I have a good friend who occasionally reminds me: “Ian, If our jobs were easy, everyone would want them!” We laugh, we reflect, and we resolve to stay engaged in the battle. It is a great joy most days, and once in a while, it’s a great challenge. But God is always faithful. Our readings today have led us into some of those “not so easy days” for Hezekiah, the King of Judah, and for Paul, the apostle to the early church.
Paul was on his way to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar to intervene in his case. The ship he was travelling on found itself moving from a “gentle south wind” to a “wind of hurricane force called a Northeaster.” They gave up trying to steer the ship because the winds were so great. All they could do was try to set anchors when they approached the shore. It was fourteen days of “a violent battering” before they finally set ashore on the island of Malta. Somewhere along the way, it was the prisoner, Paul, who became the leader, and he urged his shipmates to “keep up their courage,” reminding them that God promised him that not one of the men would be lost. In a time of crisis, there is nothing more important than a voice of hope. It takes courage to lead. It takes courage to trust. Leaders encourage their followers - they speak courage into their lives.
Hezekiah was leading Judah as they faced a different kind of threat. He was only 25 years old, but God placed him in a leadership position. 2 Kings 18:3 tells us that he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the false gods the people had worshipped. His defining mission in life? “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.” When push came to shove, he turned to God and found the courage to lead his people amid the chaos. I love v7: “And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” Intimacy with God is always the foundation of living a life of influence. Was their opposition? There was severe opposition from the King of Assyria. But Hezekiah found courage in the Lord and stayed the course.
It takes courage to lead a life that matters – especially amid storms. It will always be easier to compromise our convictions, but God does great things in the lives of those who choose to “keep up their courage.” So let us lean into God, embrace his purpose for our lives (Ps. 84:3,4) and be amazed at all he does in and through our lives.
One who loves the words of Nelson Mandela: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”