These notes from Paul Tothill were based on his message preached at Gateway Church on 3/6/18.
I want to speak about a very important part of our faith in Jesus Christ- courage. It will take courage for us to become who we are called to become and to do what God has called us to do in this world.
Courage comes from at least four sources according to Scripture and all relate to the strengthening and anointing that comes from the Lord:
The courage that comes from God through the Holy Spirit as a present grace.
The courage that comes from our calling.
The courage that comes from each other.
The courage that comes from strengthening ourselves in the Lord.
We are called to be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, an overcoming and pioneering people into this world. There is little doubt that God does not call us to the status quo. We are an advancing people, not a maintaining people. God has chosen us as His sons and daughters in Christ to live empowered and to bring forward His purposes in this world. To do that we are going to need courage- we are going to need to gain God’s strength at various times.
We cannot doubt the power of God in the person of the Holy Spirit working in us, upon us and towards us. As I said last week, everything flows from our divine connection of the Holy Spirit and entering into God’s rest, meaning living from His power working in us in all that we do. Even in our weakness, God’s strength works in us. Even when we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit shows us. Even when we do not feel like worshipping or giving thanks, the Holy Spirit leads us and inspires us. Even when we feel inadequate the Holy Spirit empowers us and gives us courage and faith to overcome and to live in what God has called us to live in as His witnesses and imagers.
By now, adopting a biblical worldview, and understanding that we are part of an unseen cosmic spiritual battle we should realise that we are going to face some opposition, some set-backs and some disappointments even frustrations in working out our salvation, coming into and fulfilling our calling and even being God’s community and the body of Jesus on earth.
It is not a smooth journey and mystery and suffering are a fundamental part of that journey. God knows that, and uses it all for our good and to fulfil His goal of perfecting our faith and establishing His Kingdom on earth through the power of the Gospel.
Yet, like Christ, in all of it we need to find the joy of the Lord. Because it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength- our courage.
There is a key of learning how to apply God’s grace and boldness as courage to our life to fulfil God’s purposes and calling. I can assure you no one is immune. And it would seem the greater the trust, greater the responsibility, anointing or authority, the deeper the journey and a need for understanding of the process and the necessity for courage.
On this I should make a point clear. Many people confuse gifts with calling. And calling with identity. First of all, your gift is not your ministry. It’s God’s ministry towards others through you. Your gift is for others and God requires that you come into it so that you can fulfil His purposes through you. Second, every single believer is chosen by God to become a son or daughter of God and to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. This is the imperative of Scripture, so that we are not only to be image bearers of Christ to the world, but also so we can fulfil our mandate to establish God’s spiritual rule and reign- His Kingdom on earth as it now is in Heaven. This is fundamental.
In that calling God has given us certain grace gifts, and redemptive gifts as they are sometimes called set out in Romans 12. The gifts are given for a body and church in a region to fulfil God’s calling and commission or mandate. So, each believer will have certain graces and gifts for the body to function well. Alongside of those gifts the believer will develop certain skills. They are for the body to achieve its purpose as a community within a region and in some cases beyond a particular region, city or nation.
Both identity, calling, graces and gifts operate and are developed in partnership with the Holy Spirit by pursuing our primary calling and our commission set out in Matthew 28:18; a restatement of Genesis 1:28. We do not pursue our gift ahead of or apart from our calling. That is to put things in wrong order in my present understanding.
To those God calls He also anoints, or empowers with a grace that comes from Him. There are different kinds of graces given to the body. There are different levels of anointing, different graces, and different realms of authority. Not everyone is a leader. Not everyone is a five-fold gift. Not everyone carries those graces or authority. So, we need to understand we are all chosen to be sons of God, all called to be a royal priesthood of an eternal order, all called to the great commission and within that the various realms of authority, anointing and graces are to function in partnership with God to achieve God’s purposes on earth both within the church and from the church.
The Holy Spirit works both within us, upon us and through us. The grace within is for us. It transforms our heart. The grace upon us or our anointing, even our gifts, and the spiritual authority we carry and church governmental authority some carry, are for a particular God purpose. They are primarily designed to serve God’s people in bringing them into maturity and into fulfilling God’s purposes as the church matures. In all of what we are saying we are going to need to know how to be courageous.
