Charles Stanley - A Formula For Courage
I want to begin my message today by an incident that happened in my life many years ago. And it turned out to be a message that absolutely has influenced me, impacted me, encouraged me, helped me; and I certainly hope this message will do the same for you. I was going to preach my first sermon that evening, and my mother knew that I was a little uptight about it. And so, I walked into my bedroom and there she was with an open Bible. And so she and I began to talk and she of course told me she was going to be praying for me. And then she said I want to give you a verse of Scripture that God has given me to tell you. And so she showed me Joshua 1:9. And so when I read that I thought to myself, "Well Lord, what are You saying to me"? "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest".
So I remember tucking that in my pocket because she had written it on a little piece of paper, and on my way to the church which was about a block or so from my house. When I came to the corner where the church was located, I pulled out that little slip and read it again. I asked the Lord to please let me memorize that verse. "Have I not commanded you to be strong and of a good courage; fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever you go".
And so, I look back over the years and I can tell you this. That verse of Scripture has been like an anchor in my life. Many times I have faced many difficulties. Sixty years in the ministry, and yet, that verse is just as true today as it was when she gave it to me then. So I ask you, do you have an anchor verse in your life? Is there something in your life in the Bible that you keep going back to when you find yourself in difficulty and trouble? Well, let me ask you this as a parent. Have you ever sat down with your children and said to them, I want to give you a passage of Scripture or a verse of Scripture that when you get in trouble, or when you see trouble coming, or when you're tempted, when you're tried, when things look tough, that you can always go back to this particular passage of Scripture.
I do believe that my mother set me on the right path. She anchored me to the truth of the Word of God, never realizing how many difficulties and hardships and problems I would face as a pastor. But I can tell you for sixty years, that verse of Scripture (Joshua 1:9) has been like an anchor to my soul. Times when I didn't know what to do next; times when I felt persecution; times when I felt so uneasy about things, Joshua 1:9 was like an anchor to my soul. Now I think about parents today. Do you know what your children are facing? Whether they're in the first grade or the twelfth grade or in college; they're facing things that you and I never faced. Have you taken the time to sit down with them and say, I want to give you a passage of Scripture. I want to share with you something that God has done in my life.
I want to help you to understand how to work through the difficulties and hardships you face as a teenager, as a college student; and then into adulthood. Or have you been so busy as a parent thinking, "Well, my son or my daughter, they go to church. They hear the gospel. They don't need to be preached to by me". I'm not talking about preaching to them, I'm talking about being a father or being a mother. It doesn't make any difference which one. And I know in many homes, there is no father, but you see, my mother could have said that, the same thing. She could have said, "Well, after all, I've never even finished high school; and here he is going to preach the gospel and he'll be in college and seminary".
My mother didn't think about all of that. She thought about one thing. I was going to preach my first sermon. She knew that I was a little frightened and she had one goal: help me to realize that God would be with me as I preached that message. When I walked away that night, I walked away knowing in my heart that I had done my best; that I wasn't afraid; that God had given me unusual courage. And so, I think today, do you take the time, or will you take the time, especially in these days when you parents have more time with your children? You don't have any excuse in the world for not taking time with your children; whether it's giving them one verse or giving them some experience that you're had. And I want to say this. More important than the experiences you've had is the Word of God that has spoken to your heart. That's travelled with you through difficulty, hardship, and pain.
So, I want to emphasize that to you because it's like an anchor to your children. Don't send your children into a storm without giving them an anchor from the Word of the Living God. But I think this passage of Scripture is so important, I want to begin reading. "God spoke to him and said to Joshua, 'No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life'". Can you imagine what that meant to him? "Just as I've been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you". Listen, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous". Because He knew that he was going to be facing difficult times.
And you and I can say the same thing to our children. Be strong and very courageous. "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go". Now people know what success is today. And I'm sure that Joshua understood what it would mean for him. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it". Think about it, pray over it, read it again and again and again. "Meditate upon it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; then you'll make your way prosperous; then you'll have success".
