Christians don't cower. As a church we've been working our way through Acts and we've seen again and again that God is at work in amazing, astonishing, awesome ways though his emboldened and empowered people. Twinned to that I've been deliberately using some questions for deeper meditation in my own personal Bible reading and this morning was thinking through Joshua 1, which has that same thrust - Christians don't cower. Joshua is called to be bold and courageous not fearful and insipid. The key to understand this call is the motivational clause, Joshua can be strong and courageous because he has God with him. In Christ we have no less, Christ has reconciled us to God, the almighty God of Hosts has become our Father, and Jesus has poured out the Spirit into our hearts, we as much as Joshua have reason to be strong and courageous.
Yet that is not often the way we feel as God's people, and even if we do on a Sunday morning that feeling often evaporates by Monday morning. Why? Because I forget the very nature of the God who is as with me on Wednesday afternoon as on Monday morning, who is my Father, who has blessed me beyond my wildest imaginations and invited me to play my small part in his plan to establish his kingdom. I am to be strong and courageous in my living for Christ because I know God is with me.
Being strong and courageous doesn't mean not feeling fear but it does mean not giving into it, putting it into perspective, calling it out for what it is. Like shining the light on that object whose shadow looms large and causes terror for your child at night, to reveal it not to be a thing of horror but a crumpled worn sock that has simply escaped the washing basket. Shining the light of the glory of the God who is with us on our fears unmasks them, revealed them for what they are and liberates us from their crippling effects.
So what? Where have I failed to live in the light of God being with me? Where has that forgetfulness led me to live by fear rather than courage? Where has it led me to refuse to step out in faith and risk failure.
I wonder often for us as churches if it is in settling for the small. The mission God gives Joshua is huge, the mission Jesus gives the early church is earth spanning and it is not impossible because he is with them. Yet I have to be honest, often I am just praying for the ones and twos. There is nothing wrong with that but is it courageous? Is it trusting in God or trusting in what I can handle?
What about my dreams for Grace church, what constrains that vision? Is it fear of failure? Is it my horizons? Or am I being strong and courageous because God is with me? What would a strong and courageous dream look like?
Here's some blue sky thinking, that I think somewhere over the last year I've lost sight of, here's what God could do given who he is and what we could do given that he is with us notice I'm not saying God must do it, or that he will do it, this is not a prophetic word but a possible dream. Our area is full of needs, it needs a doctors, a pharmacy, family facilities, community provision, a hub to meet and greet, it needs a place for support and counselling, it needs a playground and a park, but above all it needs the gospel. What would it look like for us as a church to be bold and try to meet that need?
My dream is 'The Lighthouse'. A community use building with a doctors as part of it 1 or 2 days a week, with a open pharmacy alongside it. It also houses offices for organisations like Relate, Christians Against Poverty and others, Grace Cafe is open and provides a place to meet and make friends and build existing relationships. There are a couple of halls which can be hired but are also used to provide free of charge youth, children's and toddler groups, midwifery services and so on. Outside is green space with a children's play area and a place for children to climb and play whilst also providing benches for parents to sit, get to know one another and build relationships. In short 'The Lighthouse' is the community hub that we have never had. And that building is the base from which Grace Church holds out the gospel, meeting there Sunday by Sunday and during the week, being light in the darkness as it serves the community and preaches the gospel.
I've had that dream for ages, the question I'm mulling over is what would it look like to be strong and courageous with that dream? But actually the bigger challenge is to be strong and courageous in meeting those needs we can now whilst waiting and praying to see if my dream is God's will. There are limitations given the spaces we currently have available and the people and time available, but God is with us, he is the power and authority and all the strength we need to hold out the gospel here and now to those he has called us to reach.