Let’s now turn to considering courage that comes as a present grace, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The first and most obvious example is Joshua in the Old Testament.
A PRESENT GRACE
JOSHUA ENTERING INTO THE PROMISED LAND
It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you; and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken. The Lord will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and to their land when He destroyed them. The Lord will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you: I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and courageous; be careful to do according to the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
When Joshua was being instructed to take God’s people into the Promised Land God told him to be bold and courageous. God tells us to be bold and courageous because normally uncertainty and possibly fear is stirring in the heart of those leading and His people. When He utters those words, there is a present grace as anointing and faith available for those who obey His words.
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
Then in the New Testament as another example, Paul was infamously wrestling with a situation he describes as a “thorn in the flesh”. He asked the Lord to remove it from him through prayer on three separate occasions. The Lord refused to do so, Paul believed, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations he received from the Lord and to keep him from exalting himself. Whilst that maybe true of course it was also for Paul to learn that God’s grace was sufficient for him, and that grace’s power is perfected in weakness.
This is important. In both occasions, things were intimidating for both Joshua and Paul. In Joshua’s case, he was transitioning a people from Moses and into a new future. That was uncertain, it was in a land they knew they would meet opposition and a certain amount of fear would have been real to him. They needed to have courageous faith to possess the promise. God’s encouragement was literally a present grace enablement for the faith task at hand. In fact, the Lord commanded Joshua to be bold and courageous and then enabled through his obedience to access a present grace of courage.
So, also with Paul. He was being tormented by and Angel of Satan. He had reasoned the necessity of humility was in play. He knew the value of process in his calling. In that process God was teaching him that His grace was sufficient and operated most powerfully in Paul’s weakness. This is of course true not just for Paul and Joshua but also for each of us. Then we have the example of courage that comes from the confidence of our calling.
CONFIDENCE IN OUR CALLING
Paul the apostle exhorted Timothy his son in the faith that “we have not been given a spirit of fear”, but the Holy Spirit gives you mighty power, love and self-control. He told him that he had “confidence of my calling” that enabled him to overcome every difficulty without shame. 2 Timothy 1:7
When we walk closely with the Holy Spirit we have a boldness that God’s mighty power, love and self-control gives us to overcome fear and to continue to ignite the power and confidence of our calling. Paul knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, who he was called to be and what he was called to accomplish by the grace of God. He knew he was first a son of God. His understanding was pinned to the Old Testament and the hope of Israel and the revelation he had received. He knew God by His grace or power and authority had called him to be an apostle. This calling was being established in him through every hardship and through every success. Paul adds that his calling also gave him confidence to overcome.
We know of course that he went through a horrendous time of opposition and hardship in bringing the gospel to the nations assigned to his work by God, even in the church at Corinth.
Paul did not go beyond his limits and his boundaries. Many who have been called by God as a five-fold grace gift to the church have this kind of calling deep within them. It is unshakeable. It is not a human desire. It is God’s grace that is operating deep inside your very being. It is also confined to a boundary or a metron.
2 Corinthians 11:25
“I have worked much harder for God, taken more beatings, and been dragged to more prisons than they. I’ve been flogged excessively multiple times, even to the point of death.
Five times I’ve received thirty-nine lashes from the Jewish leaders. Three times I experienced being beaten with rods. Once they stoned me. Three times I’ve been shipwrecked, for an entire night and a day I was a drift in the open sea. In my difficult travels, I’ve faced many dangerous situations: perilous rivers, robbers, foreigners, and even my own people. I’ve survived deadly peril in the city in the wilderness, with storms at sea and with spies posing as believers. I’ve toiled to the point of exhaustion and gone through many sleepless nights. I’ve frequently been deprived of food and water, left hungry and shivering out in the cold, lacking proper clothing.
And besides these painful circumstances, I have the daily pressure of my responsibility for all the churches, with a deep concern weighing heavily on my heart for their welfare."
