It is always inspiring to read examples of Christian courage. That is one of the benefits we derive from reading the Scriptures. No question about Jesus and his apostles giving us many examples of Christian courage. But examples of Christian courage are by no means limited to Bible times. For example:
The West Berlin daily newspaper Der Telegraf (The Telegraph), in its issue of July 18, 1965, contained the following account, as told by an eyewitness, regarding a German youth that had been taken to a concentration camp during the Nazi regime:
“It was in the fall of 1944 when I heard that young Jonathan Stark had been taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was taken to the prisoner’s block No. 14, where he immediately received a special uniform. We knew exactly what this uniform meant; it was the death uniform. When I heard about this, even though it was forbidden to go see him I managed to get in touch with him and was able to talk with him for more than an hour. Because of his decisive action he was already noticed by the others and was very much liked by them. He was very calm although he knew his fate. He remained happy and at each hearing showed himself so firm and determined that his bearing even won the admiration of the elite guard of the Nazis. At the time, he was the big sensation of the entire camp.
“His last hours were on Tuesday afternoon. From a distance we were able to see him standing in front of the gate, but we could not go to him. He stood calm and poised. A professional criminal had been appointed to hang him in the presence of the camp commander. The hangman placed the noose around the youth’s neck. Then, strangely enough, the hangman, hardened criminal though he was, hesitated; even the camp commander forgot to shout his orders. At that the youth spoke up, asking: ‘Why are you hesitating? Take your stand for Jehovah and Gideon!’ Those were his last words.”
Twenty-one years ago that took place, and yet the story of this youth’s courage was featured this past summer in West Berlin’s Der Telegraf. Why? To place his courageous example in contrast with certain current politicians in good standing who failed to manifest such courage in the dark days when Hitler ruled Germany. The report in Der Telegraf concluded by telling of the many thousands that were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps because of a like faith in Jehovah and that, of these, some two thousand perished in those camps.
Why did the Nazis execute Jonathan Stark? Because he had refused to serve in Hitler’s armies. While it may be argued that it takes a certain amount or kind of courage to go into battle as a soldier, surely it takes a great deal more courage and of a far more noble kind to take a stand as Jonathan did and face certain death with such calm. He had the courage of his convictions. His example is one all dedicated Christians should want to imitate.
What gave him this courage? It was his faith in Jehovah. The same account told of his having been reared by parents who loved and feared Jehovah and who instilled in their son Jonathan right principles and who, without doubt, instructed him in the many examples of Christian courage found in the Word of God.—Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.
A striking example of Christian courage was furnished by the apostles Peter and John shortly after Pentecost. Thus when certain officials tried to intimidate them by asking regarding a certain miracle Peter had performed, as if they did not know: “By what power or in whose name did you do this?” those officials got the surprise of their lives. They no doubt expected those humble fishermen to be abashed in their presence. But not so. Just the opposite was the case. Note the boldness of the apostle Peter as, filled with holy spirit, he answered: “Rulers of the people and older men, if we are this day being examined, on the basis of a good deed to an ailing man, . . . let it be known to all of you . . . that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you impaled but whom God raised up from the dead, by this one does this man stand here sound in front of you.” That was courage!—Acts 4:7-10.
More than that, the apostle Peter took advantage of the occasion to point out that this Jesus Christ “is ‘the stone that was treated by you builders as of no account that has become the head of the corner,’” and that “there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” What plain language!—Acts 4:11, 12.
No wonder that the account goes on to say: “Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering.” Usually such plain folk as these fishermen, when before the rulers, were timid, abashed, and manifested an inferiority complex, but not these men. And so, the record goes on to say, “They began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.” There was the answer: They had learned fearlessness, courage, from Jesus Christ. Yes, such examples as these encouraged young Jonathan Stark to show the courage he did.
The world lauds the “determined courage” of a seventy-one-year-old mariner who all alone crossed the Pacific Ocean on a raft; it extols the bravery of the Italian who scaled the steep side of the Swiss Matterhorn to become “the greatest mountain climber of all time,” but what lasting good do such exploits do? They may even do harm by fostering creature worship.
Christian courage, on the other hand, is displayed in the line of duty to God. Based on faith in God and loyalty to right principles, it inspires others who love God to do the same.—Heb. 12:1.
However, if we would have such courage in times of great danger, we must daily build up our faith by a consideration of God’s Word, its promises and its examples of courage. More than that, we must apply Bible principles in the little issues that daily confront us. Doing so, we will have Christian courage in times of great stress.