Courage has always been an essential quality of God's people. What exactly is it? According to Webster's, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, to persevere, and to withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
The Bible addresses the theme of courage in many places because God has always wanted His followers to be strong and to persevere. Before Moses' death, he challenged the children of Israel to have courage - "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deut. 31:6). God delivered words of courage to Moses' assistant in Joshua 1:6,7 - "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go."
There are other examples that could be cited, but I would like to focus our attention at this time upon the courage of a man named Ananias. We know very little about this man, other than what is revealed by the inspired writer Luke. Let us read Acts 9:10-22 and then enumerate five points concerning Ananias' courage:
"Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' So the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.' Then Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.' And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, 'Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?' But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ."
Although the word "courage" is not used in that context, the concept of it is clearly seen in the life of Ananias.
1. ANANIAS' COURAGE CAUSED HIM TO BE READY.
Ananias' response to the Lord's call was a simple: "Here I am, Lord" (Acts 9:10). This reminds me of those of old, like Samuel and Isaiah. When God spoke to Samuel, he answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears" (I Sam. 3:10). Isaiah responded, "Here am I! Send me" in response to God's question as to whom would go (Isa. 6:8).
All of these responses show a courageous readiness to serve God and fulfill His will. We too need to possess this brave readiness! We need to be ready to preach that gospel as Paul did. Romans 1:15,16 - "So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation..." Paul was not ashamed to boldly proclaim the truth. Peter exhorts us to be ready to give a good answer to those who would question our beliefs and practices as Christians. I Peter 3:15 - "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." Additionally, we need to be ready to do good unto all men. Galatians 6:10 - "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." Friends, are we ready and courageous enough to do these things faithfully?
2. ANANIAS' COURAGE CAUSED HIM TO PONDER GOING WHERE HE NORMALLY WOULD NOT HAVE GONE.
Without divine instruction, Ananias--like all of the other Christians living in that era--would have done his best to keep his distance from Saul of Tarsus. However, since the Lord commanded him to go to Saul, Ananias would consider it and then obey exactly as God expected.
What about you and me? Have you ever wanted to talk to a loved one about Christ but were afraid of what they might think? Have you ever thought about talking to a fellow employee but were afraid that he or she might get upset with you? Dear listeners, why worry? Will we be thrown into prison or killed, as many early Christians suffered? Such is very unlikely, but even if it were likely, such should not stop us from taking courage and starting conversations we might otherwise be reluctant to initiate. We must not allow cowardice to cripple us from being evangelistic! Our friends, neighbors, and co-workers need the gospel--as does the rest of the world! Let us muster up the courage to obey the Great Commission to the best of our ability - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16).
When we feel apprehensive about sharing the gospel, such only proves that we are human. But, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7). Let us take courage and serve the Lord as His word directs, even if we are timid and feel uneasy.
3. ANANIAS' COURAGE CAUSED HIM TO BE SENSIBLE.
Ananias' response to God's command showed him to be knowledgeable about current events. He was well informed about the terrible persecutor, Saul of Tarsus. Those who are wise today will likewise be knowledgeable about what's going on in the church and in the world. We need to know who the faithful are and also be able to identify those who would destroy the cause of Christ.
As Ananias reported what he knew about Saul to the Lord, I do not believe that Ananias was trying to forsake his work. I do believe, however, that he wanted some assurance that he was understanding God properly. After all, who among us--if put in Ananias' position--would not have responded in a similar fashion? "Lord, you want me to go to the persecutor of Christians and help him?" That's exactly what God desired, and Ananias was not resistant to this request but wanted to be certain of the situation. Ananias was sensible in his courage, not arrogant or foolish.
There are times to flee from one's enemies. For example, Jesus fled from His persecutors on several occasions - "Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:59; cf. Luke 4:30). However, in Ananias' case running away would have been the wrong action (as was the case for Jonah, also). God had commanded Ananias to go, and Ananias did go, after making sure he understood God correctly. Christians today must understand that obeying God is always the most sensible thing to do! We must consider our circumstances, make righteous judgments (John 7:24), and always submit to God's will. It takes courage to follow this path and not allow fear to dictate our actions.
4. ANANIAS' COURAGE CAUSED HIM TO BE RECEPTIVE TO GOD'S WORD.
Ananias was ready and equipped to do what was needed. The Lord would not have chosen him for the task otherwise. Once Ananias understood that God meant exactly what He said, he went immediately. His courage motivated him to receive and obey God's word. Christians are sometimes reluctant to embrace the truths of God's word fully because of fear. May it never be so with you or me!
The Lord often has a higher purpose than our finite minds can grasp, and this was definitely the case here. The conversion of this persecutor would impact the world for good in ways that only God could fully comprehend at that moment. Consider the inspired words from Isaiah 55:8-11 on this point - "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.'"
It is not our duty to fully understand the reasons why God has commanded what He has in the Scriptures. It is our duty to receive His word and obey. Ananias, even with the explanation God offered for His command, didn't fully comprehend the significance of what he was about to do. But, he was ready to courageously serve, even with the feelings of uneasiness he no doubt carried with him.
I cannot think of a task that would require much more courage than that which Ananias was asked to do. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that you would have courage like Ananias and be able to obey any command of the Lord if He spoke to you directly. God speaks to all of us through His word, and He makes requirements of us! If we are people of true courage, the divine instruction of the Scriptures will be sufficient to motivate us to obedience. Our courage would not be increased to hear God's heavenly voice anymore than it would be to read His commands from the pages of Scripture!
5. ANANIAS' COURAGE HELPED CAUSE GREAT RESULTS.
Saul of Tarsus would become one of the greatest evangelistic forces the world has ever known! And to think, the courage of Ananias was critical to making Saul's conversion a reality!
What if Ananias had been afraid to go to Saul and tell him what he needed to hear? What if he had been too scared to travel to the street called Straight and tell that terrible persecutor that he needed to get up and be baptized in order to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16)? Ananias did not go and tell Saul that he just needed to believe in Jesus. He was not afraid to share the saving gospel truth in its fullness, and that is what we must do today!
We never know what impact a person we convert will have upon the world. Who knows whom they may convert? Ananias did not realize the great ministry that Saul would embrace so fully. He had no idea how many thousands of lives Saul would touch with the truth. He could not even imagine that Saul would be responsible for writing approximately half of the New Testament books. Ultimately, Ananias did not fathom the impact his act of courage would have! Likewise, we today have no real understanding of the great things the Lord has in store for those who courageously obey Him fully! All we can do is trust Him and sow the seed of the kingdom abundantly (cf. Matt. 13). There is simply no way to know what might be accomplished by a person you convert to Christ!
May we look to Ananias for strength and an example of the type of courageous living that God expects from us all. It is not always easy to obey God's will, but we must be strong and bury our feelings of uneasiness. Remember, God has not given us a spirit of fear. Cowardice is of the devil! "But the cowardly...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.