One of the sad realities of the modern world is that the meaning of certain words has become distorted and thus diluted. Courage is one of these words. In the twisted thinking of the politically correct world, a man who decided that he is actually a woman has been touted for having the courage to publicly proclaim that he is now a she. At the same time, those whose actions demonstrate the true meaning of courage are mocked by the cultural elite. It is no wonder that so many in our world are so confused.
Courage is defined as, “the attitude or response of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it; fearless or brave, valor, pluck.” This definition reminds us of words attributed to the late actor John Wayne. He said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” We see this attribute every time a fireman goes into a burning building or a police officer responds to a 911 call. We see it in our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, who run to the sound of the guns.
Most of the time these are the images that come to mind when we think of courage, but there are many other examples of this attribute that do not necessarily entail putting oneself in harm’s way. An unwed mother who chooses to give up her baby for adoption rather than aborting it, shows courage in doing so. A single parent who works hard to provide for his or her children while also training them to be responsible citizens is another example of courage. So also, is the Christian who stands up for his or her commitment to the Lord.
In our country it has not generally been dangerous to be a Christian, but even so, being a disciple of Christ can be difficult or painful. The pressure from unbelievers and skeptics to conform to their ungodly ways is great. The open mocking of Christian faith that is becoming more common in the media and in society at large is real. These are most often the circumstances in which our courage may be tested. The scriptures certainly anticipated these circumstances and thus call us to have courage as we walk with the Lord.
One of the most powerful examples of our call to courage appears in the Old Testament. When Moses was about to die, he commissioned Joshua to lead Israel into the promised land. In Deut. 31:6-7 Moses exhorted Joshua to be strong and courageous as he led them. After Moses’ death, God spoke to Joshua and repeated this exhortation in Josh. 1:6-9. In God’s exhortation, however, we see a crucial element in the courage to which Joshua was called. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous, and to obey the law that Moses had delivered to Israel. This, ultimately, is the key to having spiritual courage.
If we give God’s word first place in our lives, we will have the courage He calls us to have. This was the case with Paul. When he was in custody in Jerusalem under accusation from the Jews, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must also witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11). Paul could have courage because he was doing the Lord’s will. As a result, he was able to accomplish all that the Lord commissioned him to do.
None of us may face the same dangers that Paul did, but we can still have spiritual courage if we do the Lord’s will as he did. We demonstrate our courage by living up to the high calling of Christ. Our faithful walk with the Lord defends His integrity before unbelievers. Our faithful obedience to His word shines the light of God’s truth into the darkness of sin, and accomplishes His will. It takes courage to do so, but we can do it, just as Joshua did, and just as Paul did.