This is a man God declared would suffer for His name, yet Paul remained courageous under the constant pressures he faced. He lived for something that was greater than him as a person, greater than his present worldview. It was the vision of him finishing the race and Him being a good steward with what God had given to him to do. To be found trustworthy with the trust that had been given to him. It was the vision of seeing God’s future Kingdom come on earth and him being an ambassador of Christ. It was the vision of His eternal reward. It was the vision of how He could be a part of something so amazing as to fulfil God’s purposes with his life. By operating in his calling as an apostle of Christ, from his identity as a son of God and His reverent love for Christ and a desire to constantly hold God’s purposes before him, he remained encouraged, in the strength of God. Even then he had to learn that in his own weakness and inability God’s grace- God’s strength and power was more than enough.
There is not a person that has not gone through a difficult time of mystery and suffering in outworking their development as a spiritual son or daughter or bringing forward the rule and reign of Christ in their life or who have been called to be a grace gift to the body of Christ. Every single believer will go through a process in their calling, developing their gifting and establishing their identity in the Father. If you haven’t, then you probably have not yet taken up your calling in a committed way.
In that process, when God is leading you, things working against you are working for you if you keep your focus on Christ and a confidence in your calling.
We don’t find our God-identity in our purpose or our gift. Many do. We find our identity in our relationship with God as a son or daughter of God. We reveal that identity in fulfilling God’s purposes through our life. We live from the reality of who we before God into the world. Because I am a son of God I fulfil God’s purposes to reveal my identity not to gain my identity.
I show myself to be a son of God by what I do. Many people define themselves by what they do not who they are. Something to think about there.
In that, however, we have been given different gifts and different spheres of spiritual authority and anointing. When we resist or work against the process of development of these things we can actually resist God and fix the boundaries of our inheritance and calling. This is something that the Holy Spirit has revealed to me as a cautionary warning, in the last week, that some people will actually fix the boundaries of their calling and their inheritance to something less than what God had for them because of their inability to walk out the process or frustration of wanting something ahead of time because their identity in Christ has not been established and thereby rejecting the process and people God has put in their life to take them into the fullness of who they are called to be.
Just last week, in a vision, I saw a prayer meeting and a particular person who was yelling as though they were deaf, amongst others who were not deaf. The person was shouting at God for things they wanted but they were deaf to what God was saying to them. The Holy Spirit warned that if people continue to do that then they will seal the boundaries of their calling. God will give them what they want but like Israel when they wanted a king, it will not be God’s best for them, and it will come with limitations and trouble.
To put it differently to explain the point, when a generation of people came out of Egypt they went through a process of renewing their mind. God taught them as He led them. But not all wanted to come into their future and preferred to resist God. In doing so, they fixed the boundaries of their personal inheritance. God had more for them, but because they chose not to embrace the process and to add to who they were and develop who they were, God caused their inheritance to die in the wilderness. They not God set their own limits. Another generation was needed to fulfil what the previous generation failed to embrace.
So it is with us. Our resistance to people God has put in our life for our benefit, to lead us, to be around us to develop us and to enlarge us and cause us to develop new skills and to bring us to maturity actually fixes the boundaries of our inheritance and our calling. To resist who God has placed in our life for our benefit is in fact to resist God through our own lack of understanding and therefore limits who we can become and how God can effectively use us. Jesus said clearly, “as they receive you they receive me.” We sometimes pray our self out of a process God will not compromise on instead of realising that God’s grace operates best in our weakness. Sometimes the “thorn in the flesh” is for your benefit to see God’s grace perfected in you.
Whilst Jesus said He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He won’t, we are also required to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
This is very sobering. We must be careful that we do not demand from God with all kinds of subtle threats to others and frustrated prayers and conversations what His love and development of us considers premature and ahead of time. He may just give you what you want and then set your boundaries to that thing. It is better to ask God what He wants to give us and walk with Him, as I said asking for a present grace of encouragement.
Thirdly, there is a courage that comes from each other.
COURAGE THAT COMES FROM EACH OTHER
It is clear that the bible, like that of history itself, is filled with courageous men and women of faith. Some leaders, some kings. But often enough it is ordinary people God has chosen to be courageous and do something spectacular in their circumstances. There is little doubt that we are all encouraged by courageous leadership, or the courage of someone under extreme pressure and how they handle that and rise above that. Overcomers stir courage in us. These testimonies of overcoming faith and courage inspire us all. They speak to the power of God’s present grace working in someone’s life.
