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Suns & Shields

By Rachelle Hamlin

 

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Ordinary Courage

By Rachelle Hamlin

Fort Fairfield Journal, August 21, 2013

Courage is a funny word. We think of courage as an attribute that is outside the normal sweep of our daily lives. Rarely do we consider courage except while watching the news or reading books about people whose lives suddenly demonstrate extraordinary courage. But if there is extraordinary courage, there has to be ordinary courage. We might be surprised someday, when we stand before the judgment seat of God, to find out that in His point of view, we were considered very courageous because we lived our lives with simple everyday ordinary courage.

It is easier to think about courage when we don’t see it. We feel discouraged after losing a basketball game at school, or if we lose a desired job, or if we lose money, health, or a loved one. These experiences produce compassion for others in similar circumstances. So, we step out of our ordinary routines and extend encouragement to someone going through hard times. It’s so natural we don’t give it a second thought, but at least we recognize the need for that person not to lose their courage.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles reveals something about how ordinary courage can become extraordinary courage from God’s perspective. Acts 23:11, “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” At that very moment 40 men from a divided Sanhedrin in Jerusalem were taking vows to fast until they managed to kill Paul. Paul’s nephew found out about this plot and went to the prison to tell Paul, and the authorities. They rushed Paul to the judge and by Chapter 26:32 King Agrippa is quoted saying “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Now if Paul had been set free, forty of his countrymen were waiting to murder him when he walked out the door. Paul already knew it was God’s will for him to go to Rome. Paul’s troubles were not over when he left the region under the safety of armed guards. The boat he was on sank in a fierce storm, but Paul knew he had business in Rome. Later the shipwrecked survivors were eating by a fire and a poisonous snake bit Paul. He shrugged it off. He was headed to Rome. Everyone thought that was quite extraordinary, except Paul. When he got to Rome, he was given his own home to live in while he awaited a hearing with Caesar. There he testified of Jesus for two years to all who would listen, without any fear of reprisal.

He faced discouragement along the way but, as we know, he brought the Good News of God with Us to Rome and through Rome to a great deal of the known world of his time. One word of warning from the Lord formed a strong foundation for Paul’s decisions. From then forward, his life would become a picture of extraordinary courage. To Paul, however, his life seemed hidden, he felt alone, the way was unclear, dangerous at times, boring at others. He did all the ordinary things that are necessary for us all to do: cook, clean, shop, wash, talk, sleep, eat. It does not seem to take courage to do these things. But it took every day courage to do them when his fate was completely unpredictable. It was the external circumstances he lived through that made his ordinary life extraordinary.

That moment when a doctor has to put his scalpel through the flesh of a fellow man or woman. That time when a brokenhearted girl needs to get up and get ready for her next class. The man who just got a pink slip at the plant and needs to let his pregnant wife know about it. That mother whose son just died of an overdose who has to make arrangements for a funeral. The families of chronic alcoholics, the ballerina whose leg is accidentally crushed, the list can get very long. We all need courage to continue to cook, clean, shop, wash, talk, sleep and eat sometimes. Life for all of us does demand courage. Yet we’ll do these hard things day in and day out without ever considering that this is courage working in us and in our decisions.

Where does that courage come from? For Paul it came from Jesus by way of a revelation. For me it comes from my faith. For some it comes from parental guidance, for others from a vision for their future; courage comes for different reasons. For many, courage is a way of life, so ordinary as to be invisible.

Courage is spiritual. Courage is good. Courage keeps us going, conveys dignity and heals.

 

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