THE HOLY HEART ASSOCIATION – COURAGE
May 26, 2019
We don’t like to joke around when it comes to operating on our heart! I love that AT&T commercial with the fellow and his wife who awaiting surgery.
They ask the attending nurse, “Have you ever worked with Dr. Francis?” To which she replies without much enthusiasm, “Yes, he’s okay.” And a horrified look comes over their faces, especially when Dr. Francis then shows up.
He says to the nurse, “Guess who just got reinstated! …well, not officially.” Then he addresses the patient, “Nervous?” “Yep!” “Me, too!”
And then he walks out, saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out!
Whenever we hear of the term “heart”, we probably think of that physiological muscle the size of a fist in the center of our chest. It’s the main cog in our body’s circulatory system, keeping us alive by pumping oxygen-filled blood throughout our bodies.
What if we examined the heart as more than a mere muscle, albeit one that is vital to our survival? What if we looked upon the heart in a biblical fashion?
Did you know that the term heart is mentioned over 1,000 times in the Bible? And whenever that word appears in scripture, it is speaking of the source and center of all virtue.
Over these Sundays of late spring and early summer, we are going to be delving into the biblical virtues of the heart, virtues such as diligence, faith, direction, character, discernment, joy, simplicity, righteousness and commitment. Yes, we will be moving beyond the American Heart Association to become full-fledged members of the Holy Heart Association!
This morning, we’re going to explore would it mean for our heart to be filled with courage. Let’s look at Jesus’ words in John 16:33:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
IN THIS WORLD….
“Life is difficult!” These are the opening words of M. Scott Peck’s renowned work The Road Less Traveled – the 2nd best selling book of all time next to the Bible. And that statement certainly understates the obvious!
Whenever John the gospel writer mentions the word world, he is referring to anything and everything that is an antithesis to God…that which contradicts the kindness, goodness and life our Lord intended for us. And when you and I are dealing with such contradiction, we experience tribulation. Life becomes difficult, filled with pressure. Many folk simply wilt under that pressure. They become victims.
Yes, in this world, we will have tribulation. Some of it we bring on ourselves. Some of it comes from circumstances beyond our control. Tribulation can make us a victim. But the key question is Do we enjoy remaining the victim? Do we maintain a victim mentality? Do we wallow with the resignation that everyone and everything is against us? Do we take some perverse pleasure in being pulled down and kept down?
You’ve heard the chorus of excuses victims continuously sing:
I grew up dirt poor.
My parents didn’t love me.
My parents smothered me.
I had no parents, Grandma raised me.
Dad was never home.
Dad was too strict.
Mom let me get away with everything.
Mom was an alcoholic, Dad a drug addict.
My brother was the favorite.
Persons like me are always held down.
I’m too old.
I’m too young.
I’m too dumb.
My personal excuse for being a victim is that cornpone TV show Hee Haw. Yep, back when there were only 3 channels on TV and only one TV and my parents had control of that TV on Saturday night, I had to sit and watch Hee-Haw with them. And so I learned to sing “Gloom, despair and agony on me!”
Well, all joking aside, life is not fair. Life is difficult. In this world we will have tribulation. And times we will be a victim of it. But we don’t have to remain the victim. We can…
When Jesus tells us to take heart, he is offering us an infusion of courage…a divine gumption, a strong backbone.
And yes, he offers us the courage to confront those persons and circumstances in life that would harm us and others. How did the Apostle Paul put it, “For the Lord gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control!” 2 Timothy 1:7
On Tuesday, May 7, in the latest episode of school violence, two crazed, evil students entered the STEM Academy in Highlands Ranch, CO with the intent of killing as many classmates and teachers as possible. One was apprehended by the school’s security officer at this technical and vocational school not far from Columbine High School.
The second shooter was tackled by Kendrick Castillo. Kendrick was shot and killed by the perpetrator as he protected his classmates. His heroic action enabled them to escape.
