Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.
On today’s show, I think it’s time to check out the view from the back pew with The Backrow Baptist, who right now is thinking hymn books weren’t such a bad idea as he’s having his usual trouble clapping and singing to the beat while also squinting to see the words to the worship song on the projector WAY up in the front.
He won’t move up, of course, ‘cause the back pew is where he takes in the big picture view of what’s happening in the church today. And one thing he sees that’s troubling him today is a serious lack of something God has told us all to have – COURAGE.
As the days get scarier in our world and our culture, courage is in shorter and shorter supply among those of us with a Christian faith and worldview. Now, according to the Bible, this should be a time when our faith is proven, because opposition, and then persecution, are what test our faith and refine it by fire, resulting in great reward. But so many in the Church today are actually stepping back instead of standing firm or even stepping forward into the fight.
Many of us are worried about the churches reputation, or our own, or our earthly security. Which is understandable. Our culture is intimidating these days. For the first time, we Christians are facing hostility in what was always at least a nominally Christian culture in a country founded on Judeo/Christian values.
But now we’re seeing a huge and fast transformation that can only go badly for anyone who doesn’t bow to a secular, post-modernist and progressive agenda. We’ve never faced this before, although for most of my life, there have been Christian leaders predicting this would come. Very few of us actually believed them, or if we did believe them, we never thought it’d be this sudden or this serious.
Other Christian leaders either ignored or even denied the direction our culture was going. Many have even went along with these changes, and still are. Too many are either intimidated into silence or even compliance, because they’re concerned about being seen as intolerant or lacking compassion, or they don’t want to be defined by what they’re against, or any number of other such rationalizations for being just plain scared of a world that’s growing more and more opposed and hostile to us.
And I understand it, because it scares me, too.
Nobody who has grown up enjoying the religious and political freedoms of American life wants to face up to or even admit the fact that our liberties are being threatened or taken away. Denial is pretty appealing in times like this.
But I think that’s why the Bible tells us to be courageous (and strong. Strong usually goes hand in hand with courageous). It just doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
One of the most courageous guys in the Bible was Joshua, or at least he was the guy who seemed to need it most, because God kept telling him time and time again to be strong and courageous as he took the promised land for Israel. If you know the story, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones out of all the spies Moses sent into the land that weren’t afraid of the people they’d have to conquer, so he was a pretty brave guy to begin with. But God had to keep telling him to be strong and courageous, so his task must have been a scary one. Much scarier than what we’ve faced so far.
But my favorite example of courage in the Bible is David. I love his reaction when Goliath was challenging the Israelites to fight. If you know that famous story, you know that for forty days Goliath taunted God’s army, and the Israelites did nothing. Then David shows up in 1 Samuel 17, sees what’s going on and asks:
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
All anyone else could see was Goliath’s size and strength, and they were afraid. Who wouldn’t be?
It took someone like David, who only saw how big God was. David knew Goliath was no match for the living God, and he knew that if he were the one brave enough to face Goliath, a great reward would be his.
It seems to me that this should be our approach now.
As big and corrupt as our government is, as nasty as our media can be towards us, as intimidating as the various political agendas that have their spears pointing at us are, the greater reward we will have if we courageously face them and oppose their defiance of the living God.
Because the battle is His. Joshua and David knew it. Do we?
That’s today’s word from the back pew, courtesy of the Backrow Baptist.
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).
Today’s witnesses come from Russia:
“Is it my birthday today, or yours?” the young Christian asked, a twinkle in her eye.
“Yours today,” said her father. “Mine was last week.”
For Christians in Communist nations, birthdays were a great excuse to get together with other believers. Some families would gather each week for a birthday party that was really an underground church service.
Young people used these “parties” to strengthen their commitment to the gospel. In 1966 in Russia, three young boys and four girls were arrested for singing a hymn on a train.
In court, the seven young people fell to their knees. “We surrender ourselves into the hands of God,” they said in front of the judge and the gathered witnesses. “We thank you, Lord, that you have allowed us to suffer for this faith.”
After their confession, other Christians in the courtroom began to sing the very hymn for which the kids had been arrested. They said, “Let us dedicate our youth to Christ.”
The Communists couldn’t stop the church from meeting and growing. One Russian newspaper told of a pastor who had been sent to prison three times. Each time he was released, he immediately went and held Sunday school meetings.
These believers used whatever means possible to express their loyalty to God. They risked and suffered the condemnation of their country in service to God’s church.
And again, as we so often see in the great cloud of witnesses, unflinching faith and yes, courage in the face of terrible Earthly consequences. Can we summon the same courage in our minor troubles? That’s the question as the great cloud of witnesses, including these faithful Russian believers, is surrounding us.
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media Network at www.e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends, and even you pastor about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast. Be blessed!