When we allow another person’s life to inspire us or recognise the testimony of God’s grace working in them, it encourages us. We can say “I want to be courageous too!”. “If you did it for them, you can do it for me.” “I too am more than an overcomer in Christ Jesus who strengthens me”. God has no favourites. We allow their testimony to attract God’s grace of courage to our own life.
In addition, we have the encouragement that comes from each other to each other. We all know the sense of value and strength that comes when someone genuinely encourages us in what we are doing, who comes along and puts “wind in our sails”. Let’s take someone like Barnabas, an apostle of the New Testament, as an example this morning.
The name Barnabas means son of encouragement. His story is outlined in Acts 4:36. His real name is Joseph. He was a Cyprian Jew. He was a land owner, if not a property developer in modern language, and he generously sold off some of his land and brought the money to the apostles. This provoked the famous Ananias and Sapphira incident where they lied to others and the Holy Spirit about their own generosity.
It was Barnabas that courageously sought out Paul the Apostle. Paul the apostle, as Saul the Pharisee and persecutor had a horrible reputation with the Church. He was persecuting the church and even standing by and perhaps in charge of the stoning of Stephen as a zealous Pharisee. Now after his conversion Paul was a different man, but his reputation as Saul preceded him. Now, ironically the Jews were plotting to do away with Paul! It was in Jerusalem that he was trying to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. They were questioning his motives.
But it was Barnabas who took hold of him and brought him to the apostles. He was overcoming Paul’s previous reputation as Saul and putting his own personal reputation on the line to promote Paul before the disciples and Apostles. He stood with Paul as he preached and even as the Hellenistic Jews wanted to kill Paul. And because of Barnabas’ actions in encouraging Paul Acts 9:31 tells us, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”
Some of our great Gospel moments are attributed not to the person in the public’s view, but those people who are willing to stand with them against the persecution and “hold their arms up” in the exercise of the authority that has been given for a people or a region. Great people in public normally have great people behind the scenes standing with them.
We can never underestimate the necessity of encouragement and learning to stand with each other in the Gospel even against criticism and threats and the risk of our own reputation from those who do to understand. Too many times I have seen people do a “Peter”- denying they are with someone when they should be doing a “Barnabas”- standing with someone.
Paul needed a Barnabas and Barnabas and the church needed a Paul. As Paul stood in his calling, Barnabas was along-side him, partnering, offering encouragement standing with Paul against those who feared him from within and standing with Paul with those who wanted to kill him. Of course, Paul and Barnabas went on as apostles to partner in the Gospel. Because Barnabas was willing to stand with Paul he was positioned by God to partner with Paul and at Antioch sometime later, that is what happened. They lived for something bigger in their hearts that God anointed and caused increase through.
There is not a leader, not a person here today that does not need genuine encouragement in all the forms that it takes, whether through generosity, standing with and alongside someone else, or actually defending someone against a past reputation and even threats or gossip to see what God is presently doing. It requires us to look beyond ourselves and see what God is doing. Barnabas saw something bigger than his own reputation. He saw what God was doing and he joined in that.
Unfortunately, culturally we find it far easier to criticise and stand off from someone than we do to draw near, risk our own reputation and stand with someone in what is obvious God is doing through them for benefit of everyone. Some people actually think it is there job to “bring others down to earth”, to kick against the goads as it were. That is simply not a biblical proposition. We are to be encouragers not commentators.
So, let’s then be the source of encouragement to one another.
Stand as one with others even at the risk of our own reputation where we know God is moving powerfully through that person.
STRENGTHENING OURSELF IN THE LORD
Finally, we need to find courage by strengthening ourselves in the Lord. This is so very essential in all we do, especially when we find those moments in the processes of our development that shake us to our very foundations of the heart. The best example that I love in the Scriptures is David the shepherd boy, musician and future King of Israel in his defining moment before he was anointed as King of Israel.
David was not yet the King of Israel, but he had been anointed prophetically as the future king of Israel. He was in the process of becoming the King of Israel. He was living outside of Israel because of Saul the present King by title but not anointing. David had what I call his Ziklag moment. I personally have found great strength and guidance in this story.
