Take A Stand
God’s Not Dead: Take A Stand – Introduction
Today, we conclude our series based on the movie, God’s Not Dead. So far, we’ve examined “Where is God when everything goes wrong?”, “Is our faith blind?”, and “How do we respond to critics?” In the movie, through all of the challenges thrown at him, Josh never turned away from his best friend, Jesus. He chose not to give in to the pressures of those around him – his professor, his girlfriend, etc. – and he chose, instead, to take a stand – to take a stand for Jesus. Like Josh, we are often faced with challenges to our faith. In the midst of those challenges we, too, have a choice. So today, we’ll take a look at what it might mean for us to Take A Stand For Jesus.
“Friendship should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed.
Josh refers to Jesus as his friend. Our hymn today reminds us that Jesus is our friend. But, what does that mean? What is a friend, and what is friendship?
The dictionary defines a friend as one attached to another by affection or esteem, a favored companion; a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. Synonyms include companion and confidant. An acquaintance, on the other hand, is someone known to us without the intimate quality of friendship. Friendship is the quality or condition of being friends.
So, a true friend is someone with whom we have a deep, intimate bond and relationship. True friendship is unconditional acceptance no matter what happens – “No matter what happened yesterday, I’m still your friend now.” Basically, a true friend loves us “warts and all.”
How many of you have ever heard of Joseph Medlicott Scriven? If you have, it’s a name you’re not likely to forget. Joseph…Medlicott…Scriven. I’m sure there aren’t many of us who remember ever hearing of him.
Let me tell you a little about him. He was an Irish immigrant, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, who at 25 had fallen in love and was to be married; but on the day before his wedding everything changed in an instant.
While crossing a bridge to visit Joseph, his fiancée fell off of her horse, and drowned in the River Bann in Ireland…the very day before their wedding! What a horrendous accident. As we might imagine, Joseph was crushed. So, he sailed to Canada to forget his broken heart, and to try to start a new life. And he pretty much did–eventually falling in love again, and even getting engaged for a second time. All seemed right with the world once more for Joseph Scriven.
But, before they could wed, his fiancée got very sick, and four months later she died of pneumonia. What are the odds? How would one recover from that horrible shock…all over again?
If it were you, sitting there at your second funeral, would you blame God, turn away from Him, despair of all His supposed goodness?
You’ve probably heard folks say or post on Facebook, “I married my best friend.”
For Joseph Scriven, he couldn’t say that. He had to bury his potential best friend…twice. And, as if wasn’t enough, while recovering from these dual tragedies, his mother in Ireland became extremely ill, and he couldn’t sail home to be with her.
Heartbroken and helpless. It was beyond adding “insult to injury,” almost a cruel cosmic hoax to see how much he could bear. How many of us have felt those same feelings of despair and hopelessness. How many times have we wondered, “just how much am I supposed to endure?”
In response to his feelings, Joseph did the only thing he could do. In 1860, he wrote to his mother, and sent her a poem that he hoped might give her some comfort in his absence.
Why do I mention Joseph Scriven’s sad story? To depress you? No…to encourage you!
Despite his circumstances, horrible circumstances to be sure, almost soap opera-like tragedies, he never lost faith in his best friend…and that simple poem to his mother became a famous hymn about that same friend, Jesus Christ. Yes, you guessed it…in the midst of his deep despair, Mr. Scriven penned the poem that would one day be set to music – our hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
Let’s take a closer look at a few lines that we sang earlier:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
oh, what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!
Joseph considered Jesus to be his best friend, and despite his loss, his trust in his friend never wavered, and he stood with Him in a life of ministry to the poor in Port Hope, Ontario until his death in 1886.
In the film God’s Not Dead we see a similar friendship with Jesus despite some heavy losses by our protagonist.
In the film, Josh Wheaton, takes a stand for his Christian belief in God with his college philosophy class, trusting in his Friend to see him through as well, no matter what the cost. And, as the movie shows, it costs him plenty.
We’ve seen the movie trailer before. Let’s watch it again, only this time, let’s pay attention to how Josh responds to his professor’s challenge to renounce his best Friend:
How would we respond to a public challenge like this, one that impugns our friend? It may be a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone in your church. It could even be a member of your family or the love of your life.
