One of the most endearing characters in modern movies has to be the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. He was afraid of his own tail. He put on a good front at first, but quickly that veneer was stripped away, revealing the fearful pussy cat beneath. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that he joins Dorothy’s quest to see the Wizard so he can ask for courage. He desperately wanted to become the courageous, unafraid lion that he thought he should be.
As the story unfolds, you find out that he actually isn’t a coward as he puts his life on the line to help rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West. Yeah, he moans and complains the whole way but the bottom line is he did it. And when he gets back to the Emerald City, the Wizard tells him he’s been courageous all along and gives him a medal for his bravery. The whole time the Lion’s idea of courage was wrong. He mistook his fears for cowardice, while ignoring the truth that he was fighting through his fears for the people he loved.
Let’s look at a different Lion.
When Jesus went to the Feast of Booths in John chapter seven, he went to a place where the authorities were seeking to arrest him and kill him. At first he went in secret (John 7:10), but eventually he revealed himself and began teaching in the temple. To say the least, this caused the crowds to whisper and murmur about the things he taught. Eventually, the whispering and murmuring got back to the Pharisees (John 7:32) and it culminated in a confrontation. The Pharisees sent some temple rent-a-cops to arrest Jesus and he stopped them in their tracks and said this:
“I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” (John 7:33-34)
I try to imagine how this went down. They come at Jesus ready to seize him, he holds up his hand to stop them, and he flatly looks at them and says this. Then they hang their heads, turn around and leave.
These were armed men on a mission and Jesus didn’t flinch. He knew that his time had not come. He knew he had not accomplished his mission. He knew that going with them quietly was not the answer. So he stood there and confounded them by his courage, obeying the Spirit in that moment, speaking what the Spirit told him to speak.
There’s something about this kind of courage that brings out the grizzly in me. A grizzly doesn’t feel threatened by bunnies, even if they come armed with little swords. Jesus wasn’t threatened by these temple guards. He was the grizzly, they were the armed bunnies. No contest. It wasn’t his time. Clarity about his mission, his position, his identity, and his source of strength gave him the courage to stand in that moment. He knew who he was, and he knew who they were, and there was no reason to fear.
That kind of courage and confidence should mark everyone who follows Jesus. Why? First, as long as he has you alive, you have a mission. And as long as you are walking in his will, no one can stop that mission. We may start with fuzzy ideas about what that mission is and what it is supposed to accomplish, but no matter, the Holy Spirit knows your mission and if you are following him, even if you cannot see it clearly, you cannot fail.
But also, from the moment you were born again, you became a son of God. And like our elder brother, Jesus, we have access to the same power and authority that empowered him when he walked the earth. There truly is no reason for us to ever walk in fear as long as we walk with the Holy Spirit. He empowered Jesus. He will likewise empower anyone who belongs to Jesus, as long as we determine to commune with him and listen to him daily.
We can follow him courageously because he was courageous for us. Christians, especially men, we need to lay down our absurd ideas about bravery and what it means to be a courageous. Jesus has already shown us true bravery and courage. He was confident because he only said and did the things that were revealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s the same for us. Confidently following the Holy Spirit the way Christ did won’t always be comfortable, but it will always end one way.