Courage to Stand Alone

The preceding is excerpted from Bill Rudge's book, "Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ."

Throughout Scripture, we discover that living for God requires believers to occasionally stand alone — as did all of the great Biblical heroes.

Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers. He was all alone, rejected, and sold as a slave into Egypt. In Egypt, because he honored God and spurned the affection of Potiphar's wife, he was thrown into prison. Nevertheless, Joseph continued to honor the Lord and eventually God exalted him to the second highest position in Egypt and used him to save his family from starvation.

Moses had a chance to enjoy all the riches of Egypt for a season. Instead, he chose to reject them. As a result, he wandered in the dry and barren Midian desert. Eventually he was greatly used by God to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Hebrews 11:25,26 says of Moses ––

He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

David went out alone to meet the giant Goliath. David's situation seemed hopeless, yet he won because the Lord was with him. He desired to honor the God of the Bible, and shut the mouth of Goliath who was mocking the Lord and intimidating the whole army of Israel. David's attitude was one of confidence and faith in the Lord as seen in I Samuel 17:37 ––

The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine ....

David was willing to put his life on the line. He had been prepared for this feat by single-handedly killing a lion and a bear. David had all the odds against him: his opponent was bigger and stronger, his oldest brother Eliab opposed him, and even King Saul told him he wouldn't be able to do it. His only weapon was a sling and five smooth stones, but David was courageous because he knew God was with him. As a result, he accomplished one of the most memorable feats in Scripture, and he is remembered as one of the great heroes of the Bible.

Consider Elijah, a prophet of God, who had an encounter on Mt. Carmel against hundreds of prophets of Baal. Although he was a notable minority, God honored Elijah's stand and his courage by consuming the sacrifice with supernatural fire from heaven.

The Apostle Paul could have become discouraged and given up when everyone forsook him and he had to endure persecution alone. Nevertheless, he bravely stood for Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

You read about all these great Bible heroes and desire to be like them. So do I. And God speaks to my heart, "Then you'll go through the same training program that I put them through, if you want what I did in their lives."

All the Bible heroes had to one day stand alone. God is calling you to develop your spiritual muscles, because one day you may have to stand alone for your testimony for Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Following the crowd is not always the best way to go. In Scripture the crowd is often wrong, and the one standing alone is often the one honoring the Lord.

You Won't Be Standing Alone

When I played football, or I should say, tried to play football, there was a sign in the locker room which read:

Courage is not lack of fear, but standing your ground in spite of it.

When I used to read about Bible heroes and their feats, like David against Goliath, I didn't imagine their hearts beating faster or their breathing rate increasing the way ours do when we get into confrontations. I mistakenly thought they had no fear when they had to stand alone for the God of the Bible.

God showed me through His Word, however, that they had the same emotional responses we have. Their faith in God overcame their fear, and each one stood in spite of having a rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing, and wanting to escape. They went out in faith and confidence and God empowered them.

Courage is not lack of fear. Courage is standing your ground for the Lord in spite of your fear.

I know it's convenient to compromise and conform in order to be popular and have everyone like you. But if you want God to use you in a great and special way, then you need to allow the God of the Bible to give you supernatural courage.

Sometimes you have to resist conforming and compromising, and you might have to stand alone. Scripture promises that you really won't be standing alone,

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Besides,

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

90-Foot-High Golden Image

In Daniel chapter 3, we read about King Nebuchadnezzar, who had just erected a 90-foot-high golden image and decreed that at the sound of the musical instruments everyone was to bow down and worship it. Then he had all the leaders gather in Babylon. They were all prepared to do what King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded; otherwise, they would forfeit their lives.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only ones who refused to bow down. Here is what they said to King Nebuchadnezzar when their lives were on the line ––

"'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up!' Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual." (Daniel 3:16-19)

It was so hot that the king's valiant warriors who were escorting the young Hebrew men to the fiery furnace were consumed by the heat. Scripture indicates that God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because of their faith and courage. They could have compromised and conformed. They could have easily made excuses and justified bowing down, but they chose to remain standing while all the multitudes of people bowed their knees to worship. God delivered them from the fiery furnace and greatly honored them.

