Courage Like Rhinos
Every single one of us has endured adversity at multiple points over the course of our respective lives. These hardships can be exhausting, devastating, or cause us to question our worth or faith. For some people, these storms cause us to doubt God’s plan for our life. There are many schools of thought that believe that becoming a believer is safe and comfortable.
However, this could not be further from the truth, as we are called to be warriors.
Below, I’d like to address two misconceptions that are commonly misunderstood.
1. The safest place to be is in the center of the will of God
God undoubtedly calls us to live a life of obedience to him. However, many times the center of God’s will is the furthest place from that of safety. For example, in Acts it says, “For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard” (22:15). The Greek word for witness is translated to martus, which is where we get the word martyr.
In Matthew we see Jesus instruct his followers to tell John the Baptist who was in prison, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (11:4-6). Jesus’s message was "I am more than capable of doing much more than you could ever imagine." John knew firsthand the power of God as he witnessed the heavens open up when he baptized Jesus. However, Jesus was telling John that although I am capable of saving you, I am not coming to get you out of prison nor am going to spare your life. Yes, I have done these great things for others, but the journey I chose for you is different and you will be blessed if this does not call you to fall away (McManus, pg. 31).
As you can see, there is no correlation between being a believer and having a stress-free life. In fact, Jesus told us in John that "in this life we will have trouble, but take heart as I have overcome the world" (16:33).
2. Philippians 4:13
This verse is popular in today’s culture as you see it on many basketball players’ shoes and under the brim of baseball players’ hats. Although this verse is one of the most popular verses, it’s also one of the most misunderstood. This verse should not be taken literally because no matter how hard I work, train, or study, I will never be a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The real meaning of the verse can be found in preceding words which state “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (4:11-13).
Paul was actually talking about his ability to be content in all circumstances. Paul got to experience visions of heaven while also being subjected to torture and imprisonment over the course of his life. What he is talking about in this verse is his ability, through God, to be content in whatever circumstance he may find himself in.
So contrary to belief, being a believer does mean you should expect a life of happiness. We need to learn to be content no matter the situation. We need to be as courageous as Rhinos as they stampede with courage even though they can only see 30 ft. in front of them (McManus, pg. 137).
Courage does not always look like charging hell with a squirt gun; it looks like staying faithful through no matter how severe the storm may be.
McManus, E.R. (2005). The barbarian way: Unleash the untamed faith within. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books. Zondervan Publishing House (Grand Rapids, Mich.). (2010). The Holy Bible: New International Version containing the Old Testament and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan