Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 (CSB)
Stories of courage and heroism inspire us. In the Bible, we read of Daniel facing the lion’s den, or Peter and the apostles, standing before the Council, declaring, “we must obey God rather than man.” Or we might recall Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. These are heroic moments, but what does it mean to live courageously every day?
What Is Courage?
The dictionary defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
To better understand courage, we need to understand what causes fear. We fear when we see obstacles and challenges we perceive to be beyond our abilities. Both physical and spiritual giants stand in our way. Giants distort our perspective. When Goliath came up against Israel, the people forgot about God’s strength and became afraid. The shepherd boy David did not lose sight of God. “Don’t let anyone lose courage because of this Philistine!” David told Saul. “I, your servant, will go out and fight him!” 1 Samuel 17:32 (CEB)
Courage requires a proper assessment of the situation. Courage must not be confused with recklessness. David’s brethren mistook his courage for recklessness because they did not understand the source of David’s confidence. David learned faith by relying upon God in previous circumstances while tending sheep. “The Lord,” David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37 (CEB). Perspective and experience matter when facing a giant.
In the Wizard of Oz, the lion acquiesced to what others said about him. When Dorothy called him a coward, it only reinforced the fears that he had been nurturing. As leaders or parents, we must be aware of the impact of our words on impressionable young minds, or older ones, for that matter.
Upon arrival in Oz, the wizard informs the lion, “You’re a victim of disorganized thinking and confuse courage with wisdom.” Our present era is called “the information age,” but with all the misinformation and “fake news,” much of it fear-mongering, there is a lot of disorganized thinking.
Living courageously is limited by disorganized thinking. Faith and courage go together, but this world’s way of thinking will do nothing to increase our faith. Here’s what Paul said to the Romans: And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” Romans 10:15–16 (MSG)
What we hear and read will determine if we are victims of disorganized thinking. In computer terminology, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Conversely, we gain clarity when we focus on the things of God: I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. Psalm 119:15 (MSG). Our courage is strengthened by thinking and meditating on the things of God.
God with Us
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)
During the Advent season, we proclaim: “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NET). The last words in Matthew’s gospel are: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT).
Living courageously goes beyond rising to the occasion in moments of crisis. It also requires courage in the mundane and ordinary things of life. Adrenaline can cause heroes to emerge in times of crisis, but no less courageous is a life lived faithfully to the glory of God.
Letting our light shine in the darkness requires boldness and strength. To not be intimidated by the world’s culture and values and to swim against the stream of what is trendy and popular, we must always keep in mind that God has promised to be with us.
We can live courageously when we do not forget that God is with us, and he has promised to give us the words to say when we find ourselves in conflict with the world. We may assent to the doctrinal truth of “God with us,” but when it becomes an absolute living truth in us, it becomes our source and our supply.
Dead Man’s Courage
…It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
In the book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose, we read a veteran soldier’s advice to a fearful young soldier: “The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function.”
Could it be that our most significant challenge in living courageous lives is that we have difficulty accepting that it is “no longer I who live?” Are we so busy trying to save our lives that we forget that to experience real life, we must first die? Jesus’ words to us are difficult: If you don’t pick up your own cross and come after me, you can’t be my disciple. Luke 14:27 (BFE).
Come, Follow Me
Jesus is looking for those who will follow him, regardless of where the path may lead. Paul talked about our present life’s “momentary, light affliction.” Courageous living requires organized thinking and recognizing that God is with us to the end of our lives. Finally, we have our hope fixed on eternal things; therefore, it is not just our courage but the courage of “God with us.”
Photo: Steve Ekeroth, Kenya, January 2022