Real Courage

Imagine the scene: you’re in front of a bunch of people, all looking for an explanation. They’ve just seen something they’ve never seen before. Something they can’t explain. As a result, they’ve accused you and your friends of being drunk. Of being stoned. Of being out of it. But it’s first thing in the morning and none of those things are true. Not only that, but the guy who would normally step up and answer back is gone. As for you, you’re just a simple working man or woman. You’re blue collar. Certainly you weren’t born and bred to speak to crowds and sway them with your words. You know what’s it like to put in an honest day’s (or night’s) work. But to give a speech to sway public opinion? That isn’t you.

But if you don’t speak out, the accusations are going to stand. The rumors will grow. And the leader you followed, the one who no longer stands beside you, will continue to be ridiculed and abused. You look to the other guys and no one else is coming forward. It’s you or nobody. Do you step up? Do you put your own fears aside (because certainly they are there) and address the crowd? Do you try and find the words to stop the accusations and give an explanation for the events that have just taken place? What do you do?

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. – Acts 2:14, NIV

Peter stepped up. And when he did, he delivered a sermon for the ages. From the world’s perspective, this was as unexpected as the miraculous coming of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost. As to Peter’s qualifications, here they are:

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. – Mark 1:16-18, NIV

Simon, called Peter, was no practiced and polished preacher. He was a simple fisherman who had the opportunity to walk with the Savior during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had been called by Christ and he answered that call, leaving everything behind. Others had received a similar call, for Andrew was called at the same time. If we read the next few verses in Mark, we see that James and John were also fishermen who received the call. Of those called, one stepped forward, overcame his fears, and addressed the crowd. That man was Peter. And when I say he delivered a sermon for the ages, here’s the proof:

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. – Acts 2:41, NIV

The very folks who had accused the disciples of being drunk on wine heard Peter’s words. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached his heart out, presenting the Gospel. And among those accusers, some 3000 went from scoffing and belittling the disciples to joining them. That was some sermon!

This has real application to us today. Many times we are afraid to confront folks with the Gospel. What drives us not to share is our fear of rejection. It would probably be a different story if we knew that when we walked up to someone and shared the Gospel with them they would say, “Thank you, I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Yes, I will pray to accept Jesus with you right now.” If we knew we would always have success, I doubt we would have too many problems speaking to everyone we could. But that’s not the case. Some don’t want to hear the Gospel. Others are being worked over by the Holy Spirit but are still struggling with God. And those folks could give us a courteous response back but a response that still means, “No, thank you,” or something far, far worse, even violence. So we don’t share.

The problem is, we’ re in the same boat as Peter (pun intended). Many of us haven’t been specifically trained in public speaking. But our Savior is still being attacked and ridiculed by the world. It’s one of Satan’s greatest ploys: get them believing that Jesus wasn’t real, or that there isn’t a God at all, and they can’t possibly come to Him. This isn’t going to stop any time soon. It’ll continue until Christ returns in victory. The question is, do we step up like Peter, or do we hang back with the crowd?

One definition of courage I like is this, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Rather, it is action in the face of it.” It can be downright frightful having to approach another person, especially family or a close friend, and attempt to share the Gospel with him or her. However, if we don’t, we let the accusations continue to fly. We permit the belittling of our Savior. And we also could be letting down the person we were to witness to. If the salvation offered by God is the greatest gift ever and we can help others receive it freely, when we don’t share it, we’re not helping others receive this gift.

Peter was a blue collar guy who found the courage to share the Gospel when he needed to. He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to help him step forward, to say the right words, to be used by God to deliver His message. And Peter saw 3,000 people added to the believers that day. If Peter can find the courage, so can we. If the Holy Spirit can overcome Peter’s “lack of training,” He can overcome any deficiencies we might have, too. The onus is on us. Are we willing to step forward and present an accurate accounting of our Savior and the gift He offers? God will help us. If only we are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 9:8)

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