A figure hunches down in the distance, tightening beaten armor onto his weary body. The metal links shift as though they were a second skin, rippling and clicking with every movement. Raised scars several shades lighter than his tan skin stand proud, boasting of his perseverance through difficulty. Just beyond him lies a valley where men also don armor – only they are out to get his blood.
It’s nothing personal. It’s war. And at dawn, the battle for victory and power begins. It has been so for thousands of years, and it would be foolishness to expect anything different from men born with the same desires and nature.
The setting sun bathes the man with light, creating a silhouette of someone whose very breath could end the coming day. The warrior finishes adjusting his armor, gnaws a piece of jerky, and reaches for his sword. His fingers waver an inch above the hilt. His eyes scrutinize the landscape that will be stained with blood in but a few hours. Vultures hover on the drafts of wind, anticipating the promise of food – their feathers flutter and their beady eyes dart back and forth between the two camps.
No more hesitation.
The man covers the final distance between him and his sword, testing the blade and making it dance as though it were a puppet cajoling the puppeteer. He leaps astride a black stallion and urges it forward with a firm squeeze of his knees. The horse senses the tension of what is to come and snorts, head bowed. Its ears flicker and its hoof paws out grooves in the desert sand.
The two armies assemble, and a horn blows. The war call emanates in the valley. The sound ripples like a wave, crashing over every man. Their backs tingle. Vultures hover.
Every man stands as tensed as a cat waiting to pounce on its prey in the final moments of calm before the storm. No one knows who will win, though they clearly give their life to the cause. If they even remembered the cause at this point, that is.
The warrior and his stallion stand a sight most impressive. They pose proudly on the highest point of the ridge. Their armaments glitter from the morning rays. He evaluates the army on the other side, glances at his own, and bellows a wild, almost deranged cry that catalyzes the war.
With a solid kick into the horse’s flanks, the warrior stabs his sword in the air as his steed rears. A final cry precedes the man charges into the fray leading his men. Metal clangs on metal, and every man desperately strives to fend first for his life, and then for his land’s honor. And the end? The war is won by one party, only to face another battle a short time thereafter.
Courage is a curious thing.
I used to always conceive it being the above – e.g., a battle field where the stakes are high and the sight daunting, but a man charges in with reckless abandon. So little does he care about his own life that he is willing to risk it all for a cause he believes to be worthy.
And while in many cases courage can be seen this way, I have been learning that courage 1) does not have to be quite so dramatic and 2) is more about trust.
Merriam Webster defines “courage” to be “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty [here].”
Demonstrating strength to persevere and withstand trials happens everyday. A father coming home from a long day of work, desiring to help his wife care for a newborn despite his weariness – this takes courage. To take a stand in a discussion and defend the truth in the overwhelming wave of lies and misconceptions – this takes courage. For a friend to continually pursue someone who doesn’t know Christ through prayer, service, love, and sharing the Word even if it takes years and the response be hatred and rejection – this takes courage.
And Scripture does not leave us devoid of examples that demonstrate courage drawn from the source of all good – God.
[Deuteronomy 31:6-7] Moses in his last counsel to all Israel:
6 Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8 The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Moses does not command Joshua to be courageous for no reason, or to charge into the battle with abandon. Rather, he specifically mentions that the rising leader can be assured because “the LORD your God is the one who goes with you.” It is not in his own strength or war prowess that Joshua can accomplish the task of giving to Israel the land that God swore to be their inheritance. It is because God goes with him. Therein lies his reason for confidence.
[Joshua 1:9] God encourages Joshua for the same reason as well:
In [1 Chronicles], the prophet Nathan tells David of God’s covenant with the king. In humility, David responds in in chapter 17 verse 25:
For You, O my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build for him a house; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray before You.
It is because of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness that David can approach the throne of God to pray with confidence. Hebrews 4:16 says: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We can be confident because by Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection, we are clothed with His perfect righteousness! At one time, Hebrews 10:31 was the fate that awaited me- “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and I was a slave to sin bountifully earning my wages of death (Romans 6:23) and under the holy wrath of God. Even so, while I was His enemy, God’s kindness and grace irresistibly drew me to repentance (Romans 2:4). Not only can I confidently ask of God for strength to do His will and live in obedience to Him, but Romans 8:34 tells me that Jesus Himself intercedes on my behalf – unceasingly. Truly, as Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
[2 Chronicles 32:7] Hezekiah (king of Judah) exhorted the peoples when facing invasion:
Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him.
Again, the basis of courage lies not in the self, but in the One Who is greater.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.
as well as
[Acts 27:25] – Paul is on a ship that will be shipwrecked-
“25 Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.”
When we have confidence in God alone, it is He Who receives all the glory, honor, and praise – as He ought! Whether it is reaching out to someone unknown, building a friendship, defending the truth that God made so graciously clear to us, going into battle, fighting the little struggles of daily living – we are to live as soldiers that charge into the skirmishes that still linger (though the victory already be won). But we do not fight for the glory of battle or the legacy that we want to leave behind – no, we fight for the One Who already proved Himself the victor, showing our faith in Him that He has placed and sustains in us, thereby demonstrating Him worthy and powerful and magnificent and aweful.
We are not to be contented bystanders blissfully eating away at war provisions on the sidelines – no, my brothers and sisters!
We are called to have beautiful feet, bloody and weathered, from sharing the truth of God’s glory, justice, love, and grace!
We are called to be soldiers that march faithful – full of faith – in the One Who is far greater!
We are called to be slaves that joyfully obey the Master Who never leads His people astray and works all things for good in their lives for the ultimate purpose of magnifying Himself.
We are called to live humbly, having an accurate view of God and self, serving others with the love of Christ, knowing that even our faith is given by Him and our desire to please Him sustained and purified by our Lord.
[Ephesians 6:10-17] exhorts:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.