Although the words courage and courageous occur fifty times in my English translation of the Bible (i.e., NASB ’95), courage is not a virtue that comes immediately to mind to most of us living in the United States. And although the Bible does not mention that term as frequently as many other fruits of the Spirit, courage is a virtue that is manifested repeatedly by persons in the Word of God. For example, Abraham manifested courage when he raised the knife to slay Isaac. Moses manifested courage when he confronted Pharaoh before the Exodus. Jael manifested courage when she killed Sisera. David manifested courage when he struck down Goliath. Daniel manifested courage when he prayed with his window opened toward Jerusalem. Mary manifested courage when she gladly received the news that she would bear the Christ. Peter manifested courage when he continued to preach in the name of the Lord though warned not to do so. And the list could be greatly enlarged. I broach the topic now because the real church in the United States is on the verge of being required to stand for the Lord and His truth in a way that has never before been required here—a stand that will demand courage.
Please notice that courage is not so much the absence of fear. When three-year-old Billy pulls a stool over to the kitchen counter, clambers up on it, and prepares to jump off, he is not exhibiting courage. He is exhibiting ignorance. He doesn’t understand the likelihood that he’s about to sustain some injuries, perhaps serious. Similarly, some seemingly courageous acts by adults are the product of a failure to recognize danger or hazards. Acts under those circumstances cannot properly be reckoned courageous. Rather, courage is the quality of spirit that enables someone to overcome fear and to be steadfast or to act boldly despite fear-inducing circumstances or fear itself.
I have suggested that courage is one manifestation of the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer. But I believe it is important to recognize that courage does not develop as a separate plant, so to speak. Rather, it is a flower that blossoms from another plant. The plant from which courage blooms is love. No one will stand for the Lord during trying times who does not love the Lord. No one will stand for the truth when persecuted who does not love the Word of God. No one will defend brethren who come under attack who does not love fellow believers. And no one will give the gospel to a world that hates them who does not love lost souls.
Our love for the Lord and His Word, in particular, are about to be tested as never before. And whether we stand or become compromised will be a measure of our courage, which in turn, will be a measure of our love. I believe my wife would not be ashamed to admit that she is not the poster child for courage. Nevertheless, about a quarter of a century ago, I was sitting in our family room reading when I heard the screen door on our breezeway slam. The next thing I heard was my wife yelling to our daughter, “YOU TELL YOUR FATHER TO GET OUT HERE RIGHT NOW!” My daughter didn’t have to relay the message. I was out the door in a shot just in time to witness my timid wife confronting two young men who were haranguing our son and attacking his car. It appeared that their anger and “courage” may have been engendered by the use of a controlled substance. The point is that love for our son produced a courage in my wife that nothing else could provoke.
Love for the Lord will strengthen us to stand for Him and for righteousness. Remarkably, it is actually fear-inducing trials that often increase our love and consequently our courage. Writing from a place of trials himself, a prison, Paul observed that “most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:14). They did “it out of love,” Paul explained (v. 16a). So how do we prepare to face what appears to lie ahead? We must grow in our love for the Lord and His Word. Nothing else will suffice.
Oh, about those two hooligans? We bowed our heads in front of them and prayed for our safety and their salvation. They stopped their attacking. And when I turned to my wife and suggested that it would be a good idea to call 911, they both retreated at an accelerated clip. The last time we saw them they were heading west.
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