The Call to Courage

Different news anchors have used a variety of sign offs at the end of their newscasts.  Here are a few examples: Edward R. Murrow-”Good night and good luck”; Chet Huntley and David Brinkley- “Good night, Chet . . . Good night, David.  And good night from NBC News”; Walter Cronkite- “And that’s the way it is . . .”   However, it was Dan Rather who once ended with the words, “Thank you for joining us tonight.  Courage!”  He actually used that sign off for only a week, being forced to find another one, because people thought it was bizarre.  Then on the final night of his 24 year career as a CBS anchor, Dan Rather got the last word with this message, “To our soldiers in dangerous places.  To those who have endured the tsunami and to all who have suffered natural disasters, and who must find the will to rebuild.  To the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle, in financial hardship or in failing health.  To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all.  To each of you: Courage!”   

Indeed, courage is an attribute that is given great emphasis in the word of God.  In fact, God calls us to be valiant in doing His will and in facing the trials and temptations of life.  The truth is that living for the Lord is not for cowards, meaning that we must put away from ourselves timidity and indecision, and we must “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).  That’s why it is necessary to do as Peter exhorted in 1 Pet. 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  He’s telling us to brace up our minds for action, to keep cool and maintain self-control, and to fix our hope on the mercy that we will receive when Jesus comes again.  Yes, in Christ we have receive the call to be courageous!

It was Joshua who received an important “call to courage” when he was chosen as the new leader of God’s people after the death of Moses.  In Josh. 1:1-9, no less than three times God commanded Moses’ successor to “be strong and very courageous.”  Make no mistake about it, this was a command from the Lord: “Have I not commanded thee?  Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (verse 9).  It isn’t hard to imagine why Joshua was probably a little intimidated by the burden of responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  After all, it was a daunting task to step into the shoes of a great leader like Moses and, if that wasn’t enough, the awesome task was before them of possessing the land of Canaan.

The story is told about a sergeant in a parachute regiment, who was a seasoned jumper, and one day he found himself sitting next to a lieutenant in a plane.  Fresh from “jump school,” the lieutenant looked a bit pale as they approached their jump zone.  After being asked if he was scared, the lieutenant’s reply was: “No, just a little apprehensive.”  When asked about the difference between those two things, his explanation was: “Apprehensive means I’m scared with a university degree!”  Likewise, Joshua must have been feeling a little apprehensive about the task of leadership he had inherited, leading God to make him the following promise: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.  Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore unto their fathers to give them” (verse 5-6). 

This makes it very clear that in a Biblical sense, the “call to courage” involves several things– (1) Bravery in the face of danger, (2) steadfastness in the face of opposition, (3) action in the face of resistance, and (4) optimism in the face of despair.  With these things in mind, let’s notice some principles of truth that will help us to answer successfully our “call to courage” . . .

As long as we abide in Christ we have no reason to fear because He is the one who makes us strong, victorious, and acceptable in God’s sight.  When we “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11), that enables us to “stand against the wiles of the devil.”  According to Paul, that’s how we can “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10).  After all, it is “in Christ” that all spiritual blessings are found (Eph. 1:3), so we have all the incentives and tools we need to remain focused and steadfast.  Think about it: We are God’s possession (1 Cor. 6:20), Christ’s friends (John 15:15), members of the Lord’s body (1 Cor. 12:27), “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), and Jesus is our High Priest through whom we have direct access to God (Heb, 4:14-16).

If we really understand our position in Christ, that should embolden us to take our stand for the Lord!  The key is found in the following language of Paul: “Seeing that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12).  This shows that the faith and hope we have in the gospel of Christ should cause us to proclaim it boldly.  It is said that Nikita Khrushehev, once premier of the Soviet Union, often denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin.  As he was denouncing Stalin in a public meeting one time, someone shouted from the audience, “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues.  Why didn’t you stop him?”  The reply was, “Who said that?”  After agonizing silence, as no one dared to speak up, Khrushehev declared: “Now you know why!”  Brethren, let us never shrink back in trepidation and fear from declaring the glorious gospel of our Savior.  Instead, we must be “bold in our God,” as Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 2:2, “to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.”  

Courage does not necessarily mean that we have no fear at all, but it means that we have the strength to face our fears and deal with them.  General George Patton once said that “courage is fear that holds on one more minute.”  Captain A. Riddenbacher said: “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do.  Where there is no fear there is no courage.”  It has also been said that “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”  To repeat a point that has already been made, it is to cultivate optimism even in the face of despair.  It goes back to the idea of having complete trust and hope in God (no matter what happens).  The following words of David illustrates the point: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me . . . What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.  In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust: I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psa. 56:1-4).

It’s obvious that David confronted his fear on that occasion and he found strength in the knowledge that his trust was in God.   We need to have the attitude of a woman who was deathly sick.  After stating to a neighbor that she simply wanted what pleases God, the visiting friend asked, “But what if God were to refer the matter back to you?”  Her calm response was: “Then I would just refer the matter back to him.”  That’s the kind of faith and trust in God we’re talking about!  It is to believe that God loves us, He knows what is best, and we are willing to place all circumstances into His hands (come what may).    

We must learn to live with the realization of God’s love for us (and the power that it generates in our lives), instead of nurturing fear that is generated by Satan against us. Consider the words of John: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.  God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth our fear: because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16-18).

Please remember that either fear will push love out or the love of God will push fear out.  We need the confidence that Paul had: “For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed . . . Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:12-13).

Article by Billy D Dickinson