Charles Stanley - The Courage to Face Danger and Death
Well, this is the fourth message in the series on courage. And this morning I want to talk about the courage to face not only danger but death. And I want you to turn to Second Timothy for a moment, and look if you will in this fourth chapter, and think about this, that danger is possible and can be frequent. We frequently face danger. Death is certain and only happens once. So we all face dangers; one of these days we'll face death. And so, the question is, are you prepared for both of them? Are you prepared for times of danger, are you prepared for times when you face death?
And this passage of Scripture that Paul writes to Timothy is just absolutely fascinating to me, because he deals with this. Timothy is a young pastor and he's got a bunch of folks over there who don't believe what's right and so there's false doctrine. And they not only are guilty of false doctrine, but they have ungodly behavior. And so, Timothy is a little discouraged. And so Paul is writing him to encourage him. At the end of this epistle, he gives him a personal testimony. So it's just four chapters in Second Timothy, but what he says to him is just awesome. And when I think about what he said to him, in this testimony, we discover what's the source of our courage? What's the real source of our courage? And what was the source of Paul's courage? And what was the source of courage he wanted for Timothy? Because all of us are going to face dangers and all of us are going to face death.
And the question is: Are you ready to meet either one of them, either danger or death? And we don't know how that will come to any one of our lives, and so, we're to live prepared. And he's cautioning him to do that. So, throughout his life, Paul had faced all kind of dangers. And when you think about what he had faced, maybe you're not familiar with this passage. Turn if you will to Second Corinthians and it'd just give you a brief word here. Second Corinthians and the eleventh chapter, and Paul is writing to the Corinthian church reminding them of what he's been through.
Now we're talking about danger and death, and listen to what Paul says in this twenty-third verse of Second Corinthians, eleven, "Are they servants of Christ? I speak as if insane, I more so, in far more labors, far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor, hardship, through many..." We could just go on and on and on.
So I'm just saying Paul has a platform for saying what he's about to say. So this isn't some preacher who's been out there and everything's just been going to suit him. He's faced death many, many times. And so, let me give you one definition of courage here, and then three short ones. We define courage as a quality of mind, the spirit, enabling a person to meet danger or death, face opposition or the challenges of life with fearlessness, calmness and firmness. And so, that's what Paul was able to do and that's what he was conveying to young Timothy.
So let me give you some other brief definitions that I thought were interesting. One of them is courage is doing what you're afraid to do. And that is true. It takes courage to do some things we have to do. A second one is this. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. I like that one. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. And then, General George Patton, who was the commander of a tank division in the Second World War said "Courage is fear that holds on one more minute". That sounds like him. So, when I think about all of these definitions, the question is, "How much courage do we have"? Are we people of courage or people of doubt or people of fear? And of all the people in the world, God's people should be people of courage, because no matter what happens, we know who's living on the inside of us.
So, what I want you to get here is, here is Paul's testimony to young Timothy, the pastor, that he's going to leave with all of his work in the churches and missionary journeys and so forth. And when I come to this, I have to ask the question, "What were the reasons the Apostle Paul was willing to suffer the kind of discouragement, kind of heartache, the kind of danger and the kind of death he faced"? And we just read in, in Second Corinthians all the things he faced, all the beatings and shipwreck and in the sea and in prison, beaten all those things. So, he faced death many times.
And so, the question is, "What is it in this man and what was in this man that made him willing to face death, and to face danger, and to face all of the suffering he faced"? So I want you to think about yourself and what you're willing to face and what you're courageous enough to face. And so the question is, "What were the reasons Paul was willing to face danger and death"? So I'm going to give you four reasons, and the first one is this. And that is his redemptive experience on the Damascus Road. That is, the moment he got saved on the Damascus Road. And you recall in Acts chapter nine what happened.
The Scripture says, "Now Saul, Paul still breathing threats and murders against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and received letters to go to Damascus, to persecute these people, and as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, fell on the ground, heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'" Now that's about as straight as it gets. You could never forget that. And he said, "Who are You, Lord"? And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting". Told him to get up, go to the little town, and here's what would happen to him. And so Scripture says finally, "Immediately there fell from his eyes the scales," because he was blinded. And the Scripture says in the twentieth verse, "And immediately..."
