Courage to Stand Alone – Part 1

by Bill Rudge

Bill’s challenging message on Courage to Stand Alone was recorded live at a national youth convention. It has inspired thousands of teenagers and adults to resist the peer pressure and dare to be different. Just like Daniel who was used by God in an incredible way to accomplish feats of heroism, faith, and courage that inspire us to this very day, so too, you can have courage to stand alone and impact your world.

To download this Podcast please click here.

Stepping Out In Faith

By BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

The greatest battles we often face will occur the moment we step out in faith. Consider Nehemiah who stepped out in faith when he asked the Persian King for permission to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. While being commissioned by the king to complete this task, we find that Nehemiah’s act of faith and trust in God came with challenges. For example, opposition quickly arose to discourage and prevent him from doing what God had called him to do,

“But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19; see chapters 4-6 for further examples of challenges and opposition that Nehemiah had to endure).

Just as it was in the life of Nehemiah, I recently saw how the act of stepping out in faith by one of my soccer players was preceded by a personal challenge. Prior to our season I had been praying for God to provide ministry opportunities. I was specifically praying for God to prepare the hearts of my athletes for whatever He wanted to accomplish. I wanted this season to be more than just about wins. I wanted to see the Holy Spirit change lives for eternity.

As we began the season, I continued to bring this request before the Lord, still wondering in my own mind how He would respond. While conducting my player evaluations, where I give my players feedback on their progress and talk about areas of improvement, one of my players asked me if she could start a team Bible study. While I knew this girl was a Christian, I was startled at first. She was quiet and kept to herself. I told her that she could present this to the players and whoever wanted to participate could do so before practice. While I still was unsure whether she would actually move forward on this, a few days later she fulfilled her word by going before the team and asking if they wanted to take part in a team Bible study.

About a week prior to this, she was injured in a game. After our trainers and a doctor assessed her, they all felt it was nothing major and anticipated she would be back on the field soon. The day after she spoke to the team about starting a team Bible study she had to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon. It was at this appointment where she found out she had torn her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season. At one moment this young girl chose to step out in faith and start a Bible study with her team, while at the very next moment she was facing season-ending knee surgery.

In the case of Nehemiah, God moved forward through the challenges he faced and brought a great victory. Not only was the wall built, but also those Jewish exiles that returned to their land made an agreement to obey the commands of God as they once again occupied His holy city Jerusalem.

While the story with my player still awaits a final chapter, I know that, just like Nehemiah, if she remains faithful to what God has called her to do she will see a great victory in the end.

We all need to remember that we serve a faithful God and when we place our faith and trust in Him, we can have the same confidence Nehemiah did that He will fulfill His plans through our lives,

“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15, 16).

How Strong Is Your Faith?

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

Writing to Christians who were facing persecution under Roman emperor Nero, the Apostle Peter reminded them that trials are a way to test the genuineness of their faith:

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

The truth of this verse was evident during the life of Kayla Mueller. You may know that Kayla was an American humanitarian aid worker who, in August of 2013, was taken captive by ISIS while in Syria. Until her reported death in February 2015, Kayla had to endure torture, verbal abuse, forced slave labor, and repeated rapes by ISIS’ top leader. Despite these unimaginable trials, Kayla never wavered in her faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, recent reports by other hostages who escaped or were released by ISIS document how she remained strong in her faith. As reported by ABC News,

“… her fellow hostages say she never surrendered hope, she selflessly put the welfare of fellow captives above her own and she even stood up to executioner ‘Jihadi John’ to defend her Christian faith.”

Kayla’s steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ should be a challenge to all of us to determine the strength of our own faith. Yes, we will most likely never have to experience what she went through, but when the trials of life come our way, will we have the same strength she did to stand up and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.

The book of Hebrews reminds us that a great cloud of witnesses surround us (Hebrews 12:1).  One of those witnesses is Kayla Mueller. While her race is over, as she is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior, our race is still going on. The question before us is what witness will we leave when our race ends. I pray that like Kayla we will be a witness to other believers to stand strong in their faith.

As you read the following excerpts of a letter that Kayla sent her parents while in captivity, ask yourself this question, “How strong is my faith?”

I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else, + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.

None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left.” aka_The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.