MOMENTS OF TRUTH
“21 Qualities for Christians in the Bible”
#6 - Courage
31 May 2020
When we think of courage, we imagine someone taking action regardless of any risk involved. Whether they’re standing up for an unpopular opinion, or making a frightening decision, or risking their life, we often picture them doing it fearlessly. But while all of those actions can demonstrate courage, they rarely demonstrate fearlessness. That’s because courage means raking a risk in spite of fear not in the absence of it.
Courageous Christians look fear in the face and decide to act on behalf of others anyway. They take the big risk and put their leadership on the line for the sake of others. As a result, they do great things. Courage is easy to see in war heroes, but it’s also present in every great leader, in the Lord’s church. Whenever you see significant progress in a local congregation, it’s because the leaders made courageous decisions.
What’s ironic is that those who don’t have the courage to take risks and those who do often experience the same amount of fear in life. Letting fear win limits a Christian. The Roman historian Tacitus said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” But taking action with courage has the opposite effect. It opens doors, and that’s one of its most wonderful benefits. It also inspires others. Courage demonstrated by any person encourages others. But courage in a leader inspires them. It makes people want to follow their lead. Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Christians who face their fears and step out of their comfort zone on a regular basis impart their courage to others. And the entire group is empowered to take big risks, make frightening decisions, and do great things. A 19th Century preacher by the name of Peter Cartwright once said, “I have been told that Andrew Jackson is in this congregation. And I have been asked to guard my remarks. What I must say is that Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent of his sin.” Andrew Jackson our Nations 7th President responded, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.” A Courageous Act Often Brings Unexpected Positive Results.
When we turn over to Joshua 1:1-11 and Joshua 3:1-4, 14-17 we learn from the courage of Joshua as he leads the people Across the Jordan, “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying: 2 "Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them-the children of Israel. 3 "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 "From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." 10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 "Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.'" Now to get the rest of the story we turn to Joshua 3:1-4, 14-17, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. 2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 "Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before… 14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.”
First off lets notice God’s words to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” This is followed by God’s words again Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Then again in Joshua 1:7, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.” Joshua was told 3 times by God “be strong and courageous.” Then Joshua was also told how to gain his courage – meditating in the Book of the Law. Look at Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Then God reiterates what He had told Joshua before in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Ultimately, God Proved He was with Joshua and the Israelites as they journeyed! This should aid us in our courage! We have “inspired” written testimony to Joshua and the people of Israel having great success because they had great courage stemmed from faith in God! God proved He was with them!
Now let’s turn our attention to yet another story concerning courage. Now we turn to 1 Kings 18:16-40 and the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. This is a story that is tremendous when it comes to courage. Listen closely to what Elijah does, “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, "Is that you, O troubler of Israel?" 18 And he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. 19 "Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." 20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 23 "Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 24 "Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God." So all the people answered and said, "It is well spoken." 25 Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it." 26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. 27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." 28 So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. 29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, "Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood." 34 Then he said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time; and he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. 36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 "Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" 40 And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!" So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.” It took Elijah having Complete faith in God to stand up to 450 prophets of Baal. That’s tremendous courage! As well, he understood what could have happened to him if God did not answer his prayer. The thing is, Elijah was a prophet who, during this event, was in full support of the Lord’s Will being done. Look closely at what Elijah says even after challenging the 450 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:24, “Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God." So all the people answered and said, "It is well spoken.” Elijah set a condition and the people agreed to it. Then notice what Elijah says as everyone waits for Baal to respond to his 450 prophets in 1 Kings 18:27, “And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” If Elijah didn’t have courage, do you think he would have “mocked” them? He was fully confident in God. Look what happens when it’s his turn to pray to the true and living God in 1 Kings 18:37-38, “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again. Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” The result of Elijah’s courage is revealed in in 1 Kings 18:39, “Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” If only all Christians could adopt this “courage” when it comes to serving the same True and Living God Elijah served in his day! There is one more level of courage we need to recognize in Elijah found in 1 Kings 18:40, “And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!" So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.” This is an incredible expression of courage. However, even with all of this that we have recognized in Elijah’s relationship with God, we see Elijah’s courage “wain” when his life is threatened later on. The thing is, Elijah is a man, just like you and me. We also “wain” from time to time in our service. But just think of the “courage” Joshua had. Think of how many times the Lord encouraged him to be strong and very courageous! We don’t see Elijah get that encouragement repeated over and over again. We get to se tremendous expression by god in answering Elijah’s prayer and that should be enough to embolden us, but sometimes our hearts aren’t attentive enough and we falter. As you will see, if you choose to read on in the life of Elijah, he finds himself feeling all alone, when in actuality he was not. Of course, he had God, but there were other believers as well! We live in a time when we have brethren all around us to encourage us as Joshua was encouraged. To be reminded to be strong and very courageous! Let’s remember to encourage others to be strong and very courageous!
Joshua and Elijah could be enough to teach us about courage. But the Good Lord has provided numerous other examples. There is one we really want you to look into at that is the courage found in Esther when she seeks to rescue her people. Her story is found in Esther 3:8-11; Esther 4:1-16; Esther 5:1-3 and Esther 7:3-10. Really the whole book is great, but these sections key in on the courage that Esther had. She put herself in harms way on behalf of the people of Israel. Seeking their well being no matter the cost to herself. We don’t want to spoil it for you, go and read about this incredibly courageous woman! Let her inspire you to greater courage in your walk in this life in service to God and our fellow man.
With these examples of courage and so many others, let us examine our hearts and see if we “measure up” to the level of courage truly desired in us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The level of courage He Himself had when He was willing to go to the cross on our behalf. He knew full well what He would go through. All Christians need to be people of courage! Time and time again we see this quality modeled in the Bible for our growth.