Strength and Courage

FFF 8:1 (Jan 1962)

Strength and Courage

Richard Burson

Courage alone is not worthy of admiration. Wild animals often show fearless courage and fight to the death. This courage, exhibited by animals, is merely physical courage, and, unfortunately, is displayed by unbelievers often in their behaviour to one another. While, under certain circumstances, physical courage may merit some commendation, it is not the type in which God takes delight. A courage prompted by the truth manifesting itself in a sincere desire for righteousness is the kind of courage God wants in His people.

A courage that resulted from a love of the truth was shown by Daniel. In spite of the evil ordinance of wicked men, he continued his daily habit of prayer to God. This same type of courage endured the test when he was cast into the den of lions.

The sure conviction that he had been called of God, and that he had acted as led of the Lord was the source of the courage that strengthened the Apostle Paul. Through it he faced judges and kings, and fearlessly witnessed for the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

The knowledge that God had spoken directly to them gave courage to unlettered fishermen, and gave them boldness to face angry and unjust judges with these words: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). God had called them and commissioned them to represent Him; with this confidence they received the indomitable spirit to face the august Sanhedrin. “There is no source of courage like that which flows from the consciousness of serving God, and the consequent assurance that He will sustain and help His servants” (Wm. Blalkie). That is why God spoke to Joshua, saying, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous and then shalt thou have good success” (Jos. 1:18).

Matthew Henry commented on this passage: “If any man’s business might have excused him from meditation and other acts of devotion, one would think Joshua’s might at this time.” God instructed Joshua, because of the great work he was beginning, relative to the importance of meditation upon His divine Word. The Lord knew that he would experience the need for strength, wisdom, and vigour which result alone from fellowship with God. In all the centuries of Church history, those who have been a blessing to the people of God have been the men and the women who have meditated daily upon the Word of God. There can be no spiritual progress or prosperity without this. A perfunctory reading of the Bible without regular meditation will not feed the soul or fortify the inner man for spiritual conflicts. God instructed Joshua in the way of courage by stating, “Meditate therein day and night.”

When we reflect upon the Word of God, we become convinced as to what is right. The veracity of what is the right action under varying circumstances comes only from regularly consulting the Scriptures and meditating upon them. Uncertainty breeds the hesitancy that is indicative of lack of courage and conviction.

Yet, it is not enough to have the courage of one’s convictions; one may know that he is right, and, in spite of all, proceed to the detriment of the cause of Christ. Alexander Whyte said, “Hoist the banner of truth, but be certain your flagstaff is love.” Life is only experienced as the believer daily finds fellowship with God through His Holy Word. “God is love.” Everyone who knows God has enjoyed His love in some measure.

When Joshua was advised to “observe to do all that is written,” he was driven back to the Word of God as the source of all truth. The Word of God is of value to us only in the manner we practise daily the truth we learn from it. If Joshua “observed to do all that is written,” he could be sure of courage to speak to others. Courage to thus speak results from the resolute determination to employ that which we know to be right. Joshua’s meditations upon the Word of God instilled into his mind the will of God; strengthened him to perform this will, and to make future conquests.

It was not idle rhetorics on Peter’s part, for who better than he could give instructions in this very matter, saying, “Add to your faith courage.” Nothing is more effectual in producing confidence than trusting the call and the command of God, and feeling fully assured of it in one’s own conscience.

When God speaks to Joshua, “Have not I commanded thee?” He refers to the commands given in verse eight. On the basis of those instructions and Joshua’s acting upon them, God makes the promise, saying, “The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Constant companionship is promised to the man who obeys God, the man who courageously acts upon the promises of God. “The Lord thy God is with thee.” The presence of God is the realest experience in the entire pathway of life.

F. E. Marsh makes this comment: “Thou art with me: He is above us to guard. He is underneath us to support. He is before us to lead. He is at our right hand to protect. He is within us as a companion and comforter. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is faithful that promised. ‘The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest’.”

Needing no other armour than this, the presence of the Lord, Joshua went forth and conquered. The people, through their valiant leader, were brought into the place of blessing that God had intended for them. Joshua was the means of bringing God’s people into submission to the divine will; consequently, he brought untold blessing upon them. All this was the simple end of meditating upon the Word of God and the following of its precepts wheresoever they might lead.

“When we are in the way of our duty, we have reason to be strong and courageous; and it will help very much to animate and embolden us if we keep our eye upon the divine warrant, and hear God saying, ‘Have not I commanded thee?’” (Matthew Henry).

God grant that more of His dear people may be given the desire to meditate upon and to obey His Word, and to lead His people gallantly in their rightful victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.