Love Not Your Life unto Death

All the New Testament writers, with the exception of the Apostle John, were martyred for their faith. According to early Church tradition, Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, James was thrown off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and then beaten to death with clubs, and John was thrown into a boiling cauldron of oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

During early church history many Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to wild animals, and beheaded. Some were made to serve as objects of amusement. Others were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Some were crucified. Others were set on fire to illuminate the night. It is said that Emperor Nero had Christians set afire as human torches to light his gardens.

Hebrews 10:32-39 says ––

"Remember ... when you stood your ground ... in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."

I may one day die for Christ, but the Lord has assured me that my life will not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled. My prayer is, "Lord, let me have the grace, the power, the boldness, and the forgiveness of Stephen." (Acts 6:8 - 7:60)

I used to wonder why Peter, Paul, and other Bible heroes, as well as many believers throughout history, had to be martyred, and why I and others may one day have to give our lives for Christ. It seems like defeat. I thought a better testimony would be God supernaturally intervening and delivering His people, which He has sometimes done, but not always (Hebrews 11).

Later I came to understand that enduring suffering for Christ was a sign and a seal that indicated the authentic nature of their testimony. When the world observed their unwavering faith –– even in the face of death –– they were more prepared to believe the message of the witness because they had validated it with their lives.

In fact, the Greek word for witness is martus or martur which means "one who bears witness by his death." This definition is evident in the lives of Peter, Paul, and others who lived and died what they believed.

God's Spirit transformed them. Peter, on the night of Jesus' arrest, cowered at the accusations of a slave girl, but after seeing the resurrected Christ he became the man who not only boldly witnessed for Christ in Jerusalem (the very city where He was crucified) but he also courageously gave his life for the Lord by being crucified upside down.

Leonard Ravenhill said, "He who fears God fears no man. He who kneels before God will stand in any situation."

Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 ––

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

I would rather die living for the Lord, than live denying Him. It makes sense that if I have the courage to die for Christ, I must necessarily have the courage to totally live for Him as well!

God Transformed Me

God transformed me from a person who always conformed to peer pressure to one who refuses to compromise and conform. I have had to stand alone for the Lord frequently in spite of being mocked, ridiculed, threatened, and having my life in danger on numerous occasions. His Spirit has helped me stand strong under such great pressures and opposition.

God gradually changed my life. I didn't wake up the day after giving my life to Christ and suddenly have the courage and strength to stand-alone. As I studied and obeyed His Word, His Spirit empowered me to live for Him –– no matter what the cost.

Why does God allow all this peer pressure? God allows the peer pressure and obstacles we face to mold our lives, build our character, and make us strong and courageous for Him.

In my basement, I used to have a speed bag on the left, a 70-pound heavy bag on the right, and a double-ended striking bag in the center. I would work out on all three simultaneously using both hands and feet. I used to put myself through all kinds of rigorous training. Why? Because I wanted to rise above any situation in which I would find myself. So, too, God allows us to face many obstacles and difficulties to help us grow strong and to keep us in shape spiritually. Then we can stand in any situation –– no matter how great the pressure is being put on us.

Before I left the martial arts, one of the training exercises was to stand-alone in a big circle of 15-20 people. The idea was that each student would have a number, but it would be staggered so the one standing in the middle wouldn't know from which direction an opponent would come. Then the instructor would call out a number. Whoever had their number called would attack the one in the middle with a strike or kick or a combination. When you were selected to be in the middle you had to block, then counterattack.

Opponents might come from any direction. You never knew where they were coming from — front, back, or side. This experience was to train us on how to deal with unexpected situations on the street. So it is in life. God is allowing the obstacles, opposition, and pressure to mold us, develop our spiritual muscles, and prepare us for what lies ahead.

Ultimate Peer Pressure

Revelation 13:8 gives the ultimate form of peer pressure and reveals where a spirit of compromise and conformity will eventually lead. It states,

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast [the Antichrist]." That's going to be the ultimate in peer pressure, conformity, and compromise. Deny or die! For all who refuse to worship the image of the Antichrist will be killed (Revelation 13:15).

