CHRIST IS THE COURAGE OF MY LIFE
by Lim Chan Khoon
The church today has to cope with many challenges. Among the challenges it faces are the spread of false doctrines, sinful lifestyles, and temptations of this world. These challenges are threats to the church’s purity, unity, and its efforts to keep its members faithful.
As Christians, God wants us to manifest courage in Christian living and uphold the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wants us to act according to the truth and also to teach others to observe all of His commandments (Matt. 28:20). In order to do that, we need to be courageous and be prepared to face consequences that come with our actions.
We can either live in fear or live in faith in this life. Our courage should be built in Jesus Christ, Who overcame the world. The night that He was arrested, He said to His apostles “…that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Be of good cheer” carries the same meaning as the Greek word (Euthumeo), which also means to be of good courage (Thayer and Smith online). Jesus knew his disciples would face persecution when they preached the gospel; therefore, He told them to be courageous. The object of our faith in this life is Christ (Gal. 2:20). We should not live in fear of persecution or rejection.
The Oxford Online Dictionary defines courage as, “act on one’s beliefs despite danger or disapproval.” As Christians, we need to have courage to act based on our conviction of biblical truth, which we know to be right, regardless of the consequences. Paul said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
The Courage Of Jesus Christ
During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ manifested great courage when necessary as He dealt with people. The following are some of the events where our Lord showed great courage: (1) Jesus was not afraid to rebuke the Pharisees and scribes for teaching the commandments of men and for being hypocrites (Matt. 15:3-9; Lk. 11:37-52). These groups of people were influential and highly respected by the Jewish community, yet Jesus was not intimidated by their position. (2) Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, in the presence of many, although they murmured that He went to the house of a sinner. Jesus made known to them that His mission was to seek and to save the lost (Lk. 19:1-10). In preaching the gospel, we should not be afraid that we might offend sinners just because a prospect or loved one does not like it. (3) When He was tempted by the devil, Jesus was offered the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Jesus would worship him. He responded with the courage that one needs to worship and serve only God (Matt. 4:8-10). It is sad to say that today, there are many who give in to the temptation of the devil (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Some lack courage and are not prepared to tell their employers that they need to leave early for mid-week church meetings. (4) Jesus stood by the truth when the high priest, Caiaphas, asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said “Yes,” even though He knew with this answer He would be charged for blasphemy and face death (Matt. 26:63-66). As faithful Christians, we must not be afraid to stand for the truth, regardless of the consequences. (5) Jesus knew the suffering and pain He would have to go through in facing death (Lk. 18:31-33), yet He courageously choose to do the will of the Father (Lk. 22:42).
Courageous Men In The Bible
In the Bible there are many examples of men and women serving God who showed great courage in many ways and under different circumstances. Such examples are useful for our learning. We will look at some of these examples.
1. The group of Jewish religious leaders consisting of the priests, captain of the temple, and the Sadducees were greatly disturbed by the teaching of Peter and John, who preached Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. They wanted to know by what power or what name Peter had healed the lame man. Peter was not deterred by the presence of many religious leaders; he stood by the truth, telling them that it was by the name of Jesus Christ Whom they crucified and Whom God raised from the dead. He went further to tell them that there is no other name under Heaven by which men can be saved (Acts 4:10-12). Peter and John were not afraid of upsetting the Jewish leaders or of their threats, but courageously told them the truth.
2. Daniel’s friends by the names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, all of whom held office in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, chose to disobey the king’s decree which required them to worship the golden image which the king had made. They did this even though they were aware of the consequences of not obeying. They held fast to God’s commandment not to bow down to any carved image (Exo. 20:4-5). They were told in answering Nebuchadnezzar and professed their trust in God to deliver them from death (Dan. 3:17-18). In doing so, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego showed courage in obeying God rather than obeying man.
3. David, the son of Jesse, made a courageous decision offering himself to take on Goliath. His courage was based on his trust and faith in God, although King Saul tried to discourage him. David believed that God would deliver him and that it was God’s battle (1 Sam. 17:32-33, 37, 45-47). We can learn from this event to be courageous in making decisions, and to trust God when we face difficult situations, especially at our workplace, and when we are pressured by our family members (Rom. 8:31).
4. Samuel, the son of Elkanah and Hannah, was the last judge of Israel. He was also a prophet of God. When King Saul sinned against God by failing to destroy completely the Amalakites and their animals (1 Sam. 15:9), Samuel did not hold back in rebuking Saul for his sin. Samuel told him all that the LORD had said about the punishment that would befall him (1 Sam. 15:19, 26-29). In serving God, Samuel carried out the tasks given to him faithfully and courageously, although he had to deal with a king. In carrying out disciplinary action, we must bear in mind that there is to be no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11). We must not be afraid to act when disciplinary actions needs to be taken (Josh. 7:24-25; 1 Cor. 5:1-5).
5. In the first century, serving God was not an easy task. Faithful servants of God had to face opposition and persecution from fellow Jews as well as the Roman government. In his letter to the Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul described the trials which he had to go through (2 Cor. 11:23-27), and what was his response to life’s trials? “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). We must recognize that we are more than conquerors and nothing can separate us from God’s love as long as we hold fast to the faith (Rom. 8:37-39).
