I remember a number of years ago as I was doing research for a patriotic sermon going online to read Congressional Medal of Honor citations. I read citations from various branches of service and from different wars. I was deeply moved by what I read. It was hard to stop reading. The magnetism of such courage had me riveted to the computer screen. It was impossible to comprehend the courage necessary to plunge one’s self into mortal danger without apparent regard for one’s life. Yet there are so many who have done just that. I was intrigued by what motivated a person in the moment of decision during the fog of combat to exhibit such courage.
But as I thought about it I realized that there are other kinds of courage besides battlefield courage. Like the young mother who discovers, due to her husband’s lack of courage, that she is now a single mother of young children without any marketable job skills. She labors at two jobs making minimum wage to supply her children’s basic needs and give them a good education. She holds no hope for a better life for herself only the hope for a better life for her kids. That’s real courage!
There is also the courage of a person facing terminal illness. As they fight through pain and fear, they respond with incredible hope and joy in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. And also the caregiver of the one who is ill watching the one they love wasting away as they do a thousand unpleasant tasks to give compassionate care. Silent courage blossoms all around us every day, usually without much notice.
There are many kinds of courage we could talk about, but there’s is a kind of courage that is available to everyone. Most people don’t consider themselves courageous, and even those who display great acts of courage don’t see themselves as courageous persons. But a special kind of courage is there for all who will seize it. What I’m talking about is spiritual courage.
Spiritual courage is the capacity to follow Jesus Christ over the long haul despite the struggle, the pain or even opposition. Spiritual courage demands passion. There is no way to do what Jesus calls us to do without zeal for him and his kingdom. But in the heat of the battle, in extended times of stress, the fire of a believers passion can grow cold. It’s real. It happens to every believer. When it does happen we must rekindle the fire of our love for the Lord Jesus. We must fan into flame the small embers of our relationship with him.
We read in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “Because of this I remind you to rekindle the flame of the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love , and of self-control.” Spiritual courage is the power, love and self-control of the Holy Spirit burning with great passion for Christ in our hearts. Extraordinary acts of spiritual courage come from ordinary Christians who burn with zeal for Jesus.
The Example of Joshua
In the first chapter of the biblical book of Joshua, we find the story of the Lord appearing to Joshua. Moses is dead and the mantle of leadership now falls to Joshua. Four times in the first chapter the Lord calls Joshua to be courageous (verses 6, 7, 9, 18). It is interesting that the Hebrew word for courage can mean to be alert and focused. Courage is focus under pressure. Pressure can cause a person to be distracted and not focused. It’s hard to think clearly and be wise when we’re distracted. Spiritual courage, then, is not the absence of fear, but the driving out of fear with faith. If we can focus on the Lord and his promises we can live with faith and spiritual courage.
Its important to note, I think, that fear is from the outside of us and gets inside us. Something that is happening or can happen in the external world gets inside our heads and hearts. We get fearful, distracted and loose our focus. We forget who the Lord is and the ways he has blessed us and been there for us in tough situations. On the other hand, courage comes from inside us through faith in God and his promises, and goes outside of us to master the situation.
There is always an element of risk in spiritual courage. Will God be there for us as he was in the past? If I step out in faith and obey his word in difficult circumstances, will things work out? Risks are everywhere! Spiritual courage demands taking risks, not foolish risks but wise risks based on the rock solid truth of God’s word. That’s what faith is all about. Can I trust the Lord?
I admire people with battlefield courage or great courage in really tough life situations. I wish I could be like them. But I can, we can, have spiritual courage in the daily grind by allowing faith to fuel our passion for the plan of God.
Are you a courageous person? I believe God is calling all believers to acts of spiritual courage for his glory. It may not seem like much, but somebody is waiting for a small step of faith that will be huge in their life. Let’s take a risk and be courageous for Jesus.