Kendrick had told his dad some time ago that if he was ever involved in such an incident he would take action. Yes, this amazing 18-year-old, who was planning to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an electrical engineer, who was known by his fellow students as someone always willing to help others, who came from a strong faith background, found within himself the courage to confront tribulation. He gave his own life in saving a tremendous number of others.
Thankfully, I dare say that none of us will ever find ourselves in Kendrick Castillo’s shoes. Yet, there are many days when we too face situations where the courage to confront is needed…to speak up for someone being put down…to step in and pick up when others have passed by.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King often said, “The time is right to always do what is right!”
Yes, we don’t have to be the victim. We can take heart!
Christ offers us the courage to confront… and
Christ also offers us the courage to carry on!
The Apostle Paul described his life’s journey in this fashion:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… -2 Corinthians 4:7-9
People will sometimes ask me, “Burch, what is the most meaningful thing about your job?” And I will tell them, it is having the privilege to have met so many folk over the years who exemplified these words of the Apostle Paul. Folk who somehow managed, in the face of overwhelming hardships and handicaps, to wake up each morning with a determination to not be defeated. They took heart…they accepted Christ’s offer of courage to carry on.
When I retire one day, I hope to write a book devoted to the many of you whose grit and determination has inspired me more than you’ll ever know!
Certainly a chapter in this book will be devoted to Madisyn Hess. As you recall, Madi suffered a spinal stroke as a 7th grader that left her paralyzed. Yet, though her body has been bound to a wheelchair since that fateful day, her indominatable spirit and faith have soared to heights beyond imagination.
This fiercely independent young woman just completed her sophomore year at Christopher Newport University. And she posted on Facebook this week:
“I am super excited to share with you all that I got an amazing internship for this summer! I will be working for the Fairfax County Government Department of Family Services as a Professional and Organizational Development intern! I’m going to hate being away from home for the summer, but I’m excited for this wonderful opportunity!”
Now, I’m not quite sure what this position entails for Madi, but I do know she’ll do a fantastic job! God bless her!
Yes, Christ offers us the courage to carry on even when we are carrying great hardships and handicaps!
Hear the words of Jesus again, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
CHRIST HAS OVERCOME…
To know Christ is to know peace…and to know peace is to embrace the wholeness of mind, body and spirit he seeks to bestow upon us. We may not always be healed of our afflictions and struggles, but we can find a wholeness that transcends our affliction and struggles. We can live with assurance, with conviction, with hope that, in the end, our lives will find a will and a way because we belong to our Lord. He has gone before us.
We know the final score.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one who could DVR a sporting event with the hope of watching it later like it was live, with all the drama and anticipation building up. Nope, I cheat…I simply can’t wait. I have to check out what the final score was before I began watching. I want to know how it all ends.
Well, friends – SPOILER ALERT – when it comes to knowing how things are going to play out spiritually for us, we know the final score! In his life, death and resurrection, Christ has won the decisive battle! He has overcome the world! Sin and death are ultimately defeated! The eventual victory has been assured! Because he lives, we shall live also!
Now you say, “Burch, that’s not the reality I deal with right now. Things are pretty crappy.” And that may be true.
Take a lesson from history: On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, VA, marking the end of that grueling, grinding four-years-long American Civil War.
Yet, though that victory assured the outcome, battles still raged on in the deep South, in Texas, and even on the high seas off the coast of Alaska for nearly 16 months until peace finally settled over the conflict!
Although Christ has indeed overcome the world and our eternal victory has been assured, we live in these in-between times between his incarnation and his return, when we still have to contend with the struggles, the battles, of a sin-torn, death-ridden culture.
But in this we can take heart…
37 in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39
Yes, in the end, Christ wins…and because he wins, we will also!
Yes, Jesus proclaims, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I can think of no more fitting way to end this message than to pray this prayer, the Serenity Prayer, in its original extended version:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right If I surrender to Your Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.