Look at that promise. When you sink the Word of God into your heart, when it becomes a way of living with you, what does he say? Make your way prosperous and then you'll have success. You can go to school after school after school with degree after degree after degree that will not match the impact of those words. Then you'll make your way prosperous; then you will have success. And then he comes up with this life-changing verse: "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous; do not tremble or be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". That verse of Scripture has anchored me. It will anchor you. It will anchor your children and I plead with you in Jesus's name. Do not send your children into this warring, wicked, violent society without anchoring them to a verse or a chapter, whatever it might be, in the Word of God.
So, I think about all of this and then think about how God used that verse of Scripture in my life, with my mom in future days. And so, I want to title this message "A Formula for Courage". Now, there are all kind of books written on courage, I'm sure. But this one verse of Scripture is more powerful than all the other things you're going to read. I think it's that important. Because look, it's sort of short so that you can memorize it easy. "Have I not commanded you to be strong and of a good courage? Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest". That's it. That's straight from God. So, when I look at all of these verses and see what God did in the lives of His people. I come to an incident that happened in my own life. And you'll recall with Joshua that soon after these things took place, God called him to take down the walls of Jericho.
Now remember, he had all the heritage of Moses, but now Moses is dead. It's just Joshua and his tribes and Almighty God. And so God has told him that He wanted to give them Jericho. And so what did he do? He said, Now here's the formula. Trust Me. You're going to march your troops around the walls of Jericho six times, once a day. On the seventh day, you're going to march around it seven times. You're going to blow those trumpets and then you're going to run like mad. Now it doesn't say that, but what it says is, "Those walls are coming down. You don't have to fight to get in. The walls are coming down". And so what happened? That's exactly what happened. God began His ministry in the life of Joshua with an awesome miracle.
You say, "Well now, God doesn't operate that way today, and so, tell me something more realistic". Alright, I will. There was a time in our church when we were downtown and we were buying up property behind our church. In that one block, we owned all the property for a couple of blocks or so around. And then, on this one this man, his name's Mr. Cuba, fine gentleman. He wouldn't sell his property. I went to him twice; asked him if he would sell, and I told him, I said, "Mr. Cuba, you're a fine man and we, we just want to do God's work". No, not going to sell.
So, one day, I don't know how long it was after that, but we had a normal prayer meeting on Tuesday morning. And so we were all praying down on our knees and for some reason I stood up a little bit and I looked out the window and you could see Mr. Cuba's property. And I thought, "Lord, we've prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing's happening. And I've led these people to pray, believe You're going to answer our prayers, Lord, what's going on"? I knelt back down and God said to me, "What did God tell Joshua to do"? I thought, "Well Lord, they're going to think I'm just out of my mind". He said, "No, march". So when we got through praying and I said to these fellows (twelve men) I said, "We're going to do what God told Joshua to do. We're going to march around these walls, this particular block, this particular area. We're going to march around it until God tells us he's going to sell".
Well, I could see them sort of snickering at each other. I said, Okay, but we're going to march whether you like it or not. And we're going to march and pray and we're not going to speak a single word. We're going to march in silence, all twelve of us, heat and cold, whatever it might be, until God tells me that's enough. And so, we waited till the next time we came to pray. Instead of praying a long time, we prayed a few minutes and then we started marching. We walked all around that block and, every once in a while somebody would say to us. And I told them, "Don't tell anybody what's going on". Walk around the block and people would say, "What are y'all doing"? We'd just nod.
And I remember a few times it was very, very cold. I'm sure they were getting a little restless, and so I said, "Well, Lord, we've done what You told us to do". I got a telephone call. It was Mr. Cuba. Mr. Cuba said, "Dr. Stanley, are y'all still interested in this piece of property"? I said, "Well, maybe, what have you got in mind"? He gave us a price that was very fair and I said, "Yes, we'll take it". I'm telling you that story to simply say this: He's still in the miraculous business. God is still working in our behalf. And He'll work in your behalf.
But listen carefully. You just can't come out of nowhere and not even reading the Word of God very often and God do that in your life. You need to establish a habit in your life. And that habit needs to be reading the Word of God. That habit needs to be praying and talking to God about your needs or whatever the situation is. Whenever there's a need in your family, what's the first response? Will you want to call somebody? No. The first response ought to be to your family, "Let's talk to God about this. Let's seek His will about it. Let's get on our knees, cut the TV off, and let's just talk to God about what He knows our family needs".
