“We must obey God rather than human beings!”
How do you define courage? I’m not looking for a wordy definition you’d find in a dictionary; I’m looking for a practical description of courage. Peter and the other apostles provide that for us in Acts chapter 5. Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles faced fierce opposition. Jesus had commissioned them to be his witnesses. However, the people of power had commanded them to keep quiet. To whom would they listen? To continue preaching and teaching about Jesus would not only be unpopular, it could be deadly.
“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” the authorities lectured to Peter and the others. You can almost see the apostles dig in their heels and stiffen their backbones as they reply, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” What courage! But from where did it come? Wasn’t Peter the same one who lied about knowing Jesus several weeks earlier? Weren’t these the same apostles who locked themselves into a room after Christ’s death?
Peter and the apostles found courage in the same place we do—in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! You can almost see Jesus dig in his heels and stiffen his backbone as the Roman soldiers crown him with thorns and force a cross onto his shoulders. Resolutely, courageously Jesus faces the mockery, the suffering, and even the cruel crucifixion. Courageously he dies. Victoriously he rises. You will be my witnesses; he says to you and me.
This courageous Jesus carried our sins to the cross; he now asks us to carry his name to the world. Some will thank us for it. Some will urge us to keep quiet. With strength and courage that comes only from Jesus, we can dig in our heels, stiffen our backbones, and continue to preach and teach about Jesus.
Lord, you have told me to be your witness, to share your love with a world full of people who so badly need to learn of you. Give me courage, not in myself but in you. Help me to seize the opportunities to speak of your saving work whenever they arise. Amen.