When did the Cowardly Lion become brave? Certainly it wasn't when the Wizard pinned the Medal of Courage to his chest. No, it was earlier than that. Courage was born on the yellow brick road. It was nurtured through scrapes with flying monkeys, and hammered into undaunted boldness by the journey itself -- the long journey.
Last year I read, One Blood: Parting Words To The Church On Race by Dr. John M. Perkins. Perkins, pushing ninety and a tireless veteran in the struggle for racial reconciliation, delivers his final manifesto to the church. In this book he writes:
The problem is that there is a gaping hole in our gospel. We have preached a gospel that leaves us believing that we can be reconciled to God but not reconciled to our Christian brothers and sisters who don’t look like us. One Blood, 17.
There is so much to appreciate about this book, but skimming it again to write a review for On My Walk, the chapter "God Don't Want No Coward Soldiers" caught my eye and grabbed my heart. In it Perkins highlights "Heroes In The Trenches," soldiers in the battle for racial reconciliation, people who courageously refused to quit on their march to Oz.
Bill Pannell is one of Perkins' heroes. Perkins writes
When asked about what sustained him over these many years in the struggle for reconciliation [Pannell] says that is it "the realization that God chose me." That realization has kept Bill in the trenches for now more than 68 years, fighting for reconciliation in spite of very little change. One Blood, 137.
More than two hundred years earlier John Wesley exhorted the abolitionist William Wilberforce with similar words:
Unless God has raised you up for this very thing you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanquish away before it. One Blood, 133.
The cowardly lion did not need a medal to be courageous, but he did need to walk that long yellow brick road. The same is true of Perkins and Pannell, Wesley and Wilberforce, you and me. The good news is we do not walk alone.
As Wesley and Pannell both understood, God is with us and God is for us! He demonstrated that emphatically when Christ pierced history and bore our infamy on the cross.
Perkins writes, "So let's persevere and continue the march . . . . In the words of an old spiritual, 'God don't want no coward soldiers.'" One Blood, 143.
Perkins fought on the battlefield of racial reconciliation. In many respects, so does every Christian whether we realize it or not. But there are other fronts and other challenges you may be facing. So be courageous. Walk your yellow brick road, and remember you are not alone. None of your challenges are as strong as God.
Note: Visit onmywalk.com for Tommy's reading podcast. You can subscribe, find reviews of the books he is reading, including One Blood and many many more.