1 Samuel 29 and 30 sets the scene. The Amalekites were the bitter foes of Israel. Their design generationally flowing from Esau was to oppose the birth right and inheritance of Israel. David was with his mighty men. He has taken these misfits in at Adullam’s cave (literally hiding place) and mentored them, trained them and equipped them. They had fought together.
The Philistines did not trust David to fight with them against Israel who was being led by King Saul although David had proved himself faithful and loyal in submission to Achish, also known as Abimelech in the Psalms, a Philistine ruler, since the day of him deserting Saul who threatened to kill him. So, they did not permit him to go to battle with them. This was God’s doing for good reason. David would never be in the position to kill Saul and be seen to usurp the Kingship of Israel. God would vindicate him and David would come into it with both provision and God’s timing. Sometimes denial works in your favour
Look how David’s service encouraged Achish, understanding how authority, submission and honour work to our mutual advantage. This submission was fundamental to his life journey to becoming a person who knew how to carry authority in his own right. How you follow another person reveals your heart for how you will lead others.
As the Lord lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the army are pleasing in my sight for I have not found evil in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, you are not pleasing in the sight of the lords. Now therefore return and go in peace that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.
David naturally enough questioned Achish about his loyal service. But Achish replied to David, “I know that you are pleasing in my sight, like and angel of God; nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, “He must not go up with us to the battle”. David then left and the Philistines went up to Jezreel. David’s rejection was confirmed. God had to get him elsewhere for His purposes, but rejection would again be increased to betrayal.
When they got to Ziklag, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag and had overthrown it and burned it with fire taking captive the women and all who were in it, and carried them off and went their way. When David and his men came to the city they saw all of this and that their wives and sons had been taken captive.
1 SAMUEL 30:4
Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was not strength in them to weep.
Moreover, David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
It was after David strengthened himself in the Lord he sought the Ephod and God’s clear direction how to respond in the situation.
This is a powerful reflection. David did not get moved by rejection and betrayal in the situation although there is little doubt he felt those emotions deeply. Betrayal in particular, public betrayal, is a bitter pill to swallow. Nor did he become driven by emotion to react. His emotion drove Him to worship- His safe place. He went to the Lord and strengthened himself, so that God’s heart was in his heart before he could hear God clearly for his response as God’s wisdom and timing into the situation. I believe this was a catalytic event that propelled David into His inheritance as King of Israel.
Too many people fail at this point because they do not strengthen themselves in the Lord and access a present grace. They prefer to go to others instead of going to the Lord. These times reveal more about what is in us than in those who have betrayed us. Sometimes we face difficult times. Things go against us. We get rejected. We get accused when things are simply not our fault. Joseph could say through his own journey, “God meant all these things for good” although at the time he would have been confused and asking God what was happening. He even tried to orchestrate his own way into his future which cost him even more time in prison. But looking back he could see clearly God was working it all for his good.
David could not be blamed for the actions of Amalekites but his mighty men in their emotion, grief and disappointment did exactly that. They projected their grief on to David and wanted to kill him. In his own grief and distress David had nowhere else to turn except the One who He loved and worshipped. The One who had shown Himself faithful. Sometimes we are led to carry these things only before the Lord.
I have no doubt that David poured out His heart before the Lord as the Psalms so often display. He would have been honest with his feelings and then He would have held the goodness of God before Him. He would have remembered how faithful God was, and he would have remembered his calling as a future king and galvanised himself in the Lord as the Psalms reveal. He would have found not only God’s grace in his weakness, He would have found a grace for the task ahead.
His safe place, a popular modern expression, was not a friend or a confidant. It was the safest place He knew. He sheltered himself in the Presence of God and gave Him the sacrifice of praise. The Psalms display a clear pattern of how David worshipped and the transforming and grace empowerment that the sacrifice of praise and strengthening yourself in the Lord produces.
God is always moving to put His strength as courage in us for more than we realise. This is a time to be bold and courageous in our faith. I encourage you to think again how you are going about things, how you are dealing with your developmental journey and how you are drawing strength from God and giving strength to others in their journey. Above all that you are finding the joy of the Lord in all of this that the joy of the Lord may be your strength. Only be bold and courageous Gateway.
Be encouraged and be blessed.
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