What is the most courageous thing you’ve done?
I have read many stories of courage, but one comes immediately to mind.
On March 7, 2022, the massive Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, Florida, was closed as part of a 10K race for the armed forces. Nearly seven thousand runners were on the bridge. Suddenly, a drunk driver broke through all the barricades and headed at a high rate of speed toward the runners.
Florida Highway Patrol trooper Toni Schuck, sitting in her patrol car near the bridge, saw the approaching disaster. Realizing that her vehicle was the only thing standing between the out-of-control driver and thousands of defenseless runners, Trooper Schuck put her vehicle in drive and headed straight toward the speeding car.
When the two vehicles met, nearly head-on, the sound of crashing metal echoed across the bay.
Miraculously, both Trooper Schuck and the drunk driver survived. They were seriously injured, but they survived. Later, Trooper Schuck told her story.
“I was the last officer—I knew that. I knew it was me. So, if it wasn’t me to get her to stop, then who? I don’t know.”2
We hear about stories of courage every week.
We laud those who have taken such heroic steps, particularly when they put their lives on the line. We wonder whether we would do the same if confronted with a similar situation.
In Acts, we meet a beggar who was a mainstay feature next to a gate at the Temple in Jerusalem that had been lame since birth. For years, friends or relatives had carried him to the same spot each day to beg. But when he encountered the apostles Peter and John one day, he was healed by the power of Jesus. In an instant, this man who had been disabled his entire life was jumping for joy and praising God.
Though many people in Jerusalem were astounded and joyful about the healing, some key leaders, particularly religious leaders were concerned and upset. They feared that this healing in Jesus’ name would give major credibility to the gospel, which they opposed. They were concerned that the name of Jesus was becoming too pervasive and powerful. It threatened their leadership and their authority.
Acts 4 opens with a confrontation between the two apostles and “the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees” (Acts 4:1). When Peter and John were subsequently arrested and cast into prison, they knew what awaited them. They would be confronted with a choice. Either stop talking about Jesus or face imprisonment or even death.
Here’s what I love about Acts 4.
Nowhere does it suggest that Peter and John debated about what they should do. They knew they only had one choice, the path of obedience to speak about Jesus.
Do you wonder what you would do in a similar situation? Do you wonder whether you would have the courage to continue to speak about Jesus, even if it meant death or imprisonment? Do you wonder whether you would have courage?
As they likely expected, Peter and John were told to stop speaking about Jesus. Look at Acts 4:16-18:
“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.”
There you have it.
The order from the authorities was clear: Stop talking about Jesus. The consequences of disobedience were equally clear. After all, they were already in prison. But Peter and John never considered acquiescing. After all, they had been an instrument of the power of God to see a hopelessly lame man healed and jumping for joy. God’s power would be with them now as well.
Their response was to the point: “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
Their obedience to God was rewarded. Their trust in him and his power resulted in their being released:
The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.
It is unlikely you will face imprisonment or death for talking to someone about Jesus or inviting someone to church. In fact, it is unlikely you will get a harsh rejection. You might get excuses. You might get a bit of a debate. You might even experience some level of social ostracism. But you probably won’t go to jail or be put to death.
Still, it takes courage to talk about Jesus. It takes courage to invite someone to church. And you will always hear those words of discouragement in your mind. You can always find excuses to say, “Not now.” You will always have distractions to get your mind off those things that Jesus desires.
So, don’t be shy or ashamed to pray for courage. Don’t think you are weak or unusual for asking for God’s strength. To the contrary, your desire to pray for courage is a clear sign you are living in God’s strength.
After Peter and John were released, they returned to the other believers who were gathered. This incipient church could not wait to get the report from the two men. Their reaction? “When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer” (Acts 4:24).
The entire church was encouraged by this great act of God.
They were moved to prayer. Indeed, the edification and power were so strong that they had a physical and spiritual effect on the gathered believers: “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Acts 4 is a powerful and poignant reminder of the work of God through our obedience. It is also a reminder that courage does not come to us naturally, but it is given to us supernaturally.
Take time to read Acts 4 again closely. Use it to guide your prayer life as you pray for yourself and others in your church to be men and women of courage.
Adapted from Pray & Go: Your Invitation to Become a Great Commission Christian by Thom S. Rainer Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers. With nearly forty years of ministry experience, Thom has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of the local church and its leaders. He has been a pastor of four churches and interim pastor of ten churches, as well as a bestselling author, popular speaker, professor, and dean. He earned his MDiv and PhD degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rainer has written numerous books, including three that ranked as number one bestsellers: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His latest books include The Post-Quarantine Church, I Am a Christian and I Believe. He and his wife live in Franklin, Tennessee.