Not too long ago I received a gift from a couple of my friends. It is a Willow Tree “Angel of Courage,” a simple six-inch statue of an angel with wire wings. Her fists are clenched and her arms are thrust high into the air. My first impression was of someone lifting her hands up to the sky in victory, as an Olympic gold medalist might do. She seemed to be saying, “I am brave. I am invincible. I can do anything.”
After contemplating my little angel for awhile, though, I have a different image in my mind. I see a toddler first learning to walk. She is reaching up and holding on to her father’s hands as she takes each faltering new step. That, I believe, is a better picture of courage, because courage is not the lack of fear; it’s stepping out in faith even though you’re shaking in your boots.
These are the words that the Lord spoke to Joshua before he led his people across the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land. What was the basis of Joshua’s courage? After all, ten other spies saw giants in the Promised Land, so it wasn’t as if Joshua was going to be able to walk right in and tack up signs on the cities saying, “Under new ownership. Property of the Israelites.” But Joshua’s courage was to be based on the fact that God was with him, and that he was walking in obedience to the Lord.
Joshua 1:7 says, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”
David had his own giant to face. So what made this teenager think he could take on a nine-foot tall champion who was protected by incredibly heavy armor? In David’s words, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” I Samuel 17:37
David wasn’t trusting in his own strength or ability. He was trusting in the power of the almighty, living God.
“Fear not” must be one of God’s favorite expressions because He repeats it so many times in the Bible, maybe because He knows us so well and knows our tendency to tremble in the face of danger and uncertainty.
The definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Other definitions describe courage as:
“the strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger.”
“the spirit or quality of mind that allows one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.”
So fear comes first, but we carry on, we don’t fall apart, we are resolved that we will not be defeated, and we have confidence that God’s grace is sufficient to see us through the trials. (II Corinthians 12:9)
My sister sent me a card that read, “When the going gets tough, the tough get waterproof mascara.” That card spoke to me as I am presently facing health challenges. It reminded me that it’s OK to cry. I don’t need to pretend that I’m not struggling, but I still need to put on my mascara—my happy face---and go out and do the things I need to do.
So many things cause us fear, and there are so many opportunities for courage.
- We need courage to deal with the tragedies, traumas, and trials that sometimes unexpectedly assault us and shake the foundations of our faith.
- We need courage to be obedient to God’s instructions, especially when it means stepping out of our comfort zones and embarking on new endeavors.
- We need courage to trust God when changes come our way, when the road ahead is uncertain.
- We need courage to persevere in the work that God has given us to do, even when we fear that we don’t have the strength or stamina to go on.
- Sometimes we need courage to speak up when we don’t know how our words will be received. And sometimes we need courage to hold our tongues and refrain from making damaging remarks.
- We need courage to live in a manner that is pleasing to God but is sometimes contrary to the culture in which we live. We need courage to resist the temptation to “fit in,” –courage to be different, to refuse to be conformed to the world, but rather transformed to the image of Christ.
When fear creeps in, we need to RALLY.
R - Remember - We need to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past. David remembered that God had delivered him from the lion’s paw and the bear’s paw. I remember trials in times past when I cried every day and didn’t think I was going to survive. But God brought me through those trials and restored happiness and joy in ways that I never would have imagined. If God did it before, He can do it again.
A - Appreciate - We need to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving for the way that God continues to bless us in the midst of our struggles. I am thankful for air-conditioning and a comfortable bed, for the birds outside my window and the bunny that has taken up residence in my yard. I’m especially thankful for the phone calls, messages, and kind words, and helping hands that have come at just the right moment.
L - Look to God’s Promises - Joshua went forward in faith with his eyes on the Promised Land. God promises us that He will be with us. (Matthew 28:20) He promised He would supply all our needs. (Philippians 4:19) He’s given us a spirit of power and love and self-control. (II Timothy 1:7) Entire books have been written listing promise after promise.
L - Listen to God - Joshua’s promise came with the condition that he must be obedient to all that God commanded. We need to be in tune with God so that we can hear His instructions and receive His guidance. That means taking time to read His Word and talk to Him in prayer, and then doing what He tells us to do.
Y - Yearn - If we’re going to be courageous, we can’t be passive or half-hearted. We have to yearn for His Presence, His power, His provision. It takes fervent prayer and effort.
“My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.” Isaiah 26:9
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 27:13
“Do not be slothful in zeal; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:11-12
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
There is that picture again: God the Father is extending His right hand down to us, His little children, and we can hold on to it while we take those wobbly steps of faith. We can reach up and grab His hand while we walk into unfamiliar territory. We can hold on to that righteous right hand when we come up against the giants in our lives, knowing that He will never let us fall, He will never let us down, He will never leave us nor forsake us.
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