You know what you'll do? You'll establish in your children this awesome habit of coming to God, talking to Him, listening to Him. And what you're doing is you're teaching them to trust God. Can you tell me a finer lesson to learn than to trust the Lord God? To believe He will meet all of our needs. And that's exactly what will happen. So, listen to this verse. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; He will direct your path". And then when He directs your path, do exactly what He says. You'll be amazed at what God is doing.
So, when I think about that and think about what's going on here in Joshua's life. Because you see, when you get into the Word of God, here's what's going to happen. You're going to feel courageous and bold. You're going to feel freer about coming to God in prayer and asking God what you need to ask Him. And so, you say, "Well, why do I hesitate"? Well, you hesitate because you don't have the courage. The best way to build courage is to read the Word of God, see what He says, do what He says and stand back and watch Him work. Because one of the enemies of courage is criticism, fear of what people are going to say. And I'm sure some of those men thought the same thing. And likewise of fear of failure. Well, suppose it doesn't work. Well, you know what? Everybody makes mistakes at times, but that doesn't give you an excuse for not trusting God for the next thing He wants you to do.
So when I look at this, I think what are my enemies? Fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of discouragement. But you know what? That's the devil's way of keeping you off your knees, out of your prayer time, out of the Word of God, out of fear, suppose this, suppose that, suppose the other, but on the other hand, suppose He does exactly what you ask Him to do. And here I am years later giving testimony of what He did in that given incident. And I can tell you many other instances of God answering prayer in the most miraculous way. And one of those would be, and I'll make it brief, when the Lord said to me one night, when I'd been praying all week long and feeling that God was a thousand miles away. And it came down to the night before Easter and it was 11 o'clock and I had no sermon.
You say, "Well, you've preached enough sermons; you could grab one". Listen, when God shuts you down, there are no sermons. And after I'd prayed and prayed all week long and nothing happened, no sermon, and it's 11:30 on Saturday night and I'm asking God, "What are You saying to me"? And it's like the Lord said to me, "You must never ask for money on television. You must always trust Me and let Me decide how far and wide this ministry is going". Well, I thought, "Okay, Lord". And I wrestled, not long, I'd been wrestling all week. I said, "Okay, God. I'm going to leave it in Your hands. You decide how far and wide this ministry goes. But I'm going to trust You and I'm never going to ask for anything on the air".
Well, how has God answered that prayer? In that simple act of obedience? By placing this ministry all over the world. Nobody can take credit. God has supplied every need. God has supplied every sermon. God has supplied all the ministry and I think about all the staff members, everything that God has supplied. Where would we be if I would have said, "God, mm-mm; it can't grow unless we ask". Watch this. You see, sometimes God has to get us in a corner. And He had me in a corner. It was the night before Easter Sunday and I had no sermon and 11 o'clock was coming tomorrow morning and what was I going to do? Well, when I said yes, I knew what would happen.
The next morning, I stood up to preach and God is my witness, I had no sermon prepared. I'd just had to lay them all aside. It flowed from me like I'd been studying all week long on that particular passage. Don't ever, don't ever underestimate what God is willing to do in your life if you'll trust Him. It's simply trust Him. So, when I think about that, I think about somebody says, "Well, there are going to be disappointments in your life, so what"? When I think about this passage, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not to your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge Him; He will direct your path". He'll show you where to go, what to do.
And so listen to this. Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our life and ministry. Listen, listen to that. Our intimacy with Him. That's the time we spend praying; the time we spend reading the Word of God; pouring out our heart; telling Him how we're feeling; telling Him about our hurts; confessing our sins; acknowledging we need Him desperately. And so what? Our intimacy with Him determines the impact of our ministry. What's that intimacy? Being quiet, being alone, reading His Word, memorizing the Scripture, sharing Him with other people, giving testimony of what God is doing in your life. And a second one of those principles, and that's simply this: God acts in behalf of those who wait for Him.
And I can give you instance after instance of exactly how God has answered that. He acts in our behalf. Think about this. He acted in behalf of Joshua when it came to Jericho. And what did He do? He leveled the walls and gave them victory. You may not have that kind of a situation in your life, but one thing you can rest assured. God knows where you are. He knows what you need and He's more than willing to meet that need if you're willing to give Him time, let Him cleanse your heart, give you clear direction for your life.
And you've heard me say this often. One of those principles that's so important is fight your battles on your knees; not with other people, whatever the situation may be. Fight your battles on your knees. That is, when something comes up, it may be a need in your life. It may be a need in your children's life or husband or wife. It may be some difficulty you have financially. Where do you go first? Fight your battles on your knees. That means your primary recourse is prayer. Being alone with God, in the Word of God, asking for direction and guidance and help. What will He do? Exactly what He says He'll do. So watch this. Fight your battles on your knees, not with the devil, not with other people. That is, you go to God about every single thing you face in life and let Him settle it.
And sometimes you're going to be grossly mistreated. Sometimes you will not understand why God allows certain things to happen, but that's okay. If you and I go to Him, we fight our battles on our knees. That is, sometimes we may hurt and we may hurt badly. We may be disappointed, but one thing for certain: God will not disappoint us. We may be disappointed about something, but our Heavenly Father is always there and we're to remember: We fight our battles on our knees, not with other people. He's never come up short. And I can think about these many, many, many years I've been a Christian; God has never shown to be short.
Sometimes that battle on your knees may take a while. It may be that God keeps us on our knees in order to teach us something, in order that we might learn how He operates. In order that we might learn how consistent He is, how willing He is, and what it is that He wants to teach us. There have been times when I've had to learn a few lessons, it took me a while. But I can tell you this: God never comes up short. Never. He will be true to Himself and true to His Word. And I look at these passages in Joshua and all that God did in his life.
And one of these principles in the Word of God that I think everybody needs to consider very seriously. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow. This is why: when you are spending time with your family, your children, you are sowing wonderful seeds. You'll sow whatever, but you're going to reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow. Do your children have any particular principle that they would repeat to one of their friends that their mother or dad taught them? Think about all the things you've given your children, all the things you've told them. Do they have any biblical principles by which to turn to when they're going through a difficult time when they're not at home? When they're not where they can talk to you.
You reap what you sow, more than you sow, later than you sow. And that's going to be true so often in their lives. Do they have anything that they can go back to and say, "Well, my dad used to say, my mother taught me this". Give them an anchor. Enrich their lives. Anchor their feet and their minds and their eyes on the Word of God. So that when they're out there all by themselves and they face difficulties that you and I did not even have to face, they'll know where to turn. And they'll know that their life can be enriched by what God is saying.
And I want to remind you of this. Adversity is God's bridge to a deeper relationship with Him. So listen carefully. You should teach your children this principle: that going through difficulties and hardship and pain and all the rest, oftentimes it's like a bridge to a whole treasure of God's rich truth by which your children will survive this society. God is so awesome. He's so loving and so kind. And as you've heard me say oftentimes, disappointments are inevitable, but discouragement is a choice. Disappointments are inevitable in this society, but discouragement is a choice. So how will you respond to all of this? Will you trust Him no matter what?
Will you turn your attention, your minds and hearts toward your family and remember you are the one who is responsible to teach your children those verses of Scripture that become an anchor in their life because they're going to face storms. Storms you and I have never faced before, they're going to face them. You can anchor them with these awesome, unchanging, dependable principles from the Word of the Living God. And I look at Joshua, what he'd learned from all the years he watched Moses, listened to him and then stepped out on his own with the same God working in his life that worked in Moses's life. And your children can look back one day and think, "God, thank You for my dad; thank You for my mom, who enriched me, deepened me, solidified me, anchored me to the truth of the Word of God that has helped me through this storm that I'm going through". That's my prayer.
Father, how grateful we are for this one event in the life of these servants of Yours. We pray now that the Holy Spirit will impress upon every dad, every mom how very, very important it is to enrich, to lock in these truths to all those parents and all those children who will be watching today. And that's my earnest plea, dear Lord, in Jesus's name, amen.