Courage to Go
...Against the Flow
by Amie Minerd
I believe true courage is a rare thing
today. It was prevalent in the times
of the early church, but recently,
as Christians have become lukewarm to the things of God and more closely entwined with the world, the conviction and determination to stand up for what they believe has also grown lukewarm. You can still find a form of courage today. By the world, it is defined as anything from rebelliousness that satisfies the desire to be different to sacrificing one’s life for any cause they believe right or important. The courage Christ desires of us is much the same, but very different. Godly courage is highlighted by the power of Christ, submission, and love for Him. It is not recklessly daring to go against social and moral norms - daring to “be yourself”. It is being free from the bondage of the fear of men to do what Christ commands because you love Him. Romans 8:15 says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear...”; and Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” The righteous have nothing to fear because they cannot be condemned. There is nothing for them to hide. They can only bring offense to a wicked authority and can only be convicted of doing right. Matthew 10:28 says, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Courage is not fearlessness. Fearlessness is often thoughtless whims or even rebellion, acted upon without consideration of the consequences. We ought not to be daunted by the consequences of our actions which might bring personal suffering, as long as they will bring glory to God, but should consider any other consequences which might arise from our action which would imply evil doings or hurt others unnecessarily. Courage is defined in the Webster’s dictionary as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with firmness and without fear; bravery; to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in spite of criticism”. Some synonyms listed include bravery and valor. A person showing bravery usually has many of the characteristics of true courage, but, according to the dictionary, courage is a higher, nobler form of bravery. Bravery in itself is sometimes showy and intrepid, while courage is an inner strength which needs no onlooker or reward to spur it. A courageous person does right for the sake of doing right.
Valor, another synonym of courage, is used repeatedly in the Bible to define men of courage and physical strength. While these men exhibited boldness, determination, and bravery on the battlefield, they often did not have the courage in their personal lives to do right. Some examples: Jephthah the Gileadite, in Judges 11, rashly vowed that if he had the victory over the Ammonites he would give the first person who came out of his house to the Lord. Upon return, his only child, his daughter, came out to meet him. To his credit, he performed his vow, but his daughter and some of her maidens were mourned after forever. Jeroboam, who in 1 Kings 11:28-39 is promised the kingdom of Israel after Solomon, and God’s blessings if he followed the Lord, allowed himself to be made king during the reign of Reheboam (Solomon’s son) by 10 rebellious tribes. To save himself from rejection and death by the fickle Israelites who soon turned against him (1 Kings 12:25-33), Jeroboam made two calves of gold and initiated feasts to them. He is afterward constantly remembered as the man who caused Israel to sin. Almost every king who followed in his footsteps and did not serve the Lord is counted as one who “departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin”. What a testimony to have!
There are, of course, other examples of courage in the Bible- or lack of it. Abraham (Genesis 22:11-12) had the courage and fear for God that enabled him to sacrifice Isaac. God saw this man’s love for Him, and instead, substituted a ram. Later, however, Abraham succumbed to fear and lied about Sarah being his wife (Genesis 26:7). The midwives in Egypt feared the Lord and had the courage to continue delivering the Israelites male babies (Exodus 1:15-21), even though Pharaoh had expressly commanded them to kill the sons that were born. Moses’ mother had the courage to nurture her baby boy until he could no longer be hidden, and then she trusted the Lord to provide as she set him afloat in a basket of bulrushes. Rahab had the courage to hide two Jewish spies, and Esther had the courage to risk her life to save her people.
Courage is accompanied by power- the power of Christ which is in each of us (II Timothy 1:7- “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”). God takes notice when His people stand up for Him, from the small struggles of daily life to dying the death of a martyr. People who can do that only do it because they fear God (Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 11:18, 14:7); they do not fear persecution or distress of their bodies (Hebrews 13:6- “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me”). Their love for God casts out their fear (I John 4:18- “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear”), and they can speak of Christ with boldness (Philippians 1:14; I Peter 3:15).
To sum up, courage is love for Christ, meekness, submission, and the fear only of God which gives a Christian the strength to do good and to be separate from the world. II Corinthians 6:14-7:1 says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” His promises, His love, His Spirit, His grace will give you the strength and work in and through you if you let Him.
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