How far would you go to defend your friend and not disappoint them when they need you most? Think about it for a moment. How often have we come to the defense of a friend, or said something like, “Wait a minute, you can’t talk to a friend of mine that way.”? Would we come to Jesus’ defense the same way we defend our other friends? We take a stand for our friends and family all the time. Do we consider Him to such a friend that we would Take a Stand for Jesus?
Taking a stand can be a hard thing to do sometimes. Josh sets the bar pretty high for all of us in the film, willing to sacrifice everything to stand with his best Friend.
First Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;“
Let’s look at Josh’s motivation and his “Taking A Stand” for his Friend, Jesus Christ, and, in the process, maybe we’ll discover what exactly makes a person a true friend?
What Makes A Friend?
First of all, let’s take a look at some of the things the Bible says about friendship.
- A real friend is consistent in their affection.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
What does that mean in our world today? It means that no matter what happens, they are there for us, 24-7, especially when our world falls apart. When it is the worst, even at 4 A.M., we can call them because we know they’ll come and help.
- A true friend is brutally honest.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)
If we have a problem, they care enough to not sugarcoat it. They tell you the truth. If there’s broccoli in your teeth, or that color isn’t the most flattering…they’ll tell us. They care too much to let us be a fool, get hurt, or be embarrassed.
- A genuine friend is closer than family, even to the point of death.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother(Proverbs 18:24).”
Someone who is closer than a brother is someone who will sacrifice even their own life for us, and we for them. They are more than family. They are our go-to-guy in any situation because we know that they have your back. When it’s life or death, they will step in for us no matter what.
Who can be with you 24-7, tells you the truth all the time, and would even die for you as a brother?
I think the answer becomes clear when we consider Mr. Scriven’s best Friend, the man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ, because He didn’t just say it, He “…demonstrates His own love toward us…” (Romans 5:8).
Jesus is that “friend who sticks closer than a brother,”. He is always there, always honest, and as a brother He even died for us. Josh knows this and acts accordingly in his philosophy class.
Scripture tells us:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:16)
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)
Think about this for a moment. Do you know anyone who cares so much for you that they would actually die for you? Would you die for another? Jesus laid down His life for us. Would we lay down ours for Him?
Take A Stand
This is the litmus test. A real true friend will stand with us when our reputation is in question, when we’re at the very bottom, when we are completely broken, and have nothing.
The whole premise of God’s Not Dead is summed up beautifully in the scene at the library where Josh reveals his motivation to Martin Yip, a student from Communist China, who doesn’t quite get it. His motivation is very simple…pure friendship that does not want to let his Friend down.
Josh lays out all his “difficulties,” – “Everyone thinks I’m crazy…Girlfriend, ex-girlfriend…My parents don’t want me to risk it…I’ll have to work like a dog to catch up in all my other classes.” But, ultimately, he has no real qualms about defending his friend to his atheist professor, despite all the risk and difficulty. It’s a no brainer. Why? Because he thinks Jesus is alive. What a powerful statement of faith. He thinks that Jesus of Nazareth is really and truly still alive…today, right now! Do we? Is our faith so strong that we believe that too? Do we believe it enough to take a stand for Him?
Do we proclaim Jesus to be our friend? Would we stand up for him in public like Josh? It is a remarkable love that we can also see elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the Old Testament story of another true friendship.
Jonathan and David
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1-3)
Setting aside any other possible interpretations of the story of Jonathan and David, of all the stories of friendship in the Bible, this is perhaps the greatest. And what do we see modeled here between Jonathan and David? We see the Golden Rule that Jesus established for us and recorded in Matthew 22:34-40…treat others as you would like to be treated…which means love them as you love yourself. And that’s exactly what Jonathan did, “…he loved David as himself.”
Jonathan even defended David and protected him from his father, King Saul.
“Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.”” (1 Kings 19:6)
Now that’s standing up for your friend – standing up to your own father, the King no less, when it’s literally life and death. And I’m sure Jonathan knew David was a “threat” to his right to Saul’s throne one day. Talk about risking it all!
And how did David respond to him? Again, not delving into any other interpretations or possible implications, he loved him in return. Their hearts were knit together, and when David learned of his death he mourned him and said, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).”
He loved him more than the love itself!
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
That is what we see Jonathan initiated with David, and also what we see Josh reciprocating to Jesus’ love for him in coming to His defense in his philosophy class. Josh doesn’t want to let him down. “I think of Jesus as my friend. I don’t want to disappoint Him.”
