Be of good courage
It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with courage
If you’re familiar with C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you’re likely familiar with the characters of Aslan and Lucy. In Lewis’s book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan whispers to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart,” and it is shortly after this that the ship Lucy is sailing on travels from darkness into light. “And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been,” writes Lewis.
In a recent column, I wrote about the importance of choosing joy, and today I’d like to suggest that courage is also a choice. Courage is a decision that we make in the face of fear, opposition, and uncertainty, and it can change everything.
“Be strong, and of good courage,” are words that, by my count, appear at least 10 times throughout Scripture; these words are written four times in the first chapter of Joshua alone! Time and time again throughout the Bible, we are encouraged and commanded as Christians to be of good courage and to be courageous. To be of good courage and lead by example. To be of good courage and not be afraid or quiet when it seems like the majority of people disagree with you and want to silence you. To be of good courage and to stand firm and to stand up for what is right.
Does that mean that you’re never afraid? No, on the contrary! As Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.” Does that mean that it’s easy to stand up for what’s right and defend your faith? No, on the contrary! Courage is a choice that as Christians we’re called to make, regardless of the circumstances. Joshua was called to be courageous when it came time to lead the Israelites into a new and unknown land. David reminded himself to be courageous during seasons of persecution. Paul demonstrated courage when he traveled across the world and taught about Jesus and came up against many people who disagreed with him.
Courage. We can take courage in many different areas:
- God’s Word and Promises. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Referenced several times throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua alone, we can take courage in God’s Word and Promises. God is always with us. God will not fail us. God will not forsake us. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be discouraged, because God is with you! Don’t believe me? Ask Him. If you truly seek God out, you will find Him. And that’s a fact. We can take courage in God’s Word and in His Promises, because they never change. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8). Not just for one hundred years. Not just for one thousand years. God’s Word stands forever. Some people may not like it, many people may try to fight it, but we can be strong and of a good courage because the Bible is our firm foundation, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!
- Other Christian Believers. “And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us… whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) You know that feeling you get when you realize that someone else shares the same faith, or when you discover that there’s someone else out there who totally gets something you thought only you understood? We can take courage in other Christian believers. Each one of us can take time to “encourage” other Christian believers. Just as thousands of candles can be lighted from a single flame, all it takes is one voice to speak out and to stand up for our faith, and that can inspire others to do the same. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John… they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) As Christians, we aren’t called to be silent. We aren’t called to be pacifists. On the contrary, we are called to be strong and to be courageous, and to stand up and be counted. Maybe that means witnessing to someone who doesn’t know the Lord. Maybe that means getting out and voting, even if you’ve never done it before. Maybe that means being silent and not laughing when someone says something crude or makes fun of another. We can take courage in other Christians, and we can also encourage one another.
- Our Faith in the Lord. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) Living our Faith can be hard, can’t it? Especially when sometimes it seems like God is silent, or like He can’t hear us, or during times when we think we’ve got everything under control only to be thrown curve ball after curve ball. As Charles Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.” Exercising patience and prayerfully waiting on the Lord before making a decision can be one of the hardest things. But the wait is worth it. When you choose courage and exercise your faith, the Lord will bless you. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24) When we choose courage, God will strengthen our hearts. It may not always be in exactly the way we plan, but part of having Faith means not resting in our own knowledge or following our own leads (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong,” we’re encouraged in 1 Corinthians 16:13. We can find courage in our Faith.
The greatest place of all to take courage? When you know the Lord as your personal Saviour, you’ve got something that no man, no weapon, no illness, no circumstance can ever take away. The security that comes with God’s gift of eternal salvation should be all the “encouragement” we need to take courage. “Courage,” said C.S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with it.