I decided to sit down with my boys over the Christmas break and have a talk with them.
We’ve already had THE talk about the birds and the bees. Trent is now 14 and Troy is 12. Like it or not, they’re well on their way toward the battles of life.
In fact, we regularly talk about the big issues of sex, drugs and drinking. We have a mantra in our home which both boys can recite.
When asked, “What is the order of success in this life?” They will respond, “Completing college, getting married and having children…and in that order!”
Of course, I’m speaking of the earthly attributes that both Scripture and social science confirm over and over again. If you accomplish these milestones in this order, you’re in a good position to do well.
Most importantly, they know that loving God, believing in His son Jesus Christ and living a life that honors God is the foundation for everything.
This time, we talked about their character not their goals.
I asked them what God might ask them to do this coming year that will require courage.
This question was sparked by a Christmas gift I received from a friend: a simple cross with the word “courage” inscribed upon it. My friend told me the gift signified what he saw in me: courage.
I’m humbled by such an observation. Naturally, we all like to hear when people see good things in our lives. We like to be recognized and encouraged.
Yet, can I let you in on a little secret?
Inside, I don’t feel all that courageous. I feel very average. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a compliment when it comes my way. The Lord uses people to inspire us, and yes, even to recognize positive godly attributes in our character. But as Chuck Colson once said to me while we were having lunch, “You’re just a regular guy, aren’t you?” He later told me, “I like that!”
The boys provided solid answers to the question, but as a good parent should always do, I asked myself the same question:
How does God want me to show courage this coming year?
The answer might be very simple for you.
“I will show greater courage by (fill in the blank).”
Given my role as president of Focus on the Family, I’m pondering this on several levels.
Is it standing up to evil? Yes.
Is it being merciful toward non-believers? Yes.
For some it might be having the courage to face things in your life that destroy your witness for Christ, like your anger, your gossiping, your pride or planning to divorce your spouse for unbiblical reasons.
It takes great courage to live up to the standards of the New Testament. The standard Jesus told us is straight forward – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Just two things to do. Sounds easy. That is, until you start to apply them.
Who is your neighbor? Well, it’s not just the person who thinks and acts like you, but the person who is not of your “tribe.” The outsider. “The Samaritan,” Jesus said. Instead, you’re to love that person like you love yourself.
That takes courage!
In this New Year, how will God ask you to show courage?
What I’ve found is that God tends to work on the inside of our hearts first. Perhaps that is the greatest act of courage, to look at the log in our own eye before we go after the speck in our brother’s eye. It is so easy for us to judge others rather than to love them. Loving them, like the Gospel of Luke in the 6th chapter describes, along with so much of the New Testament, takes great courage.
The same friend who gave me the cross once told me he knew someone who could spell the word love, but did not truly know the meaning of love.
As a Christian, to know how to spell love is not enough. We must be able to demonstrate love.
So again, let me pose this question to you:
How is God asking you to show courage this year?