Last Sunday, the author of Hebrews made the point that stepping out in faith has a way of rewarding us with more faith as we become more and more convinced that our unseen but everywhere present God has our backs.

This past week, I continued to brood in that wonderful 11th chapter and although I initially planned on dealing with the question of causality, I realized something there too good to pass up about bold faith living. So the question, “does God cause bad things to happen to good people?” will have to wait till next Sunday. In the meantime, this message fits our overall theme of being better prepared to face whatever curveball life throws us by encouraging us to boldly walk in faith.

Acts 4:1-13; Hebrews 11:1-2; 17-35a

A 5th grade science class was having a discussion about whales when a little girl mentioned her favorite Bible story was the one about Jonah being swallowed by one of those great mammals of the sea. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it is a very large mammal, its throat is very small. The little girl stood her ground, insisting that if it was in the Bible it was true. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale cannot swallow a human; “it is physically impossible” she said.
The little girl said, “Well when I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah all about it.”
Her teacher asked, “Well what if Jonah went to hell?”
The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

Would you say that little girl qualifies to be inducted into the ‘Hall of Faith?’ It was an act of bold faith, wasn’t it? Standing up to her teacher like that took guts!

As I read this hallowed passage of scripture I couldn’t help but note that these heroes of the faith not only acted boldly in faith (as we discussed last week) they often did so in the face of some kind of opposition.

I am referring to how bold and how dangerous it was for the parents of Moses to defy the wishes of the King of Egypt. The writer says, “They were not afraid of what the King might do.” I am referring to Moses himself, who years later boldly came before the King and demanded that he set free the captives and allow them to return home. Again our writer says, “Moses was not afraid of the King.” I am referring to how the people of God boldly marched around the heavily fortified and well-guarded city of Jericho until the walls came down. I am also referring to how Rahab the harlot put her life on the line to harbor two Israeli spies. And I am referring to the bold acts of faith carried out in the face of tough opposition by people like Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, and Samuel.

Then beyond these Old Testament heroes, we read in the New Testament about Peter and John who were put in jail for preaching the resurrection and how that experience seemed to embolden not only them but also their colleagues. When the Jewish leaders released them for questioning Peter is bold: “Let me clearly state to all the people of Israel that this man was healed in the name of and in the power of Jesus, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10). Is it any wonder that the text says “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John” (Acts 4:13)?

They refused to allow opposition from an enemy to stop them from acting boldly; it even seems that opposition bred more boldness. Opposition has a way of separating the men from the boys.

As we read these stories of faith about the people of Old Testament as well as the New, we cannot help but marvel at their bravery and wish with all of our hearts that we too could be followers of their bold faith. Isn’t there a desire to be a hero that lives in all of us?

There are many examples of people who live bold faith heroic lives in the face of opposition.

There are Christian people who live in places like China, Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea
and other foreign countries that are openly hostile to Christians who have long been thrust into lives of conflict and much opposition in which they are forced to discover their own spiritual fortitude. . . or lack thereof. And many choose to live life faithfully and boldly in light of the unseen God!

A great and significant shift in the posture of Eastern European Christians happened during the 1970s. For years, members of the underground church had met in secret, used code for communication, rarely talked on public telephones and wrote anonymous essays for underground papers. That is, until believers in Poland and Czechoslovakia decided that this posture of fear had to go. They began to live boldly, meeting openly, signing their names and addresses to articles, and handing out newspapers on street corners. They paid a price for their dissidence, such as time in jail, but they reaped a much greater reward as the infrastructure of communist ideology began to crumble before their very eyes. And so it was that . . . ‘by faith’ that a rag-tag group of peasants, poets, and clergy brought down a seemingly impregnable ideological fortress.

Bold acts. . . acts of faith. . . acts that were undertaken in light of the unseen but living God. Some of the staunchest structures of the world gave way to God’s pilgrims of faith.

In May 1990, the May Day Celebration was carried out as usual in Red Square as dusk began to settle on the U.S.S.R. Myriads of troops and tanks filed through the Square in an impressive, and oppressive show of force as banners of Marx and Lenin pointed to the sky. Communist leaders watched the scene from a seemingly unapproachable platform, as the common people were held back by barricades. Suddenly, eight men began pushing their way through the barricades. The police and the army tried to run over and stop them,
but six of them got away and rushed between tanks to the front of the platform while Gorbachev looked down. One of them shouted, “Mikhail, Christ has risen” and lifted an 8-foot-high crucifix into the sky. And the crowd responded with a great swell, “Christ is risen, indeed!” From then on, it was only a matter of time.

