The vast majority of us are cowards. We avoid danger. We walk away from conflict. We prefer comfort and ease to sacrifice and pain. Fear comes more naturally than faith.
These tendencies explain why the military metaphor is so common in Scripture. It is used in the Old Testament (Josh. 1:6,9,18) and in the New Testament (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:3-4). And, of course Christ Himself is called the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10).
Various Old and New Testament believers are set forth as examples of courageous believing, speaking, and doing: Moses before Pharaoh, Joshua before the Jordan, Rahab before the soldiers, David before Goliath, Nathan before David, Elijah before the prophets of Baal, Esther before Ahasuerus, John the Baptist before Herod, Paul before his accusers, etc. But of course our supreme example of courage is Christ Himself, and he demonstrated that in many arenas:
- Courage in evangelism: He came to sinners with an authoritative summons, “Follow me.”
- Courage in preaching: He addressed the most powerful religious leaders of the day as a “generation of vipers” and told them that woe was coming upon them unless they repented.
- Courage in private dealings: He was not just brave when everyone else was watching but also when no one else was there. Witness his truth-full dealings with Nicodemus at night, and with the Samaritan woman at the well.
- Courage in dealing with his friends and family: Some men find it easy to be frank and fearless with their enemies, but Christ was frank and fearless with those closest to him as well.
- Courage in reforming the church: He cleansed the temple of greedy businessmen with a scourge of leather and of greedy Pharisees with the scourge of his tongue.
- Courage in the public square: Christ was not afraid to raise his voice in public and speak up for the poor and against the abuse of power.
- Courage in fighting the devil: Christ knew at times that the devil was about to step up his attacks, yet he did not flinch, rather he faced it head on.
- Courage in crises: Christ continually faced the threat of physical pain and ultimately of death itself, yet “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51)
Let’s follow Christ in being courageous in all these areas. How? Here are some steps:
- Memorize scripture: When feeling afraid of people, I look for two verses: one to remind me of God’s greatness (e.g. Isa 40:12), and one to remind me of human smallness (e.g. Isa. 40:6).
- Ponder the potential: Don’t just think about the possible negative outcomes but also the possible positive outcomes such as someone saved through our witness.
- Seek the En-courager: The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, which can also be translated “the Encourager,” the one who comes alongside us to prompt, motivate, and move us forward.
- Take baby-steps: Don’t view the little fights as beneath you, but as sent by God to train you and gradually build you up for more vicious battles ahead.
- Trust the Lord with the consequences: Do the right thing and leave the consequences with God.The Lord has promised that He will honor those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30).
- Maintain a clear conscience: Always tell the truth. Nothing weakens a person like an accusing conscience.
- Remember the final judgment: We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for the deeds done in the body.
Real men are courageous men.
- What other arenas can we exercise courage in?
- What have you found helpful in growing courage?
- What battle is Christ calling you to fight?
Spurgeon on Leadership: 7 Lessons on Courage