Have you ever heard the story of Joseph of Arimathea? He was a “secret disciple” of Jesus Christ (John 15:43). He didn’t want any of his friends and family to know he followed Jesus because he was afraid of what they might think of him. He was a prominent member of the community. He was a rich man and he was well-respected, but he cared too much about what people thought of his “relationship” with Jesus, so he kept it hidden.

All that changed one day, though, when he saw Jesus hanging on the cross… alone, without his disciples, dead, without a proper burial. Mark 15:43 tells us something rather inspiring about Joseph that happened the day of Jesus’ death. It says that Joseph “GATHERED UP COURAGE and went before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” COURAGE! That was the element that he was missing in his relationship with Jesus. Courage to stand up and be counted in the number of those who humbly call themselves “followers of Christ.” Courage to cast off fear and timidity, to publicly announce his affiliation with the man who died to save him.

I, too, was once a “secret disciple” of Jesus Christ. I cared too much about what other people thought of me. I was concerned that people might think I was a fanatic or cult member. I was afraid to stand up publicly for Him and announce my affiliation with Him. I can’t quite put my finger on when it happened, but somewhere along the way I decided to stand up like a man of conviction, without compromise. I became emboldened by the message that I secretly respected and cherished. Belief overcame fear. I understood what Jesus did for me when He died on the cross for me. I knew it was time to make a complete and total surrender of my personal identity and to name myself as “one of His”… a CHRISTIAN. Why did it take me so long to do it? I lacked something. I had to GATHER UP COURAGE.

Philippians 1:20 (NIV)
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

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