Several years ago now, my wife and I were in Memphis on a brief vacation. While there, one of stops we made was at the Pink Palace- a really cool museum there. As we walked around, all of a sudden, there was, right in front of us, a museum employee who was holding a 4-foot albino boa constrictor. The reaction that each of us had was a different as it could be. As I back-pedaled as quickly as I could, my wife stepped forward and…accepted the woman’s offer to hold that wretched creature! I stepped BACK a little further and took a picture while she held that snake and petted it. She is truly Wonder Woman!
I am, I will claim, not afraid of much. People say, “Oh, the church is scary late at night. It makes lots of noises and I’m afraid to be in it by myself after dark! Aren’t you afraid to be in there at night?” My come response is, “Not even a little bit. In fact, I will walk through the 100+ year old building late and night and not even turn the lights on- I just use the red lights from the “exit signs” to see. Doesn’t bother me a bit.
When there is somebody outside the house or it sounds like somebody is IN the house, I’m comfortable to walk right into the fray, not smart enough to be afraid. When we stop to see if someone broken down on the side of the road needs help, I will tell my wife, “I’m leaving the car running- lock me out. If there is a problem, drive away and call for help. I’m simply not afraid of much. But I am TERRIFIED of snakes. I have no idea why it’s snakes, but I DO know that I felt I was in better company when the first Indiana Jones movie came out and we all learned that even that fearless, intrepid explorer is terrified of snakes! “Snakes- why’d it have to be
What IS leadership? And perhaps more importantly, who does it apply to? Today, we continue our current sermon series- Are You Leading or Taking a Walk? It’s based on the concept that, if you think you’re leading but look behind you to find that no one is following- you’re just out taking a walk! This series is NOT simply for “church leaders” but for…everyone. We are ALL called to be leaders- in our homes, our church, our community and the world. We are called to help lead by connecting people to Jesus Christ. This series focuses on the qualities of a good leader as seen through the lens of some of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Today, we look at James, another of the “Big Three” along with Jon, who we looked at last week and Peter, who is coming up. Today, we consider another important aspect of good leadership- courage.
Luke 5:9-11 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
James, often called the Elder, same surname as his brother John –Boanerges. Again, he is the son of Zebedee and Salome, a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was the first of the disciples who was martyred- beheaded by Herod, AD 44. As I mentioned last week, he was a member of the Inner Circle, the Big Three, along with Peter and John. The New Testament doesn’t really tell us very much about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were inseparable pair.
He was a man of great forgiveness. He was a man without jealousy. He was a man of extraordinary faith. He lived in the shadow of John. And he was a man of great courage. If you noticed, Jesus tells the Disciples in this passage, “Don’t be afraid.” That’s what EVERY angel who appears in the Bible says. Depending on the translation, there are 365 examples in the Bible of Heavenly beings telling us average Joe citizens “don’t be afraid”- one for each day of the year!
And James, along with the others, showed great courage by dropping EVERYTHING and following Him. James continues to shows great courage, boldly proclaiming the Gospel until, as I said, eventually being the first of the Disciples to be martyred.
To have courage requires confidence. The best leaders are very confident in themselves and their ideas, which allows them to be decisive, courageous. But, they have to be able to share that courage without being arrogant and bragging.
Great leaders have the ability to make tough decisions and are courageous, even when conventional wisdom would dictate otherwise. They are willing enough and courageous enough to stand alone if they believe in their convictions. This is directly related to their visionary skills, strategic thinking and their self-confidence. They are also courageous enough to be able to recognize when they need the expertise or knowledge of others and are not afraid to admit it. The strongest leaders are confident in themselves and their ideas, which allows them to be decisive and courageous. I want to leave you today with the wisdom of six great minds from history- all well-known but from a wide varieties of backgrounds.
Winston Churchill said, “Failure is NOT fatal- it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Thucydides, an Athenian historian and general, said, “The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”
Author t.s. eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”