A Call to Courage
By: Scott Morton
There are unfortunately many times where people do not want to speak about things of the Lord. They would rather stay quiet about these things, even though our conversation is supposed to be in heaven (Philippians 3:20). There are various reasons why people feel this way. One of these reasons is being dealt with in the following text:
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:  Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.  For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Paul is writing these words in the last letter that he writes. He is writing unto Timothy, a young man who is the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Many people think of their pastor as someone that always is willing to speak of things from the Bible and would not have any issues with this. However, Paul is addressing this young pastor and it appears that these things were issues that he needed to deal with. Since this is recorded for us in Scripture, this is something that can be applied to us.
I am sure that many people can think of different occasions where this could be true of us. We might be in different places in our lives and we make a decision to not share the gospel with someone. It could be because we are unsure how they are going to react to this and we do not want people to look at us differently. Therefore, we do not use the opportunity to share the truth with people that need to hear the saving gospel for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The Apostle Paul is supposed to be our pattern (1 Timothy 1:16). We should be able to use his life and the things that he did to show us how it is that we are supposed to be acting. A perfect example in this area is the events that happened in Acts 16 when Paul was in Philippi. As a result of his actions, he ends up being arrested and placed in jail. Paul had been standing for the truth and ended up suffering for it. Many people would use this as an excuse to �pack it in� and would not do anything more related to the things of God. However, this is not the case with the Apostle Paul. We see that he continues to spread the message that had been committed to him by God and ends up seeing the fruit of this, as the jailor comes to know the truth of God�s Word. Could this have occurred if Paul had become ashamed of what God had accomplished and decided that he was no longer going to speak of the things of God?
When we look at the aspect of shame, we have to understand that this is an emotion that people can struggle with. It often comes from when people are doing something that they feel is wrong. This feeling then takes over and has an impact in the life of the individual. In the text that we had started with, we see that there are a couple of things that Paul states people can be ashamed of. We can be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (Christ) and we can be ashamed of his prisoner (the Apostle Paul).
Looking at the Apostle Paul, who is our pattern, we should be able to see the proper viewpoint that we should have. In fact, we can see this in Romans 1:16. Paul states that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The reason that he is not ashamed of this is because it is the power of god unto salvation. Paul's understanding is that this is an important thing for people to have a grasp of in their lives. He knows that a person needs to have an understanding of what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), as this is what gives us our salvation. Paul felt that it was impossible for him to have shame over this.
If this is the case, why is it that other can feel this shame? This shame would do nothing but have a negative impact on seeing people saved. It is God's will that all men would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Man can only be saved by hearing the gospel that saves. If people have a shame of this gospel, it prevents them from being able to spread the message, and therefore has an impact on presenting salvation to mankind. Paul knew that it was important to have the message spread to others. This why he would offer up prayers for a door of utterance to be opened (Ephesians 6:18-20). He wanted to be able to have the opportunity to spread this message to others in order to be able to know that they were going to be saved.
The question truly is where does this shame come from. If a person has an understanding of the importance of the cross and had a desire to spread this message to others, what is it that causes them to stop? Unfortunately, it is the wisdom of this world that often has an impact and causes a person to decide that they no longer have that desire.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
The wisdom of this world has a large impact on the viewpoint of what the cross accomplished. Man's wisdom states that a person of importance would have to appear to be invincible. It would not make sense (in man's view) for the hero to sacrifice himself in the manner that He did and to die the death that He did. For example, look at the movies and how the hero is portrayed. They are often shown to be victorious and go through ordeals, sometimes with barely a scratch on them. If they do die, it is in an epic battle where they are victorious over their enemies. The hero is never shown to have been captured, tortured, and killed, and not to have had a victory over his enemies. This is what Christ's death on the cross looks like. The natural man does not accept this as anything but foolishness.
The impact of the wisdom of man starts to take effect on members of the Body. When a person starts trying to share the gospel with others, they are going to run into people that have this type of viewpoint on what Christ did. They will then start to say things to the individual who is attempting to share the truth. When a person hears these things several times, it can start to become discouraging. If a member of the Body does not maintain the focus of the power of the cross, it can instead start to become a shame to them and they stop becoming an effective ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). It also causes the member of the Body to start heading towards being an enemy of the cross (Philippians 3:17-21), as they no longer are willing to take a stand for what the cross is and for the impact that it can have on the lives of others.
It is also possible to start to become ashamed of the Apostle Paul. This is something that starts to happen to more people over time. It is clear that the Apostle Paul had a unique message that was committed to him (Romans 16:25-26, Galatians 1:11-12). Paul had the mystery, the dispensation of the grace of God, committed to him. As a result of this message, the Gentiles are now being dealt with and there is a new program in place, as Israel has been temporarily set aside.
How different does this sound from what is being taught in other churches? Many churches today teach that a person should be following Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry. If this is the case, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would be the most important books for us to follow. If this is the case, we should be keeping the law in its entirety, as this is what Jesus Christ taught in these four books. If this is the case, we should be selling all that we have an giving it to the poor prior to following Christ (Matthew 19:16-24). How different is this from what is being taught today, as many people feel that finances are a physical blessing from God because they are doing the right thing.
Because of what the Apostle Paul teaches in his epistles, there starts to be a difference between what the typical church teaches and what members of the Body of Christ believe. In order for there to be common ground between the two, one of the two sides has to make a change in what they believe. Too often, people who have the truth start to change this and start believing false doctrines. This allows for there to be some fellowship and breaks down the differences. When a person does this, they start to demonstrate shame for the message of the grace of God, and for Paul, his apostle to the Gentiles.
There was also some shame of Paul because of all the things that he had suffered. A reading of 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 shows that a lot of things happened to him as he was preaching the gospel. In fact, he is in prison as he is writing this last epistle. There is also a demonstration of people turning their back on him.
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.  And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.
We see that a couple of people who were faithful to the Apostle Paul have deserted him. These men, while they are saved, had made a decision to abandon the truth of the Word of God. The reason that is given is that the loved the present world. They wanted to be part of the world rather than being part of what God was doing. How sad of an indictment on them. Unfortunately, this can be seen today, as there are those who become ashamed of what Paul has laid out for the members of the Body and decide to drift away from this truth. These that make this decision do have something to be ashamed of (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). They should be ashamed of their actions and it is God who they will have to answer to with this.
Paul gives an answer to the idea of having this courage to stand for truth. Back in the text that we started with, Paul states that we need to become partakers of the afflictions. Paul also states something very similar to Timothy about the need for this in a couple of other places in this letter (see 2 Timothy 2:3, 4:5). This means that we need to have these afflictions become a part of our every day life and to not think that this is something that needs to be avoided.
Think about how different that is from what everyone thinks about problems that they experience. Most people want to be able to avoid all sorts of problems and do not think about wanting them to be a �normal� part of their life. When people are dealing with problems, they often do not want to deal with them. They pray to God for the complete removal of all of these things, because they feel that God wants them to have an easy, pain free life. This is not the case, as Paul clearly states that we need to be partakers of afflictions, which means that these things need to be present. Paul also states things such as the fact that we are given to suffer (Philippians 1:29) and the fact that the amount of suffering is going to have some impact on the ability to reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:11-13). If we are going to take away these sufferings, we are going to take away things that God has intended for us today. The true thing to remember is that there is some glory that comes from the fact that we are suffering, as this is what eventually brings for the believer (Romans 5:1-5).
As we begin 2007, it is important to remember that we need to take a stand for the Word of God rightly divided. Paul was given a message that he then gave to us. It is our responsibility to continue to teach the Word and to not be ashamed of the truth that is contained in it.