It goes by many names: bravery, boldness, fortitude – but whatever you want to call it, courage fills the gaps between what is and what could be. C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
A beautiful life, the life for which we were designed, follows when we courageously build a bridge over our fears and failures, facing them and embracing bravery.
How can we acquire the courage we need? The Bible is full of amazing stories and exhortations to be courageous. As the long awaited deliverer of Israel, Moses was used by God to rescue his people from the hands of the Egyptians and he faithfully led his people to the doorstep of the Promised Land. Upon Moses’ death, God appointed Joshua to lead his people, and encouraged him with this message:
Joshua 1:6-9 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
On the battleground of life, God has taught me lessons that have allowed me to become more courageous, just as He did for Joshua, and just as He will for you:
Step #1 Acknowledge the Danger. Joshua knew that road to the Promised Land was full of pitfalls and trouble. If we fail to recognize the danger, the possible peril that looms, we will run recklessly through this life. Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Courage begins when we stare our fears in the face and recognize the real harm that may result from our step in the right direction.
Step #2 Remember who’s in your corner. My three-year-old beagle has a deep and disturbing fascination with my daughters slippers. Regardless of whether they are on or off their feet, she loves to chew on them. Sometimes I will find myself working in the kitchen and hear my dog begin to growl, my daughters begin to squeal, and eventually cry out, “Daddy!” I walk into the room where the ruckus is happening and see my daughters eyes pleading for help. I get my dog’s attention and point at her. She sits down and stops pestering them. Problem solved. My daughters know that I’m in their corner and that they can always depend on me to protect them and seek their best interest. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. He has gone to great lengths to communicate to us that He is for us and not against us, that He is good, and is working and willing the best for us. Here are a couple of verses (among many) that bring us the courage we need for daily living:
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Step #3 Find something (or someone) you love more.
When we refuse to bend our knees to fear, we acknowledge that there is something or someone we love more than we fear the risk. Joshua’s love for his countrymen, his calling, and his God propelled him to take many courageous steps. To be truly courageous, we need to find something or someone to love that will propel us towards bravely making the choices and acting on what is God’s best for a given situation.
Consider the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Above all, Jesus is the perfect source and example of courage.
As the source of our courage, Jesus has said to us, “I’m in your corner. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for the long-haul.” And, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
As the example of courage, Jesus lived out these three courage steps. He recognized the danger of loving you, and He loved you anyway (John 3:16). He remembered who was in His corner, because he and the Father are one! (John 10:30). And finally, He found something to love, someone that He loved more than His own life–you! (Hebrews 11:2). Jesus’ love for you compelled him not to just risk his life, but to give His life up for you! Now that’s courage!
What is God calling you to face with courage today?