Be Strong and Courageous
During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as Khrushchev was criticizing Stalin in a public meeting, a heckler in the audience interrupted with a shout, “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?” “Who said that?” roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, “Now you know why” (“Today in the Word,” July 13, 1993).
Courage was the missing element. It is a virtue that is continually assaulted by the wicked and always in danger of fading from human experience. Indeed, if it is not revived in the hearts of individuals in each successive generation, wicked “policies” and terrible “atrocities” will reign supreme in this world. Moreover, the lack of courage results in dread and dismay (see Josh. 1:9), yet, when it is present, there is “power” and “love” and “sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7, KJV). “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Courage is, therefore, at least partly, the mainstay of all other virtues: “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor” (Aristotle).
This “quality of mind” is somewhat difficult to define and is often better understood by experience—either positively by seeing it modeled in others or negatively by feeling the effects of its absence. The Scriptures do, however, supply helpful descriptions and illustrations of this important attitude and action. In the New Testament, the word “courage” translates a variety of Greek terms which all carry with them ideas of “confidence,” “boldness,” and “resolution.” Thus, courage is not the absolute absence of fear but “resistance to fear” and “mastery of fear” (Mark Twain). Where terror silences those worthy attitudes within us, courage expresses them. It is the characteristic that undergirds and motivates godly thinking and living.
It is no surprise, therefore, that God has perpetually expected His people to “be strong and courageous.” This command is not, however, given without qualification; where the Lord makes demands, He provides instruction—found in Scripture (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Courage is developed, according to the Bible, when we place our confidence fully in the Lord and His power, understand the nature of our spiritual struggle and the schemes of the adversary, and choose to put on the heavenly armor, standing firm in the midst of the fight and fright (see Eph. 6:10-12). Indeed, courage is ours for the taking, because “[He has] overcome the world” (John 16:33, NASB).
As with any matter of the mind (attitude), courage is a choice we make: Will we sit in silence, like Nikita Khrushchev, while the battle for right rages around us, or will we confidently stand with the Lord, casting our fears on Him, strengthening our hearts with faith, and preparing our minds for action?
Be strong and courageous; through God you will win,
Though great be the armies of error and sin.
Your captain will lead you to conquer the land;
His arm cannot fail you, and they cannot stand.
Be strong and courageous, and conquer the foe!
The Lord God is with you wherever you go!
(Glenda Schales and Matthew Bassford)