Let’s Get Practical – Dale Carnegie
One of the foremost experts on friendship was Dale Carnegie. For more than 100 years, and in almost as many countries, his methods and courses have been changing the way people view each other for the better.
Carnegie grew up a very poor farm boy in Missouri, but he soon discovered biblical truths about friendship that he put into secular terms in a book that sold over 5 million copies in his lifetime called, How To Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a gem of a book, and if you struggle with relationships, I highly recommend it. In fact, I should go back and re-read it! Mr. Carnegie’s life motto was one that should resonate with all believers: “Forget yourself; do things for others.” –Dale Carnegie
Pretty simple, right? It’s a bit longer, but Paul wrote much the same thing in his letter to the Church at Philippi, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
One of our tasks as we study Scripture is to give thought to how whatever lesson we happen to be reading can be applied in our lives today. So, let’s get practical and have something to apply regarding friendship.
There are the six basic truths that Carnegie lived by. They’re tried and true and, if we want to have friends, all we have to do is apply these proverbs to our own lives and watch what happens.
- Be genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the most important word in the world. Use it often.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Ask questions.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. Avoid “I.”
- Make the other person feel sincerely important.
That’s it…that’s all we have to do. In short, love others as we would like to be loved.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
Never Too Late
What if we haven’t been the best of friends to Jesus? Is it too late?
Time and distance don’t collapse true friendships. For example, I have a very, very dear friend, Billy. While I was living in California, Billy and I enjoyed a very close, very true friendship. If I ever needed a friend, he was there – no questions asked. And I offered him the same in return. As happens, our lives took different paths and I ended up moving to Oregon. It had probably been seven years since Billy and I had seen each other, or even had contact. We had connected though Facebook, but even that was cursory. Then, a couple of months ago I was surprised, and thrilled, to learn that Billy was moving – to Grants Pass! When he got here, he made contact, we connected, and our friendship, our relationship, picked up right where we had left it. It was as if the last seven years of absence simply didn’t exist.
Our friendship, our relationship, with Jesus is the same way. Remember, Jesus promised He would always be with us. In Matthew 28:20 we read, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Notice He doesn’t put any qualifiers on it – just like a true friend, just like my friend Billy, no matter how much time has elapsed, or how much distance we have allowed to creep in between us, He will never, ever leave us. If we haven’t been the best of friends to Him, it’s never too late.
And what would being a friend to Him look like? Unlike Peter, we don’t deny Him. Like Josh, even when everyone around us thinks we’re crazy, we hold true to our faith and to our friend – we Take a Stand for Jesus.
We’ve seen what a real friend is in the example of Jesus Christ, and Josh’s Jonathan/David response to His love when he stood up for Him.
True faith is action – just like Josh standing up in his philosophy class. It requires works…not for salvation, but as evidence of it. Real faith means taking a step, an action, it means standing up. That’s what we call baptism. After we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we take an action, a step of faith, to show our belief. And it doesn’t matter if, up until now, we haven’t been the kind of friend we should have been…it doesn’t matter if we’ve let time or distance temporarily separate us – it’s never too late.
As a side note, Joseph Scriven never married. His action was a life devoted to ministering to the poor for the sake of his best Friend. Let’s look at the rest of his poem, today’s hymn. I’d like to think his mom found great comfort in it, and in her son’s remarkable faith.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged –
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge –
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
may we ever, Lord, be bringing
all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
there will be no need for prayer –
rapture, praise, and endless worship
will be our sweet portion there.
With that sort of a friend, why wouldn’t we take a stand for Him and give our all no matter the risk…especially when we know He stands right there alongside us? What a friend we have in Jesus, a friend who stood up for us, and who “sticks closer than a brother!”
In closing, let me share this poem by William Blake, 1757 – 1827:
I looked for my soul,
but my soul I could not see.
I looked for my God,
but my God eluded me.
I looked for a friend,
and then I found all three.
- Peter 3:15
- Proverbs 17:17
- Proverbs 27:5-6
- Proverbs 18:24
- Romans 5:8
- John 15:16
- 1 John 3:16
- 1 Samuel 18:1-3
- Matthew 22:34-40
- 1 Kings 19:6
- 2 Samuel 1:26
- Philippians 2:3-4
- Matthew 28:20
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