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Out of the Fullness of the Heart

Courage is the motivating affection.

Brave Heart (1)

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6.45

Where your treasure is
It is often possible to discern the priorities of someone’s heart by listening to their conversation. As Jesus explained, by our mouths we express what fills our hearts; thus, the topics of a person’s conversation can be a reliable indicator of the “treasure” they have stored up in their heart.

When I taught in a theological seminary, I would occasionally require students to keep track of their activities, including their conversations, for a week. They used a simple 3x5 card and wrote down their activities each day. Then, when we would come back together for class, I would ask each student for a report. Topics of conversation ranged from family matters to issues or projects at work, the fate of the local sports team, interesting things on TV or the latest film, and, as we might expect, things related to their faith in Jesus Christ.

After all the students had shared their summaries, I would ask, “OK, based on these conversations, what would you say is the fullness of your own heart? What do you think about most often? Feel most strongly about? Talk about with others most readily?” The answers were what you might expect: family, work, diversions, and, oh yes, faith.

The heart is the heart of the matter in life. A well-kept heart is the key to a strong soul. The attitudes, desires, longings, aspirations, hopes, and fears that rule in our hearts will determine, to a very great extent, the priorities of our lives. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we keep our hearts with all diligence, making sure that the affections harbored there are properly focused and strengthened to the right intensity, so that we can fulfill our Kingdom-and-glory callings from the Lord.

And if there is one affection that brings together all the most powerful and positive affections of our hearts, it is surely courage. Courage arises in the heart when fear, love, thanksgiving, and hope are properly kept and engaged. And it gathers those affections into one powerful motivation to act in obedience to the Lord.

The word itself has the word, “heart,” “cour”, at its root. When we are acting courageously, all our most powerful affections move us to act in extraordinary ways. Fear, love, gratitude, and hope, all in place and working as God intends, will engender courage in every believer – the courage to act in line with our calling to God’s Kingdom and glory, regardless of obstacles, barriers, dangers, or any other potential hindrances.

Courage is the mobilizing affection in the heart, for by it all the other affections are gathered, focused, and engaged to serve the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.

Courage
The Oxford English Dictionary defines courage as “That quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking,” and equates courage with “bravery, boldness, valour.” While courage certainly engages our minds, it originates in our hearts, where, to find expression, it must overcome such other powerful emotions as complacency, tentativeness, timidity, and fear.

Courage rises from the fear of God, love for God and neighbors, thanksgiving, and the hope of glory. It binds all the affections of the heart into a single, powerful affection that enables us, when it is engaged, to overcome our fears, exceed our expectations, and surmount our greatest challenges.

We tend to think of courage as a momentary affection, something we call upon or summon for extraordinary situations. So it’s not surprising that normal conversation probably doesn’t reveal the presence of courage in our hearts.

But the things we do talk about, as they reveal the fullness of our hearts, can help us to know whether, when push comes to shove, we will have the courage we need as the situation requires it. If our conversations revolve mostly around ourselves and our daily occupations and preoccupations, and if there is little talk about the Lord and His Kingdom, promises, and glory, and little in the way of thanksgiving, then it’s likely our hearts are full of trivial affections, such as complacency and self-interest. We’ll need to do some work on our hearts to make sure the courage we need for obeying and glorifying God is there when we need it.

Christian courage
If we want courage to serve us well, and to move us to act as followers of Christ in every situation, then we shall have to sharpen the focus and build up the treasury of our hearts.

We can nurture Christian courage by making sure that we fear, love, and delight in the Lord above all else, that we love others with the love of Christ, that we give thanks in every situation and in the face of every challenge, and that we are always zealous for the truth and glory of God. As all these affections are drawn together, courage to act in line with the mind of Christ and the heart of God’s Spirit will embolden our heart for obedience that goes beyond our fears and perceived limitations.

Courage arises from the right affections, rightly engaged; and then it gathers all affections together for the purpose of moving us in obedience, beyond our comfort zone, past previous experience, and into the adventure of seeing Jesus work in us for His Kingdom and glory.

When proper affections represent the fullness of our hearts, we will seek and talk about the things of Christ more consistently and with more evident joy and delight. And when that is the case, anything that threatens these cherished values and priorities, or offers us the opportunity to express them, or holds out the promise of bringing glory to God in some new way, can spark within us new fires of Christian courage. 

For reflection
1.  How do people decide what their values and priorities in life should be? What are some ways these come to expression in their lives?

2.  Many Christians seem to lack courage when it comes to talking with others about their faith. Why do you suppose this is so?

3.  Is there a difference between courage per se and Christian courage?

Next steps – Preparation: Try it yourself: Monitor your conversations for a week or so. Download the free worksheet, “The Time of Your Lives” (click here) and follow the instructions. What comes out as representing the fullness of your heart? Is that fullness sufficient to engender courage whenever it might be required?

T. M. Moore

Focusing on Jesus
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

If you missed our ReVision series on encouragement, you can download all the installments of that study for free by clicking here.

How can we increase in the knowledge of God and the living hope of His glory? Our book, To Know Him, can help you become more focused and active in seeking the knowledge of the Lord. Order your free copy by clicking here. You can see Jesus more clearly by understanding what He’s doing in heaven at the right hand of God. Our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to focus more clearly on our living hope. Order your free 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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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