When we are reminded of stories like that, we can’t help but wonder: how would we respond in the face of opposition?

What if, God forbid, we were to get into an all-out holy war between all the nations of Islam and. . . we lose? And we become one nation under Allah and Christianity is outlawed?

We want to believe with all our hearts that we would live in bold faith! That by faith we would meet together for worship despite being threatened. That by faith we would plan ministries and carry them out in the name of the Christ and His Kingdom! That by faith we would invite our friends and neighbors to believe in Jesus and His sacrificial death upon the cross for us. That by faith we would boldly proclaim that there is no other name under heaven by which we might be saved than the name of Jesus!

We want to believe with all our hearts that we would act boldly. . . but alas we’ll never know because we don’t (thank God) have an enemy breathing down our necks. . . or do we?

It may be true that some of us might have an enemy; that the opposition that some American Christians face is from themselves; apathy, fear of getting involved, lack of commitment. Perhaps we do live in opposition. . . not to some anti-Christian government no, not that, for if that were the enemy then we would rise up and defeat it to preserve our way of Christian life. . . wouldn’t we? No, could it be that our enemy is within? That we have seen the enemy. . . and he is us?

And the ironic thing is if we don’t rise up and slay the dragon of Christian apathy now, we probably would not be successful in overcoming a governmental threat to Christianity in the future.

And so I pray that God would give us the eyes to see the enemy within, whatever form it takes, so that we might boldly step out in faith for the sake of His Kingdom and His Righteousness . . . which has no end!

A short time after Fanny Crosby was born in 1820, she developed an infection in her eyes that was treated with mustard poultices which attacked her optic nerves, blinding her. But she did not allow the obstacle of being blind to keep her from living a bold faith-filled life.
At the age of eight, she wrote her first poem, which described her condition. When she was 15, Crosby enrolled at the New York Institution for the Blind where she learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar. In 1843, she became the first woman to ever speak in the US Senate as she lobbied for nation-wide education for the blind. Her love of music led her to turn her poems into songs. She wrote popular folk songs, political songs and patriotic songs, but her greatest contribution to music was 9,000 Christian hymns;
one of which we opened worship with today: Blessed Assurance. Crosby later remarked: “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the things visible.” She also once said, “when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior”.

I recently read about John and Brenda who recently sat on their front lawn as they watched their house burn. Their pastor and church friends gathered around them, consoling them in their loss. John is a doctor; the home was beautiful, filled with beautiful things. As one fellow Christian arrived on the scene, the first thing Brenda said to him was “George, pray for our neighbors. This is going to give us a great opportunity to witness to them.” And that bold act of faith kindled an evangelistic fire in their church that continues to sweep through the community.

I was similarly inspired last Sunday when I witnessed our friend Larry Wilson, who sometimes uses a cane, work so hard as we cleaned out the shed. I caught him trying to pick up a heavy wooden table by himself. When I offered to help he said, as if he were Captain America, “Stand aside kid, I got this.” Later on, as he and Marla were leaving, I thanked Larry for his hard work he looked at me and said, “Hey, it’s for my church.”

By faith, these people of God boldly live out their lives as if God exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

All of these people from Abraham down to Larry Wilson are calling and challenging us to make decisions that would reflect bold faith.

Like them, let it be said of us that by faith we become a regular every Sunday worship attenders; by faith we will invite a friend, neighbor or co-worker to worship; by faith we will share the gospel of Christ with someone who doesn’t know Him; by faith we will join my Disciple Bible Study class offered this Fall; by faith we will pray every day, not only for our own needs but for the needs of this, His church; by faith we will move toward giving 10% of our income to the Lord’s work; by faith we will reflect upon our gifts and how we might use them to serve the Lord with gladness.

And most important of all; especially as we come to the Communion Table today, let it be said of us that we boldly followed our only real-life hero, Jesus. I am thinking of the opposition He faced as He stood before the Jewish leaders and was being questioned about who He was and about how knowing what He was about to face in the form of extreme opposition He stood firm:

Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council[a] were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand[b] and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”
Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him” (Matthew 26:57-67).