide. It takes courage to live for eternity knowing the significance of each day.
Courage is seen in the father who goes out and earns a living to provide for his family, while teaching them biblical commands, leading his wife well, and serving in the local church. A mother demonstrates courage by raising her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, guiding them according to Scripture, and loving her husband. Pastors show courage, not just when they stand in the pulpit, but also when they visit the elderly woman whose husband is dying and they need biblical encouragement. Are these examples that shall be recorded in human history? Most certainly, the overwhelming majority of such instances shall not be remembered in the annals of this world’s historical accounts. But, we serve a Lord who sees all, knows all, and shall reward each and every good deed. It is His approval which we alone seek at the final judgment. Therefore, I contend these examples are every bit as courageous as the great moments we think about. How was the Gospel spread about in the Roman Empire during the early church? Beyond the shadow of a doubt, well-known figures like Paul, Peter, and John played a vital role. However, there are countless men and women who died as martyrs for Christ’s sake whose names we shall not hear till eternity. There are those individuals in the Bible such as Archippus who we hear about in passing, but know next to nothing of their ministry. Yet, each of these played a crucial role.
Plodding Courage Day by Day
For most of us, a famous moment of courage shall not be in the picture, nor should it be our goal. If such a moment comes, then let us be faithful in the midst of it, but steadfastness at that moment is built upon the foundation of a consistently lived life according to Scripture each day. So, let us see the beauty and wonder of everyday life. God gives some the gift to be preachers, others doctors, different individuals have the gift of construction, and still, others are called to be working in the home as wives and mothers. Some believers will go overseas on missionary journeys, others will never leave their home country in their entire life. The main point, keep plodding, keep working, and keep striving at what God has called you to. Have the courage to be faithful in the task He places before you. Courage to love others, to love God, and to delight in His Word. Just keep plodding along, and entrust the results to the Faithful Judge before whom we shall stand!