When I hear the word courage my mind immediately goes to people in my life who I’ve seen go through difficult times and come through the other side better, wiser, and full of life. I look at people who have faced abuse, cancer, or a myriad of difficulties that nobody would wish for and ask myself how they were able to get through that season. I believe that the answer is courage.
One of the most widely known examples from Scripture on courage is the story of Joshua who takes over leading the Israelites after Moses dies. In this story, the LORD passes the baton from Moses to Joshua and as He commissions Joshua with this new mission, He commands him to be bold and courageous. (Joshua 1:1-18)
The context of the book of Joshua is that Moses has died and the LORD comes to Joshua and says, “Hey, by the way, your leader, Moses, is dead and now I’m going to need you to step up and lead my people – the Israelites – into the land that I’ve promised them”. At this point, I think it’s important to note that Joshua has never done this before. He’s been learning how to be a leader under Moses but now his mentor and leader is dead. I can only imagine the feelings and thoughts running through Joshua at this point:
“Am I ready for this?”
“I have no idea what I’m doing!”
It’s at this point that the LORD speaks to Joshua something that will hopefully rectify all of his hesitations, fears, and premonitions.
“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you”
It is shortly after this that Joshua gets commanded, multiple times, to “be strong and courageous”. Interestingly, the command to either “be bold and courageous” and “do nor fear” or “do not be afraid” is one of the most repeated commands throughout Scripture.
There’s a clear principle that can be drawn from these commands.
Each time that command is given, God always follows it up with “I will be with you”. In the Joshua example, the LORD tells Joshua to be bold and courageous four times in the first chapter alone. Notice that every time the command is given, there’s a promise attached (v.5-6, 7, 9, 18). Sometimes it looks like “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and other times it’s a promise of success or prosperity in accomplishing the mission.
Here’s where it gets real for you and me: We are all called by God to be bold and courageous in the mission and journey He’s laid before us.
Even when we feel unqualified, scared, or confused about the mission we’re on, it’s up to us to understand our role in the mission. One of my mentors always brings me back to this point: there’s God’s part, my part, and their part. I can rest assured that God has got His end covered because He’s God. I can’t worry, control, or do anything about what other people in my life choose to do. All I can do, and should focus on, is my part. In the Joshua example, Joshua simply had to do his part, which was to be the leader and trust in the promises of God. Of course he didn’t have all the answers and of course there were moments of turmoil along the way, but if you read the rest of the book of Joshua, you see the LORD do incredible things through Joshua because of his extreme trust and faith in the LORD.
In my very limited life experience of 26 years, I’ve come to understand courage isn’t always about being the first man fighting on the front lines of the battle. While I think there are definitely seasons of life where we need to be that courageous, I think there’s another way we can understand courage. Courage sometimes looks more like trusting God so much that we’re ok with not having the answers and therefore we rest in Him and His promises instead of our abilities, talents, and laboring. It takes courage to trust God during situations we can’t understand, can’t control, can’t explain, and can’t see what the end result will be. This is where I believe courage manifests into deeper faith as well. Oswald Chambers says it beautifully: “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time”.
No matter what season of life you’re in and no matter what the difficulty looks like - emotional, physical, or spiritual - know that God is good and has not and will not ever change. He has set the course of your life on a path for His glory and whether we understand all the implications of that or not isn’t the point. The point is to learn to lean on and praise Him in the low days and to express gratitude and humility in the days where we’re on top of the world.
Courage is a narrow road that helps us follow and know God better. Don’t worry if you stumble and fall, because if you’re human you probably will. It’s not where you start but how you finish that matters; so finish well. Winston Churchill once said that “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.
So wherever you’re at today, know that we can be bold and courageous because we know that He who commands us is faithful and His promises are true and forever. Don’t stand on what you feel…stand firm on what you know to be true. Trust in the promises of God and Scripture and be courageous enough to know that seasons come and seasons go, but in all things God remains the same.
Written by Brett Ricley
Brett is a husband, father, disciple of Jesus, and a disciple maker in full time campus ministry for Impact Campus Ministries in Salt Lake City, UT. Brett writes about faith and campus ministry on his blog: Living to Display the Gospel.