If you cannot resist the peer pressure now, then you'd better let God infuse you with His power, because there will come a day in the very near future when all of society will be in total rebellion against the Lord, and it will cost a high price to stand for Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:8 says ––

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

"Why the cowardly?" Because out of fear for their life or loss of property the cowardly either refuses salvation though they are convinced of its truth, or they walk away from it in times of persecution. Those who conform and compromise, and don't depend on God to give them the courage and strength to stand up and make their life count, are, in His eyes, just as bad as the murderers and the sorcerers, also mentioned in this verse, who will have their place in the lake of fire.

God accepts no excuse for being cowardly and denying Him, like those who no doubt tried to justify why they compromised and bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. Throughout the ages there has always been a remnant of God's people who have had the God-given courage and strength to remain standing, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember, you can either stand-alone for the Lord now, or one day stand alone before Him in judgment!

After graduating from Bible college, I took a position as a youth pastor in North Carolina. To supplement my income, I was employed by a small convenience store from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., the graveyard shift, where I was working alone. To show how potentially dangerous this was, a man in a similar store just down the road a few miles had recently been robbed and shot to death. It was in this setting that a gang would come into my store from a neighboring city, spread out through the store, and shoplift. Some young men who often came into the store said, "Bill, when that gang comes in again, we are going to stand with you, and we'll get the stuff back." I said, "Okay guys, great. Let's do it."

Sure enough, the gang came when my buddies happened to be there. Like before, the gang went through the store and began to steal things. They paid for a few items and then walked outside with all the stuff they had stolen and got into their car. I said, "Okay guys, you told me if they stole again you'd stand with me. Let's go out there and get the stuff back."

One guy said, "Man, there are six of them and four of us!" He went back in the cooler to hide. The other guy went in the rest room and locked the door. The third guy sat there saying, "No way! There are too many of them, Bill." I replied, "Thanks guys!" and walked outside by myself. I knocked on their car door window and they rolled it down. "Guys," I said, "you stole some stuff, and I want it back." All four doors opened and the six of them got out and encircled me. There was no way in that close proximity that I could do anything to effectively defend myself. I was totally vulnerable.

I said again, "Guys, you stole some stuff and I want it back!" They looked at me, then at each other. They didn't know whether to attack me or what to do. Then all of a sudden they reached into their pockets, and began to pull out some of the merchandise. They threw it at me, got in their car, and drove off.

Don't be foolish or crazy, for that's tempting the Lord. But there comes a point in our lives when we can no longer compromise and conform, but we must stand for what is right and true.

The World Doesn't Need More Conformers

I used to speak at school assemblies on self-control, peer pressure, and courage. I would incorporate such demonstrations as kicking cigarettes out of volunteers' mouths, and other feats which illustrated my message. I often ended the assembly by having four volunteers come forward. One grabbed my right wrist, one grabbed my left wrist, one came from behind to grab me, and the other attacked from the front. Each one pulled me the way he wanted me to go. They wanted me to compromise, they wanted me to conform. When it appeared I would be pulled apart I would say "No!" as I quickly kicked all four of them, one after the other, leaving them lying at my feet. I did this to demonstrate that we must refuse to be victimized by peer pressure.

The world does not need wasted persons, burnouts, conformers, compromisers, or those who give in to all the peer pressure. There are already enough weak-kneed, cowardly people in the world, as well as in the Church today. What we do need are those with God-given courage to stand up and make their lives count. Instead of being influenced by the world, let's influence our world for Jesus Christ!

God Wants Champions

I was in prayer near the end of a seven-day fast, at which time the Lord gave me the following:

The world does not need another Savior or Messiah. He has already come and He will be returning again soon. What the world needs are champions to stand up and face the modern day Goliaths with God-given courage, faith, strength, power, and victory, and proclaim the true resurrected Messiah!

I want to be one of the Lord's champions who will do exploits in the last days, as Daniel (11:32) indicates. I want to be one who is mightily used by the Lord now (as a foreshadow of how He will use the two prophets in Revelation chapter 11).

Will you also allow the Lord to make you into one of His champions by being totally committed to Him and by walking in obedience to His Word and His Spirit?

In the age we are living, we must be true believers in Christ who will:

• have God-given courage and strength

• dare to be different and make their lives count

• not compromise and conform, even in the face of extreme pressure and persecution

• stand alone, if need be, and totally live for the Lord!