The Scriptures teach: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). The Preacher wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). An individual is not a coward (one who shows or yields to ignoble fear) simply because he fears God. Indeed, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). An individual who has proper fear of the Lord is motivated to depart from evil (Prov. 16:6).
It is evident that fearing some things (for instance the Lord) does not make one a coward. But it is also the case that fearing other things may indeed make one a coward.
One is a coward if he is more concerned with what man can do to him than he is with what God can do to him. Jesus said, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). It is those who are afraid to do God’s bidding that will be cast into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8).
There has never been a day when God was pleased with cowards in His service. Today we need men in the kingdom of God who are not cowards. This is no time for cowards in the kingdom of God. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13). In the kingdom (church of Christ) today we need elders who are not cowards. We need men who will obey Acts 20:28 by living strong lives personally and who will bravely obey Acts 20:28. These men will watch for the wolves (false teachers and preachers and those who “say” but “do not” God’s will.) These men will require faithfulness in Christian living on the part of those of the local church. These men will lead in proper worship. These men will be strong to obey God’s will related to withdrawing from the disorderly (II Thess. 3:6) and marking and avoiding false teachers wherever they are (Rom. 16:17; II John 9-11).
Today is no time for cowardly preachers. There are some preachers who are the “best that money can buy.” And it is evident that some have been bought! Why else would some preachers continue as they say “in the fellowship” of the church of Christ when they teach doctrines contrary to the Lord’s Word? We need, today, preachers who will follow God’s directions and preach the Word, whether it seems convenient to do it, or otherwise—whether the people want to hear it or not (II Tim. 4:1-2).
Today we need Bible School teachers who do not have hidden agendas—who only want to teach and lead young boys and girls, men and women deeper into the Word of Life! Remember Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Our Bible School teachers are sometimes the “last hope” for young people before they leave home and go into the working world and, regrettably, often leave God!
Finally, we need members who are not cowards. We have not received a spirit of fearfulness but of power and love and self-control or discipline. (Read II Timothy 1:7). A Christian has counted the cost and is set for the proper defense of the Gospel, both in word and in deed. Each Christian is well aware of the fact that he can fall (I Cor. 10:12). Each Christian must be vigilant and strong—no time for cowards. The Christian should labor so as to be able to follow Hebrews 13:6: “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Today, in the Kingdom of God, we need men like some of the great men of old such as Abraham (Gen. 22:10-12); Joseph (Gen. 39:9); Daniel (Dan. 6:10-11); David (II Sam. 12:13); Joshua (Josh. 24:15); Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37); Stephen (Acts 7:51-54); Paul (Phil. 3:4-14).
We do NOT need, in the Kingdom of God today cowardly men like selfish Lot (Gen. 13:10-12); Eli—a cowardly and poor example of a father (I Sam. 3:11-14); King Saul, a cowardly self-willed and stubborn man (I Sam. 15:22-23); men like the wicked King Ahab—an ignoble example of ungodliness (I Kings 21:25).
In New Testament days there were hypocrites and self-righteous people like the Pharisees (not all the Pharisees were this way—consider the example of Paul) (Matt. 23:13-36). Then, of course, there is the example of the covetous, envious, jealous, self-serving Judas Iscariot—the betrayer of our Lord (Matt. 26:45-50). Surely there are no such men today! Yet what about the preacher and elders and spineless members who sell the Lord’s beautiful bride into apostasy for the mammon and popularity of this world! Are they not as bad as Judas?
There is no middle ground between right and wrong—truth and error—good and evil. The cowards are lined up on one side, the faithful on the other. We are either serving God as faithfully as we can, or we are cowardly following the devil and his crowd.
We are either men and women of courage who fearfully serve God, or we are cowards who try to save ourselves! May our Lord bless the Kingdom with men of wisdom who are like the great men of the Bible. May He help us to be men—to fight the good fight of faithfulness and lay hold firmly and completely on the promise of the eternal life that awaits the faithful.