What is your definition of bravery?
In 1995, Braveheart won 5 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson). Ignoring how questionably historically accurate it is (or indeed isn’t!) there are probably two most famous parts and quotes. The first is the speech Mel Gibson, as William Wallace, makes from horseback, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” and the second, the final cry of William Wallace, “Freedom!”. Many people, perhaps even including ourselves, consider the ease from lockdown our way back to the freedom we are used to. It is very exciting and some would argue long overdue however, if we are returning to and now have this freedom what are we now free to do?
From a church perspective, perhaps our most important is outreach which includes the outreach we do every day with everyone we meet, family, friends, work colleagues, strangers, shop assistants, etc. So, how brave are you? In Acts, Chapter 13 to 18, and actually for the majority of Acts, Paul demonstrates what a brave Christian is. No matter what he faces, no matter who speaks to him, his answer is always Jesus Christ.
In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.1 Peter Chapter 3 Verse 15
Paul’s answer is Christ…
I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.1 Corinthians Chapter 2 Verse 2
Paul travels throughout Acts. He starts at Gaza, and then travels to Jerusalem, Joppa, Samaria, Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch, Tarsus, Cyprus, Paphos, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Laodicea, Antioch, Miletus, Patmos, Ephesus, Smyrna, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Macedonia, Melita and finishes in Rome – that is a lot of places! He was shipwrecked, put in prison, whipped, beaten, stoned and left for dead. He faced robbers, thieves, ridicule, hunger, thirst – that is a lot of suffering!
Paul is a missionary. Picture a missionary; we imagine Paul. We imagine the hardship, the constant moving, the fear and danger. However, perhaps we should look in the mirror? We are missionaries, in our own towns, villages, homes, work places, schools. We face the challenges and hardships and fears (and frustrations) – different challenges to Paul certainly but these are challenges.
What will you do with your new found “freedom”? What will you do when faced with the question, why do you believe what you believe? Why do you do what you do? If you are brave enough to answer “Jesus” then you are a missionary after Paul’s heart but, what is even better, you are fulfilling Christ’s commandment, the great and final commission:
However, and this is where it all gets very interesting, God isn’t asking you to be like Paul, you have to be you!
Where does our great commission begin? It begins as we get up each morning. It begins where you are, right here and right now. At some churches there is a sign as you walk out of the door that proudly proclaims, “You are now entering the Mission Field”. It is absolutely true. What you say, what you do, who you are, proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ until He comes again. Paul did it and faced suffering and hardship – but he followed the instruction that was given to him by his Lord, by his God, by his commander and chief, “Go!”, go and tell people. Enjoy the Great Commission – it is a privilege and an honour to be part of God’s plan!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending us your son Jesus, that in him we have freedom, forgiveness and eternal life.
May Jesus be our model. Help us to love, without considering what we might gain in return. Help us to ‘go’ and to ‘make disciples’ of others. Give us the necessary courage to be bold, holding on to your promise to journey alongside us.
Help us, with simple words, to explain the warmth within our hearts that we experienced in that first encounter with your love and grace – the Spirit’s flame, still burning bright within – that others, in their own journeys of discovery might reach out and touch the hand that’s always there, and be embraced by love.
May we be ready to abandon our own ways and to walk that narrow path that is your way for us. Give us courage and reassure us that there is true freedom here. And be our guide Lord, we pray, for the sake of you Son, who gave up everything for us.