By LESLIE LUDY
When the famous missionary Mary Slessor was a young woman in Scotland, she was faced with a life-changing test of courage. Working in a dangerous inner-city area, she was preparing to teach a Bible study lesson to a group of children when a gang of trouble-making teenage boys surrounded her, jeered at her and threatened her with torture unless she would agree to stop teaching about Jesus. The boys pinned her hands behind her back, and the gang leader swung a jagged razor-edged hook just inches from her face with taunts and threats, but Mary stood her ground. She looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t care what you do to me,” she stated, “I will not stop teaching about Jesus.” In anger, the boy swung the hook and gouged her forehead. But even as blood trickled down her face, Mary would not relent.
Taken off guard by Mary’s incredible boldness, the gang leader finally put down his weapon and told the other gang members to back off. Without missing a beat, Mary invited them to attend the Bible lesson and by the end of the day, the gang leader had given his life to Christ.
Years later, this kind of unflinching courage would prove to be invaluable to Mary as she trekked into the deepest jungles of Africa where demons and witchcraft controlled the territory. Because Mary chose to put her life entirely in the hands of God, she was able to boldly face threatening situations that would have caused most others to crumble under the extreme trauma and stress. And it was this kind of courage that made Mary one of the most effective, world-changing missionaries in history.
Just where does this kind of amazing courage come from? Is it just a special gift that some people are blessed with? Or can world-changing courage be attained even in those of us who don’t feel naturally gifted with boldness?
To answer this question, we must first understand what real courage is. Our culture would like us to believe that true courage is found in uninhibited self-expression. You know, those ever-popular messages that tell us, “Go ahead, just be YOU! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks! Be yourself – bravely and boldly!” Even many Christians today have taken up this “be yourself boldly” mantra as the ultimate expression of real bravery.
There is certainly some merit in learning how to confidently stand apart from the crowd and being unconcerned with what others think of us. But I’ve become convinced that true courage isn’t found through self-expression and personal confidence. Rather, true courage comes only from total surrender to Jesus Christ, from placing our lives entirely into His hands and declaring, “Do with me what you will.”
Revelation 12:11 talks about this kind of courage in the saints of God: “…they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Only when we have let go of our own lives can we be truly courageous for God. Only when we are not clinging to our rights, our ambitions, and our security can we boldly face any and every danger for His sake – because we have nothing to lose. Men and women with this perspective can change the world for Christ.
As Paul said, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) When we realize that our true citizenship is in Heaven, we recognize that even if we are killed for Christ’s sake, it is an amazing triumph and victory – and death only ushers us into the presence of our dear King, fulfilling all our hopes and dreams.
That is the kind of courage we are called to pursue, a courage that shrinks from nothing because I know my life is entirely in God’s hands.
It was this extraordinary courage that David demonstrated when facing Goliath. While the Israelite army cowered in fear at Goliath’s threats, David responded in the opposite spirit. As Goliath came towards David, intent on killing him, the Bible says that David hasted to meet him. (1 Sam 17:48) Imagine running toward danger, rather than cowering from it. Just think how this world could change for eternity if today’s Christians could demonstrate that kind of courage.
Just how do we cultivate this courage in our lives? It cannot be done in our own strength. There is no way to “muster up” the courage to face torture, ridicule, and even death boldly for the sake of our King. Courage is only cultivated when we lay our lives at His feet without reserve – when we offer our lives to Him as living sacrifices, holding nothing back.
As this new year unfolds, don’t be distracted with trying to “be yourself boldly,” which is just a counterfeit of true courage designed to keep your focus on yourself instead of on Christ. And don’t be fooled into thinking that because you lack natural boldness, you will never possess the kind of courage that Mary Slessor had.
True courage is available to every child of the King, and it is yours for the asking. Get alone with your King and freshly consecrate your life to Him. When you place yourself entirely in His hands, you will be able to face any and every challenge or difficulty with a courage that will baffle and astound this world.