The Courageous Christian (1)
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27.14
The word translated “be of good courage” in Psalm 27.14 is the Hebrew word, חָזַק, chazak, and means to “be or grow strong, strengthen” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs). This is a good work for thinking about courage, and it describes well the examples of courage we saw earlier in this study. Peter was made strong to walk on water. The woman at the well became strong to bear witness to her entire community. Zacchaeus was strengthened to do the right thing; the Corinthians were made strong to overcome the sins in their midst; the Thessalonians were strengthened to excel still more; and Paul was encouraged to resume his ministry as Barnabas came alongside to strengthen him.
Courage, we recall, is that disposition of the soul that inclines us to go beyond our previous experience or limitations into situations, challenges, or opportunities that can be daunting, difficult, risky, and even dangerous, but which hold the promise of glory to God and blessing for ourselves and others. Courage to do this must come to us from God, for we are naturally fearful, self-interested, and reluctant to take risks. God has sent His Holy Spirit to be a constant Encourager within us, opening His Word to us, convicting us of our sin, directing us in the way of righteousness, showing us the glory of Jesus, changing us into His likeness, bringing forth fruit and power, and impelling us to follow Jesus as His witnesses and ambassadors.
Only God can give us the courage to break out of the confines of comfort, convenience, familiarity, and fear into new areas of growth and ministry. As we have seen, it pleases God the Encourager to use others for this purpose in our life. He sends others to come alongside us at just the right time to help us yield to the Encourager for whatever He wants to do in us, according to and unto the good pleasure of God (Phil. 2.13).
Courage begins in waiting on the Lord. He alone can strengthen our heart as His Spirit stretches out within us to shape and move us in ways more consistent with our calling as disciples of Jesus. If we want to have courage to excel still more in our walk with and work for the Lord, we’re going to have to wait on Him – in prayer, over time, and for specific kinds of courage. He will give us the courage we need at just the moment we need it. Our responsibility is to wait.
The ends of courage
Waiting on the Lord entails seeking Him, entering His Presence, crying out to see the glory in His face, pleading with Him to show us the way we should go (Ps. 27.4, 7-9, 11). The courage God can give us will allow us to stand boldly, even before the most fearsome enemies or uncertain situations, to be the people He has chosen, saved, and called us to be (Ps. 27.1-3). The Lord, David explained, is “the strength” of our lives; He alone can give us the courage that strengthens us for going beyond where we are (Ps. 27.1).
But He only gives that courage within certain parameters. The Lord, through His indwelling Encourager, will not encourage or strengthen us for just whatever we want. The Holy Spirit gives courage for us to be, act, and do in line with the divine economy, that administration of things which is according to God’s eternal purpose and plan.
Thus, we seek courage so that we might glorify God by seeking His Kingdom and righteousness in all we do (1 Thess. 2.12; Matt. 6.33; 1 Cor. 10.31). Unless we’re seeking the “weighty” Presence of God and the progress of King Jesus’ rule, we’re wasting our time waiting on the Lord for courage.
The courage we seek will thus be in line with the Word of God, which He has given to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17). The better we know and delight in the Word of God, the more we will seek from Him courage to realize His promises, carry out His commands, and fulfill His holy and righteous and good will.
To live courageous lives we must be courageous people, and that means increasing in the likeness of Jesus. No one ever had more courage than Jesus, Who has given us His own Encourager to help us become more like Him (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
When we are being filled with Jesus we will pursue our calling in life so as to bring the reality of heaven’s Kingdom to earth in forms and expressions of goodness, truth, and beauty. We will bear witness to Him Who is all these things, and He will fill our world with Himself as we do.
And we will be given courage thus to restore to God’s goodness and glory as much of the world as King Jesus entrusts to our stewardship.
When we seek the glory of God on these terms, with these ends in view, God will grant it to us as we wait on Him.
Arenas for courage
But for what specifically are we waiting on the Lord? Where do we need Him to encourage us? And how should we expect the Lord to use us to encourage others? We don’t want to bypass any arenas of life in which we must have courage to glorify God as we long to do.
In this part of our study on encouragement, we will look at those specific arenas of our own lives where we need the Encourager of God to take us beyond anywhere we’ve ever been before, and to do so continuously, over and over. As we discover these for ourselves, we’ll be better equipped both to wait on the Lord for the courage we need, and to encourage others in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
We need God’s courage, first of all, to believe that God can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we have ever dared to ask or think. It is our lack of faith – our unbelief – that keeps us timid and unfruitful. We need the courage to believe God, and to deny our foolish ideas about our potential. Then we’ll need the courage to envision new possibilities for our lives – to look around in all the facets and features of our lives, and gain a clearer sense of what God might do there as He encourages us. This will put us in position to pursue that vision, with renewed faith, and to identify areas of change and transformation to work on day by day. And that will help us make the most of the time God gives us for undertaking the work that will enable us to fulfill our calling.
And we will also need courage so that we are not afraid to die, if necessary, for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. And these are the subjects we will pursue in this section of our study on encouragement.
1. Can you think of a time when God gave you courage to do something you’d never done before? Explain.
2. Why can we only expect to have courage if God Himself gives it to us? What’s involved in waiting on the Lord for courage?
3. Review the last section of this article. Where do you most need courage from the Lord at this time?
Next steps – Preparation: Review in prayer all the areas where we need the Lord to encourage us. Commit these all to Him, to let His will be done in you.
T. M. Moore
We can encourage people in even small and seemingly insignificant ways. Our book Small Stuff helps you be more aware of the opportunities for encouraging others that God brings to you each day. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.