Now look. He'd given his life, much of his life, persecuting Christians, killing them, dragging them to prison. Killing them was easy for him. "Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God.'" That's what you call true, genuine conversion. There was no question in his mind about who Jesus was. And so the question is, "What is it that motivated him to be willing to suffer even unto death and in these years of his ministry"? And so, the first one would certainly be his instantaneous relationship with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. But there's a second one I want us to look at. And that is the race that he had run as a follower of Jesus, spreading the gospel, knowing that it would have eternal consequences. That in itself was a major, major motivation for the Apostle Paul, the fact that he was preaching a gospel that would have eternal consequences. The Apostle Paul gave his life listening, understanding, suffering, persecuted, hurt, rejected, you name it, but listening and praying and walking the truth that the Lord Jesus had given him.
And when you think about that, notice what he says beginning now in verse five of this fourth chapter of Second Timothy, speaking to him now as this young pastor. He says, "But you, be sober, in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry". And then verse six through eight is his personal testimony. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come". And then he says, "I've fought I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, not only for me, but also to all who have loved His appearing".
Now, He says, "I have fought the good fight," and fought the good fight he did. Many times he was up against opposition of those who absolutely refused to believe what he believed. And as he says, "He was stoned for what he was believing, imprisoned for what he believed," and the Jews, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, he had enemies on top of enemies on top of enemies. But he says, "I fought a good fight. I didn't give up. I accepted the challenge. And no matter what happened, I kept declaring the truth of the gospel that saved me on the Damascus Road. And the truth that God has shown me while sitting in prison, while traveling here and there, preaching the gospel. I fought the good fight". He says, "I finished the course. I didn't just start". But he says, "I didn't stop along the way because I was persecuted. I didn't give up. I didn't quit".
And so here he's saying to Timothy, "Timothy, you don't give up. You don't quit no matter what, because you, you have been chosen by God and you have a fight. You have a fight with the people in the church, you have a fight with the people out of the church But you stay true to Almighty God". He says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course". Paul says, "For me, I've done what God called me to do. I've done all the things that God called me to do. I didn't quit. I didn't decide that I'd had enough suffering. I didn't claim any kind of superiority to anyone else. I finished my course". Many times the Apostle Paul must have - listen, think about this. Even though he had that experience on the Damascus Road, he said, "I have fought a good fight, run this race".
And why did he keep running it? Because he knew that what he was learning in a Philippian jail, what he was learning in other prisons that he was in, what he was learning, what God was teaching him, he must share with other people. He said, "I have fought the good fight". He didn't give up. He finished the course. That is, he lived it out all the way to the end. We have to be faithful where God has called us to do what He's called us to do. Now you're probably sitting here thinking, "Yeah, but you know, I'm not a preacher, I'm not a missionary, I'm not this, I'm not that. Watch this. That's not your course. That's not the course God has given you. The course that God has given you is very important to you and God.
And when I think about that, I think about my mother, I always think about that. Who was Rebecca? And she spent forty years of her life inspecting material in a cotton mill. Who is Rebecca? I'll tell you who Rebecca was. Rebecca was somebody that fought a good fight. She finished her course. And there was a reward waiting for her. Don't belittle yourself to thinking because you're not up before people preaching and teaching the gospel, that you don't have a course to run. You see, we judge ourselves on the basis of comparing ourselves. Watch this. How many people in the world are just like you? How many? Well, why do you compare yourself with somebody else? You can't compare yourself with somebody else. God doesn't call us to do the same thing. Here's what He does do. Whatever He calls you to do, He expects you to do with all your heart, run a good race, keep the faith, and be faithful to God through the last day. And God is the one who chooses how He rewards His children.
And so the Apostle Paul coming to the end of his life, listen to what he said. And I love how he said it. He said, "I have fought the good fight, finished the course," and he says, "I have kept the faith". So, number one, it's because of what happened to him on the Damascus Road. Secondly, it's because of how he lived his life. He says, "I've run the race. And thirdly, he says, "There's a reward waiting for me. I want you to go back to First Corinthians chapter three for a moment. Paul didn't serve the Lord because of a reward, but he was wise enough to know what God had said to him. And in Corinthians, if you'll notice on the third chapter and the twelfth verse, writing to them he said. Well let's go back to the eleventh verse.
