“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
These words, “be strong and courageous”, are repeated in the Old Testament to and by some of the most elite of our heroes of the faith. They were said:
- · By Moses to the nation of Israel before they crossed the Jordan and possessed the land. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
- · By Moses to Joshua as he was transferring leadership of the nation of Israel to Joshua. (Deuteronomy 31: 7-8, 23)
- · By the Lord to Joshua after the death of Moses. (Joshua 1:6,9, 18)
- · By King David to his son, Solomon, as he was commissioning him to be king and for the building of the temple. (I Chronicles 22:13)
- · By King Hezekiah to the people of Israel as the King of Assyria was preparing to attack Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:7)
Daunting tasks. Unknown territories. Terrifying enemies. Each circumstance could allow doubt and fear to creep in. Why is it that we are not to fear or be dismayed? Because the Lord promises that He will "not fail you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5) and that He is “with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
In each of these passages of scripture listed above there is similar thought of how to acquire courage in the face of adversity or a daunting task:
1. GOD GIVES THE ASSIGNMENT: The assignment is always something beyond ourselves. To the nation of Israel: cross the Jordan River in its flood stage with several million men, women, children and livestock. To Joshua: take possession of the land and conquer very powerful enemies, the very same giants in the land that caused the nation of Israel to doubt God 40 years before. To Solomon: follow in the footsteps of your father, King David, and build a temple for My Glory. To Hezekiah: defeat the enemy. The point is to not trust in our own strengths and abilities but to trust Him by faith for His provision. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
2. GOD GOES BEFORE US: As disciples of Christ, we are called to follow Him and be like Him, and He is the Lion of Judah. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) Many times in the Bible it states that we are to “take courage.” Not mustering it up, not conjuring it up on our own, not talking ourselves into it kind of courage. Instead, like borrowing someone else’ cloak to wrap around us, we are to put on the full armor of God. “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24) Follow the example of Daniel. An angel appears before him and Daniel says “As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.” The angels response: “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!” What was Daniel’s response? “Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, ‘May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” (Daniel 10: 17-19)
3. FEAR GOD, NOT THE TASK IN FRONT OF YOU: We are human, finite creatures who cannot see the beginning from the end. The unknown terrifies us. But “God is love” (I John 4:16) and “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) We are to bring our fears to the Lord to allow Him to cast them out. To cast is the Greek word “ballo” which means: 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls and 2) to give over to one’s care uncertain about the result. (G906) Go to God in prayer, casting your human fears onto Him and allowing Him to replace those fears with a healthy reverence of who He is. When we see Him as He truly is: all powerful, all knowing, all wise, we can place our trust in Him and not in the circumstances we are up against. This is exactly how David defeated Goliath. He did not look at the size of his opponent or the armor he was wearing or the reputation that proceeded him. Instead, David, a shepherd boy, challenged Goliath because Goliath was insulting the one true living God. “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (I Samuel 17:45-46)
4. YOU STILL MUST POSSESS THE LAND: In God’s strange economy, He still asks us to step out in faith and do our part. Action and obedience are required. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) To say it in an opposite manner: “To disbelieve is to disobey.”--Charles Spurgeon
5. OUR VICTORY IS FILLED WITH HIS PROMISES: When we are obedient to His calling, we get to experience victory and will grow in faith because of it. It took courage for the Israelites to follow the Lord’s command to march around the walls of Jericho for 7 days with no war cries and no attack, only the marching sound of the army’s footsteps following behind God’s presence as the priests carried the ark of the covenant. How foolish the Israelites looked to a gated city with fortified walls. But it did not seem so foolish when the walls came tumbling down! To be of good courage is literally translated “to be of good cheer.” Can you imagine the shouts of cheer and the joyful celebration afterwards to actively participate in God’s plan and to see His hand at work?
6. IT’S HIS SPIRIT THAT EMPOWERS US FROM WITHIN. The word for good cheer is “tharseo” which refers to: “God bolstering the believer, empowering them with a bold inner-attitude. For the believer, tharseo is the result of the Lord infusing His strength by His inner working of faith. Showing this unflinching, bold courage means living out the inner confidence that is Spirit-produced.” (HELPS Word-studies) He asks us to exercise faith, but then He supplies faith through His Spirit. Amazing!
7. SUCCESS IS BUILT ON HIS WORD: The Bible is God’s very own words to you. He is speaking to you, giving instruction and revealing who He is to you. When you are meditating on it and being affirmed in the assignment He has given you, “then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)
8. THERE ARE THOSE AROUND US WHO WILL BRING US ENOURAGEMENT: To “encourage” means: to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.” God is the first one to encourage us. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) But God also brings those around us to encourage us. This is the beauty of being in a body of believers that walks by faith also. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
9. THE ENEMY BRINGS DISCOURAGEMENT TO TRY AND STOP US: “Discouragement” means: “to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit. Our enemy is the opposite of God and will do everything he can to discourage us and stop us in our tracks. When Jerusalem was about to be under attack by a powerful enemy, King Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to his people, reminding them to be strong and courageous and that “with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chronicles 32:8) To discourage them, the King of Assyria sent messengers to proclaim to the Israelites in their own language that both their God and King Hezekiah could not be trusted so as to frighten and terrify them. Did encouragement or discouragement win out? “And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in shame to his own land” (2 Chronicles 32:21)
10. SOMETIMES COURAGE REQUIRES ACTION: King Hezekiah “took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it…and made weapons and shields in great number.” (2 Chronicles 32:5)
11. SOMETIMES COURAGE REQUIRES WAITING: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) Waiting should not be passive. Instead, it should be alive and active. In this Psalm, David speaks of dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, singing praises to God, hearing His voice, seeking His face. David was actively seeking God and learning to trust Him more while in the waiting.
12. SOMETIMES CHANGE REQUIRES COURAGE: This is probably the most fascinating thought of all: sometimes a good change that we desire requires courage. Jesus stated the phrase “take courage” immediately before healing a paralytic, before healing a blind beggar, and before healing a woman that had bled for 12 years. Why would this take courage on their part? Because they would have to tell others of what Jesus had done for them. They would have to change patterns of life they had known for most or all of their life. The beggar could no longer beg. The paralytic could now walk to work when he had never had to work before. The woman, trying to hide her private illness, was asked to publicly proclaim her faith. Sometimes the very prayer we have uttered for years gets answered, but then it takes courage to see it through with the next steps of faith.
How about you? What assignment has God given you today? To turn your world upside down by accepting His love and forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ? To share His love with your neighbor? To stay pure until marriage? To forgive someone? To take a step of faith and go where He has told you to go? Let faith overcome your fears. Take your shaky knees to the cross and set them down on solid ground in prayer and in His word. He will strengthen you. He will encourage you. If He has assigned it, He has designed it. Take courage from His brave heart, be an overcomer, and experience the joy of victory in Christ Jesus today.
“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” –Phillips Brooks
“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”—John Wayne