Stockton challenges Christians to be courageous
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
David Stockton said he would have liked to talk about courage, compassion and competence, but time allowed for only one topic – courage.
His message, though, contained another word that begins with c.
“I’m getting to know a lot of GCU students; I’m getting to know more of your generation. I just think you guys might do it better than anyone else. And I’m not trying to say that to make you happy.”
To the contrary, he was not mincing words as he challenged them to think about what for some might be unthinkable – giving up at least a sizable swath of their lives to do God’s work, quite possibly in a Third World country.
“Courage is such an important thing, and I think it’s one of the things that Christians are lacking the most these days,” he said. “I think our Christianity in America has become so much more about consuming than it has been about courage.”
He told the story of a boat trip gone awry. His daughters and other relatives were heading to Catalina Island off the coast of California, but bad weather turned a fun excursion into an excruciating stomach-turner that made most of the passengers sick.
There were three types of people on that boat, he said: those who needed help, those who were OK but kept to themselves and the ones who took care of others.
“You are the third person,” he told his daughters later.
“That’s really the type of person that we are called to be,” he added. “And life is hard and challenges come and there are all types of hardships, and I’m not trying to take away from that. But as a Christian we really are called to be in that third category.”
We get to that mindset by trusting God, and his favorite Old Testament story illuminates that point. The first book of Samuel, Chapter 14, Verses 1 and 4-15, tells how Jonathan and his armor-bearer slayed the Philistines all by themselves simply because Jonathan believed.
Walking up to the Philistine soldiers and challenging them was a “horrible plan,” Stockton said, but the plan won the day – and later in the Book of Samuel, David challenged and defeated Goliath in similar fashion.
They’re two great examples of courage and trusting God that still resonate today.
“Courage is what the world needs,” Stockton said. “Courage is what we’re kind of inspired and encouraged by when we see some of what’s going on in Ukraine right now, that people are willing to fight for some things worth fighting for, willing to stand up, even at risk of their life.
“And I think that the world around the Christian church oftentimes is just looking and going, ‘It just seems so stale and flat and boring,’ where courage has been history. Courage has been the great thing.”
He pointed to the courage of Harriet Tubman, the 19th-century woman who risked her life repeatedly to free slaves and found her courage in these words:
“God’s time is always near. He gave me my strength, He set the North Star in the heavens and He meant that I should be free.”
Stockton said courage starts with our belief system, laid out in Isaiah 30:18:
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!
And his actions back up his admonitions. He said he quits his job every six years to follow God’s call and minister to people who need help. He could have come up with a lot of reasons why his family shouldn’t do mission work in Belize, for example, but he is fascinated to see what the Lord might do on those trips.
And now he’s seeing what it has done for his daughters. They’re acquiring some amazing stories, too.
“They’re starting to get some of that courage on their own,” he said, “building their own testament, being able to have their own bag of God’s goodness to reach back into when times are tough and say, ‘But I remember this.’”
Stockton reminded his audience of a key New Testament message – that God has not given us the spirit of fear or timidity despite what is happening in the world.
“I know right now the times, the anxiety, the stress, the pandemic, so many things, it’s weighing on us, no doubt about it,” Stockton said. “The divisions in our society, the deceptions – it’s a very crazy time to live, in some ways.
“But God has not given you a spirit of weakness or fear. He’s given you a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind. God has filled you with courage and competence and compassion, and the Lord has really, really big plans for you – to go by yourself or maybe find some young armor-bearer.”
As 1 Corinthians 16:13 says:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
“This is the call, and it’s going to take a lot of courage for you guys to live the next 60 years following hard after Jesus,” Stockton said. “It’s going to take a lot of courage. The world’s changing all the time.”
For some, he added, that might mean risking your life. For others, it simply will mean staying – a “c” word again – consistent.
But he also had a “c” word – console – for those who feel like victims or unpardonable sinners.
“I’m not trying to take away those things. Those are real. Those are factors,” he said. “But you are more than that. You are a child of the living God. You are a king. You are a queen.
“And whatever has been done to you or you’ve done to yourself is not the main thing.
“And it might cause great challenges, but you have the image of God breathed into you by the Maker of heaven and earth.
“And you are so much more than whatever that is.
“And it’s going to take great courage to get to that place, to see yourself that way.”
In other words, courage takes many forms. But its ramifications are easy to “c.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
- To watch the full Chapel service, including the music of the Worship team, the announcements for the week and David Stockton’s talk, click here. Here’s the slideshow.
- Next Monday: Final Chapel of semester
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