Now, "No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ". That is, He's the foundation of all that we are. "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or wood hay and straw, we have the choice. We can live our life and build our life with things that last. Listen to this, things that last, truth that lasts. He says, "Gold, silver, and precious stones". Or, we can build our life on things that don't last, wood, hay, and straw, each man or a woman's work will become evident. It will be revealed, for the day, that is the day of judgment, will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, that is, it'll be tested.
So you say, "Well now, how's God going to test my faith"? He tests it even now. He says, "It will be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any one's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man or a woman's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Look at that. You say, "Well I don't know about me. God says you're holy. And He says, 'I have a will and plan for your life.'" And he says, Paul says, "One, one of the reasons that he was confident that he was..." He said, "Not only was I saved, and not only have I run a good race, but according to what God's telling me, I have a reward in heaven". Not only does he have a reward, but you have one.
You say, "Well, what's my reward going to be like"? I don't know what that is. One thing I know is this, it's going to be according to how we've lived. You say, "Well now, is God going to compare us with somebody else"? No, He's not. God knows exactly through whom you were born, why He allowed you to be born, what your gifts and talents were, what He had in mind in the process, the kind of situation and circumstance that you would grow up in, knowing maybe that you would not even hear the gospel for some period of time in your life. So, God's judgement will be absolutely perfect. And He says, There is a reward. And so, what is that reward, what does that depend upon? Watch this. It depends upon me running the race that I have to run. It depends upon you running the race that you have to run, that God has called you to run.
We can't compare ourselves with each other. And there'll be people, I believe in heaven, whose rewards far out-shadow anything that we might think that we ought to get because of this, that, and the other. You see, that's none of our business. We ought to have the same attitude Paul did. He says, "I've run the race. I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith". And he says, "Now there's laid up for me a reward in heaven. And so, which every person, if you'll notice what he says. He says, "I fought the good fight, finished the course, kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing".
That is, we will, we will be perfected, absolutely righteous, perfect. That is, perfect from God's viewpoint and perfect to fit heaven. The gift of righteousness, crown of righteousness, that's what we'll have. And so, when I think about that, I think about what Paul is saying to Timothy. He says, "Now look. Let me just tell you something. You have the privilege of preaching the gospel and changing people's lives, and I'm just giving you a personal testimony that I am confident of what lies ahead of me because of what happened to me on the Damascus Road. I'm confident of what happened to me because I know that this gospel that has been given to me has eternal consequences".
And as he says here, "And I also know that I'm going to have a reward". But he says, "Something else I know along the way," is what he says later on, because after this particular paragraph, listen to what he says in verse nine, he says to Timothy, "Make every effort to come to me soon". And then he talks about Demas and Luke and all these people. And then notice what he says in the verse thirteen, "When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas," because he was probably cold, "with Carpus, and the books, the manuscripts, the parchments, Scripture, bring that with you. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching".
And then he says, "At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me, may it not be counted against them". And then he says, "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear I was rescued of the lion's mouth". So what is he saying? He says, the reasons for my willingness to suffer danger and death is what happened to me on the Damascus Road. And secondly, this gospel that I've been able to share all around the world, and the reward that's laid up for me in heaven, and the fact most of all because the Lord Jesus is with me, even in these last days and moments of my life.
So, you don't need to be afraid. And he says, "Here's what's happened in my life. And many times, somebody says, "Was Paul ever afraid"? Briefly, I'm sure he had to be. Briefly. But he says, God has not given you the spirit of fear but of power, that it's confidence and assurance, even unto death, we have that promise of His presence and power in our life". So, you and I live in a very dangerous world. But he says, "I've not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind, or discipline, we live it out day by day as God calls us to live it out. Amen?
And Father, we thank You this morning for Paul's wonderful testimony. Fought a good fight, kept the faith, finished the course. May it be true of every single one of us. But he began with his salvation experience. And I pray for somebody here today who maybe just dropped in, maybe who's been coming, been listening but has never trusted You as their Savior. That right now they would recognize it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment. And the only way to prepare for that inevitable, unavoidable experience is to ask You to forgive them of their sins and believe that You forgive them on the basis of Your shed blood at Calvary. And upon asking You in faith to forgive them and surrendering their life to You, their future can be instantly changed for eternal life. And I pray that will happen right now even as we sit here. And then Lord, give them the courage to tell somebody quickly. There is something very securing about giving personal testimony to someone else of what You have done in their life. And I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.