6. When Joseph, the son of Jacob, was working as an overseer in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, the Bible tells us that Potiphar’s wife cast longing eyes on him and asked him to lie with her. She repeatedly tempted him day by day. Although Joseph was young, a slave and subject to his master’s command, he showed great courage not to give in to temptation or to sin against God (Gen. 39:7-12).
What Are Some Challenges In Developing Courage, And How Can We Overcome These Challenges?
Some Christian men find it difficult to develop the courage which God requires from every man who wants to serve Him faithfully. Some of the challenges faced by Christian men in developing courage and how they can overcome these challenges are mentioned below:
1. A lack of knowledge in the Truth. Some Christian men fail to display courage when it is required of them because they have no confidence due to a lack of knowledge in the truth. On the other hand, there are many people who display courage in standing for beliefs which they hold in error (Rom. 10:2). Of course, courage will not change what is false into what is true even if one has all the courage in the world.
If we are going to develop the courage to do what we know to be right, we must know the truth. Truth is found in the word of God. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The approach to obtaining courage is to learn and become convinced of the truth of God’s word so that one can be established in the truth (2 Pet. 1:12). A workman who is approved by God is one who is able to rightly divide the word of truth. This will not happen unless we study the Scriptures diligently (2 Tim. 2:15).
2. Fear of Men. After Jesus had rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, His disciples said unto Him, “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12). Some leaders of the church are more concerned about hurting people’s feelings than about preaching the truth.
When Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, the people told Aaron to make them gods. Although he knew it was sinful, Aaron complied and helped them to build a golden calf. Aaron gave in to their demand out of the fear of men and failed to restrain them (Exo. 32:22, 25).
Christians today know the truth, but lack the courage to correct or rebuke those who err from the truth. Why? They are worried that their actions might offend others or that they might be rejected by others and become unpopular.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God spoke to the Israelites, warning the righteous man that he should warn the wicked man to save him from his wicked way. If he failed to do so and the wicked man died in his iniquity, God would hold the righteous man responsible (Eze. 3:18). Let us take heed of God’s warning and learn from the examples of Jesus Christ and Moses, who were to rebuke sinners in carrying out their task given by God.
3. Lack of Faith. The real test of a Christian’s faith in God comes when he faces challenges. Moses sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten of them came back with a negative report based on what they saw. This caused the children of Israel to be disheartened and to refuse to enter Canaan. Although this generation that had come out of Egypt had seen how God performed miracles, fought for them against their enemies, and fed them in the wilderness, yet their thinking was not built on faith in God. Instead, it was based on what they had seen and heard (Num. 13:31-14:4). In contrast to them, Joshua and Caleb’s courage was based on their faith in God. they said, “If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us […] neither fear ye the people of the land […] the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Num. 14:8-9).
The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that God is the Rewarder of those who seek Him diligently (Heb. 11:6). We can build our faith by studying the word of God (Rom. 10:17). We should find the courage to trust God when we are faced with challenges. We should tell ourselves that we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). Let us remember that God is our helper, so we should not fear man (Heb. 13:6). Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 10:28).
What Is Available To The Christian?
Faithful Christians can count themselves privileged as they go through this life, be it in good times or in difficult times, because they are not alone – God’s presence is with them (Heb. 13:5). The apostle Paul said that in his first defense all forsook him, but God stood by him to strengthen him and deliver him from every evil work (2 Tim. 4:16-18). Christian men can take courage in knowing that God is with them (Rom. 8:31).
God told Joshua to be strong and very courageous in order to observe and do all the law. God also wanted Joshua to meditate on the book of the law. God also wanted Joshua to meditate on the book of the law (Josh. 1:7-8). We have the Bible; it is God’s desire for us to grow in our knowledge of it (Col. 1:9-10). When we know the truth, it helps us to develop courage and act according to what we know to be true (2 Tim. 4:2-3).
We may receive strength and courage from one another through the fellowship of the saints (Heb. 10:24-25). Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia about the challenges that he faced from false teachers in Jerusalem. He was encouraged by the fellowship extended to him and Barnabas by James, Cephas, and John (Gal. 2:9). In David’s time of great distress while running away from King Saul, Jonathan came to strengthen him in God (1 Sam. 23:16). We all need people in our lives that will encourage and strengthen us in the Lord. Fellowship with faithful brethren helps to strengthen us and to develop the courage needed to face challenges.
As we put our faith in God, keeping ourselves busy with the work of the church helps in building courage. It surely requires courage to approach someone to offer him a Bible study. Courage is needed to preach and teach from the pulpit, and address the modern day sins that fill the church. We are privileged to be in the midst of those who walk in the light, to have fellowship with one another, and to do the work of the church together (1 John 1:7).
God told Joshua three times to be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:6-9). Therefore, as Christians let us also take heed to God’s will. We can look to Jesus Christ as our inspiration for courage. It will help us to know what is right and to do what is right according to the Scriptures, regardless of the consequences. It will also help us to please God rather than men (Gal. 1:10).
We must have courage to live godly lives in Christ, even if it means being persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). We must have courage to do what Jesus commanded, even if the world hates us (John 15:14, 18). We must not run according to the dissipation of this world, even if they speak evil of us (1 Pet. 4:4). We must preach the truth, even if people will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2-3). We must be faithful until death, even if we have to endure tribulation (Rev. 2:10).