Courage: A Lost Art
We all remember the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, who was afraid of his own shadow. He tried to look tough, but when brave Dorothy confronted him, he quickly cowered in fear. Likewise, we seem to be living in a world of cowards when there is some disaster that confronts us, such as at a school or in a city. There are counselors brought into the situation to comfort and to help the kids cope who say, “Oh, you poor little dysfunctional things, you're going to need professional help!” An older lady who grew up during World War II shared an incredible insight and statistic: when the war started, the mental hospitals were cleared out because there became an even greater fear and threat! Everyone did what was needed to help and serve their war torn country! Every hand was needed to help the wounded. “Courage, church!” were the words you heard. It was an embarrassment to be cowering in fear.
In Revelation 21:8, cowardice ranks as one of the mortal sins: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Yet the Bible is full of “do not fear” or “fear not”: one for every day of the year. How often we see people cowering in the corner, consumed with themselves. I'm not talking about looking within ourselves to master and overcome our fears; we have none but the courage that comes from God alone. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The key? Remembering that Jesus has overcome all that may cause us to fear! He said to the disciples in John 16:33 that we will have trouble but that He has overcome the world! Not only has Jesus overcome, but we have His presence with us daily, to strengthen and comfort us, just as Joshua was promised in Joshua 1:9 that the Lord was with him: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Nothing and no one can separate us from His love: no trouble, hardship, persecution, or danger (Romans 8:35). Be of good courage!
The doctor told a little girl during a procedure that she could scream and yell all she liked, to which she replied, “I think I'd rather sing.” In fact, the very definition of “courage” is “to be alert physically and mentally, to be quick and energetic.” There is no time for fainting! Be strong in heart! Just as that was the message given from Moses to Joshua, it is the same message Christ shared with His disciples, and thus with us, when He declared that men ought always to pray, and not to faint! In The Fellowship of the Rings, a leader told one of the men that the mission would mean danger, peril, hardships of all kind, and possible death, to which one of the men replied, “Well what are we waiting for!”
But courage is not just something we keep to ourselves: it is something to be shared. In fact, the word “encourage” has its origins from two Latin words meaning put in + courage. When we encourage others, we are pointing them to Jesus and telling them that they too can have courage because of who God is. Through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God being shared, courage is being put in! There are some people who make a situation worse and there are others who lift the spirits of those they encounter: sharing joy, hope, and courage. In this crazy world where there is much to be worried and fearful about, we need God’s courage to show ourselves strong for people whose lives are falling apart. At the sight of George Washington, it was said that his men instantly received hope and strength.
Regardless of what fear, obstacle, or difficulty we may face, we can find courage as we wait upon the Lord and learn from those who serve as examples to us, those who were courageous in their own time of trouble or danger. As the Lord does this work in us, we in turn are able to be givers of courage to those around us. May we learn from these courageous women:
Deborah: a woman who helped lead the men to battle against the enemies of Israel.
Esther: a queen who moved out of her comfort zone and risked her life in order to go before the king and intercede for her people.
Ruth: a woman who faithfully went to work every day, gleaning in the fields to take care of her mother-in-law after she herself just went through a tremendous loss.
These women exemplify 2 Corinthians 4:8 as they were hard pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair. We too may be strong and courageous women as we look to Him. “Be strong and take heart,” we are told in Psalm 31:24, “all you who hope in the Lord.” Let us ask ourselves: are our feet firmly planted on the Word of God and on His promises? Are our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ? Where do you stand? In hopelessness and fear or on a sure foundation? The Bible teaches us that things are not falling apart but rather they are falling into place. May we have eyes to see! When Elijah’s servant cried out in despair, “We are surrounded by the enemy, what are we going to do?” he was met with the reply, “They are surrounded by the armies of the Lord!” Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, said, “Look around you, be distressed; look within, be depressed; look to Jesus and be at rest.” Peter gave us an example of the courage that can come from keeping our eyes fixed upon Jesus. When Peter was in a boat, which was being buffeted by waves due to a strong wind, he got out of the boat and began to walk on water. Let us keep our eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, when surrounded by our own waves and wind.
We would see Jesus,
“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14