A portrait of Courage

The man slowly and deliberately walked onto the dusty road. His eyes fixed straight ahead on his target. Just minutes before there had been mayhem and upheaval. A sheriff lay shot dead at the hands of a cold blooded killer. The town had been shot up (aka hurrahed) by the trouble making cowboys. Many had “liquored” themselves  up pretty good. What was about to happened was indeed a –portrait of courage. Let’s look into the true scene of a man possessed of  heroic courage that few men have ever possessed.

Four years ago the Lord in his infinite wisdom had drawn me to learn of this man for one main reason– courage. He wanted me learn of his real life story in order to prepare for a work that must be done, which must also involve courage. The books I read concerning this man were numerous, as I couldn’t put them down. The Lord’s objective was accomplished, my interest was keen  and the lessons they taught me fully registered. Let’s examine more of courage in action.

We need to back up the story a bit. The towns had many saloons in those days and in this particular town, at that time, there was a huge high stakes poker game. But as the game got bigger, two well known “bad apples” with notorious reputations came into town, Ben Thompson and his brother Bill, and sat in on the game. Ben Thompson in particular was “the” bad guy who reputation was far and wide. Soon enough, the liquor got the tempers flying. A fight broke out between on Bill Thompson and one of the other players, with Bill being socked to the ground from his chair.

The two brothers got up and cussed their way to the saloon door. The sheriff, C.B Whitney, soon heard about the ruckus and came to the scene. He tried to play the peace maker but shortly after, Bill Thompson, no doubt still high on alcohol and with adrenalin cruising through his veins, said “I’ll get a sheriff if I don’t get anybody else”. Just then he turned to see the sheriff and blasted him at point blank in the sheriff’s breast.

Our young courageous man (hereafter referred as CM) was close near by and held the sheriff in his arms as the dying sheriff said  “I’m done, get me home.” As the commotion started to build, Bill Thompson beelined out of Ellsworth but his brother Ben still hung around. He saddled up and gathered in the streets with his guns yelling at the town. Many bad men from Texas, some witnesses say in excess of 100,  were in the town and joined Ben in his tirade. Now it  seemed the evil men were taunting the “good” men up and down the town, shooting off their guns in defiance, asking if anyone wanted any more trouble, just come outside and get it.

In those days the  “western towns”  were fast and loose. If the sheriff didn’t lay down the law , the law layed down for the bad players. CM was a bystander and observer to all the action. He saw the good intentions of the sheriff but he also saw  serious cowardness follow. Two other law makers, the Marshall and the deputy Marshall, both were called upon by the mayor to take charge of the situation. Both declined. Such great odds against them, they thought twice of risking their lives for peace and justice. CM had also be close enough to hear their excuses spoken to the mayor.

CM, moved by the total failed justice, said to the mayor “Nice police force you got”. The mayor responded, “Who are you??”  “Just a looker on” CM replied. Incensed, the mayor said “Well, don’t talk so much, you haven’t even got a gun”. Then perhaps the most life changing words were spoken by CM. He was to begin a career of one of the most fearless and feared lawman in the old west. CM responded ” it’s none of my business but if it was, I’d get me a gun and arrest Ben Thompson or kill him.”

The coward Marshall was close by and said to the mayor “Don’t pay any attention to that kid , Jim.” Now the mayor was even more incensed and responded to the Marshall ” You’re fired Norton” and he looked over at the deputy Marshall and said “You too , Morco”.He grabbed the Marshall’s badge from his shirt and turned to CM and said “I’ll make this your business. You’re Marshall of Ellsworth. Here’s your badge. Go into Bebee’s and get some guns. I order you to arrest Ben Thompson.”

CM turned and walked into the gun store and picked up a pair of “used”  second hand 45’s. The Bebee clerk recalled how the three (mayor and the two marshalls) stood huddled together on the walkway as CM walked out of the gun shop and passed by them alone and onto the street. Not one of them offered to help the young man, not that he wanted any anyway.

