When Moses died, the leadership of the people of Israel passed to Joshua. Joshua’s first task as leader was to take the Israelites across the Jordan River to assume possession of the land which God had promised to them.
While giving Joshua instructions for carrying out this task, the Lord commands him multiple times to be strong and to have courage. This exhortation begins in Deuteronomy 31 as God speaks through Moses and continues in Joshua chapter 1 where Joshua receives instruction directly from God. The command is summed up in Joshua 1:9.
“Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
One of the hallmarks of Biblical instruction is that repeated words or phrases bear extra attention. The exhortation to “be strong and courageous” is made more significant by the number of times it is reiterated. God was emphasizing to Joshua that he recognize and remember that he was facing a formidable task. One that would continually require unwavering trust in God as well as steadfast determination to pursue his goal in spite of any and all opposition.
I believe that the same strength and godly courage expected of Joshua thousands of years ago will be required of the young men we are raising today.
I’ve only recently begun to think through the importance of instilling courage into my boys. I don’t have it all figured out. What I have to share is a few observations I’ve made as I’ve considered the concept of courage.
1. Courage is more than an action.
We tend to look at what a person has done and declare them courageous. But the ability to act with courage has to come from somewhere. The Latin root of the word courage is “cor” – heart. Courageous acts proceed from the heart.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”
Courage is a quality of character or spirit that reveals itself in actions. If we want our young men to act courageously in the coming days, we must help them develop hearts that will support such actions.
2. Courage must be developed.
Courage is not an intrinsic quality. It is a characteristic that needs to be introduced, nurtured and practiced. It’s like a muscle that will grow stronger with use. True, it will develop more rapidly in some of our sons than others. Some young men will have a tougher war to wage with fear.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The speed with which courage grows is not important. What matters is that we as parents recognize and support the courage potential within every one of our boys.
3. Courage is not the absence of fear.
It’s easy to look at a person who acted courageously and assume they were not afraid. Not so. A courageous heart acts willingly in spite of fear. Fear is an emotion, a natural response to threat or danger. It is a useful, God-given warning system – as long as it is not allowed to control one’s decisions.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7
Fear does not have to be an enemy; it can be a catalyst that prompts courage to stand up and say, “I acknowledge your presence, but you will not control me.” Courage is not the absence or even the antithesis of fear. It is the reasoned response of a heart well-trained to trust God and act on the behalf of others.
4. Courage does not focus on itself.
Courage starts with a mindset that someone or something is more important than itself. It chooses to act because there is more value in protecting a person or an ideal than in protecting oneself.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Sometimes we talk about a person “standing up for themselves.” I’m sure that can be done with selfish motives. However, I think it’s often a principle or value, such as truth or justice, with far-reaching implications that supplies the courage to stand.
5. Courage is revealed in different ways.
Fear presents itself in different forms, therefore courage will respond in a variety of ways.
One may be afraid of:
- the unknown
- ridicule or rejection
- pain or death
Courage chooses to: (synonyms we sometimes use)
- not give up, to try again (grit)
- to do something hard (bravery)
- trust God and take the next step (faith)
- accept trials (forbearance)
- speak up, to oppose wrong (boldness)
- resist pressure (fortitude)
- stand up for others (gallantry)
- challenge the status quo and pursue change (audacity)
” . . . let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Whatever form courage takes, it chooses to accept the risk in exchange for the gain that is possible.
6. Courage that trusts God has an advantage.
Anyone can develop and demonstrate courage. But the young man whose heart trusts in the Lord will discover that his courage has an extra edge.
“One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you. So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.”
When love for God and unshakeable trust in His character and plan fuels our boys to act courageously on behalf of others, they cannot fail. God is on their side no matter what the outcome is.
Our boys will be called to reveal their courage by speaking on behalf of the helpless, resisting peer pressure, asking forgiveness, calling people to righteousness and perhaps even entering battle.
Let’s be faithful to support our sons’ developing courage by teaching their hearts to honor God.
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Abi is an ordinary wife and mom serving an extraordinary God. She spends her days loving her husband and keeping up with their 5 colorful, noisy kids. At the end of the day she looks forward to a quiet walk or a warm cup of tea and a good book. Abi blogs at Joy In My Kitchen to inspire you to glorify God and enjoy life with your family. You can follow Joy In My Kitchen on Facebook or Pinterest.