Let’s pick up with the story again. CM now was out in the middle of the street walking  deliberately towards the many, many bad men still on their horses. CM continued on until he came to about 50 yards from their ring leader, Ben Thompson. As mentioned, some witnesses claimed that over 100 bad men were on horses or standing round in the town as CM approached alone. His gun belts at his side clearly visible to all. One false or hesitant move by him could start an avalanche of bullets flying towards him.

CM recalls the moments “I knew what I would do before the mayor pinned Brocky Jack’s badge on my shirt.”  Continuing, “In the first place, I knew better than to walk out of Bebee’s with a gun in my hand. If I had, I would have been filled with lead before I reached the road. But I also knew that, as long as I did not draw, the Texas men would leave it to Ben to make  the play; he would have turned and shot down anyone who dared to cut loose before he opened the ball. Whatever happened must first be between him and me.”

When CM was about 40 yards, Ben called out to the approaching man “What do you want CM?” Apparently Ben was acquainted with him, though not closely. CM  spoke “I want you Ben” as he walked forward. Keep in mind the backup Ben had at that moment, watching for their leader to start the action. Ben kept watching as CM walked closer still. At about thirty yards, many witnesses claim something strange happened. The lone act of courage froze the bad guys (or was it the Lord’s direct hand in observing this young man’s desire for justice?)

The notorious outlaw became submissive to the approaching newly badged young sheriff . He said “I rather talk than fight”. The Texas bad man were no doubt shocked by this turn of events and his words spoken. Afterall it was at least 100 to 1 and none of them want to go to jail. CM  not wanting to lose his edge responded ” I’ll get you either way Ben”. “Wait a minute” said Thompson, “what do you want me to do?”  “Throw your shotgun into the road and put up your hands, and tell your friends to stay out of this play” CM responded.

Finally the overpowering act of courage caused Ben Thompson to say ” Will you stop and let me talk to you?” CM halted. He now knew he could take Thompson, alive or dead. Let’s stop here and note what happened. CM did not love his life more than to see justice and peace be established. Our Lord said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called son’s of God” (Matt.5:9) Here is a powerful lesson that this one man who courageously dared to do the “right thing” against evil adversaries, had the Lord’s direct undivided attention and therefore His divine help.

CM took hold of the notorious bad man and walked him straight into jail, right in front of all his friends! What a sight. No wonder after this one episode CM’s reputation of a fearless lawman went through out the country. This is just one of dozens of documented (eye witnesses, newspaper accts. etc.) episodes of CM’s courage to do the right thing and enforce justice and the law against the majority. The real man’s name, as many of you no doubt guessed, was Wyatt Earp.

The above description is based from Stuart Lake’s book ” Wyatt Earp-Frontier Marshall”.

Down through history we have seen that our Lord has mostly used men with a particular characteristic in common –courage. All the prophets had it, the three young men had it (saved from the fire), Daniel, David and others. It’s almost like the Lord saying ” step up to the plate and I’ll back you up completely”.  (Isaiah 58:8) “..And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say “here I am.”

In today’s church situation we are facing a small crisis, soon to get bigger. It will require courage, the ability to stand up for the Lord’s truth and His last tough solemn message. The people who will decide to stand on the Lord’s side will be the minority. The general leadership has rejected for the most part the Elijah message, just like it also rejected the Lord’s previous message in 1888 (Righteousness by Faith). Do we stand with the “popular” crowd, the majority? Or do we stand with the few, the minority.

In closing, we must learn to stand for righteousness and justice just like Wyatt Earp did. Our church standing will be shown clearly to the Lord–do we stand on his word as spoken through his prophets, especially His last prophet(to get His seal)?

 We don’t know much about Wyatt’s spiritual convictions(whether he came to know the Lord before his death at 80), but the one thing we do know, was that in each and every situation where the odds were stacked highly against him–he came through for law and order, and it prevailed. Standing firm for the right thing in the right situation. And the Lord was his “rear guard” every time, because he took a courageous stand for right doing (righteousness).

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