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ReVision

Christian Courage

This is the courage we need.

Brave Heart (2)

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him
be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3.20, 21

A powerful affection
Courage is a powerful affection. It flows from the primary affections of fear of God, love for others, thanksgiving, and hope, and it brings together a wide range of other affections – love, devotion, even anger at times – into a single motivating power within us.

Courage can lead us to say or do things we might never have dared to think possible. Positive things. Edifying things. Things that can effectively channel the grace and truth of God to others.  In that sense, courage has the power to take us beyond ourselves into realms of action that we do not typically pursue or have not previously known, but that shape and mold us, to become more or other than what we’ve ever been before.

But courage in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing. Lots of people over the years have shown great courage for unjust causes and improper ends. Mere courage – a power that works within us to enable us to overcome fears and surmount challenges – is not what the Christian should be seeking. The Christian wants the treasury of his heart to be filled with distinctly Christian courage.

But what do we mean by that? We can approach an understanding of Christian courage from a variety of angles. Most importantly, however, we need to understand that Christian courage – the ability to overcome fears and surmount challenges in the name of Christ and for the sake of His Kingdom – Christian courage is a work of the Spirit of God, Who dwells within each believer.

Only the Holy Spirit can give us the kind of courage that works toward the progress of Christ’s Kingdom and glory.

A work of God’s Spirit
Why must this be so? Why do we need a work of the Spirit of God to move us to acts of Christian courage? Can’t we just gin up courage whenever we need it, like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz? Why must we have God at work within us, willing and working, so that we may act out of brave hearts as the situation requires?

A couple of reasons: First, we are not naturally courageous – at least, not in the right directions. By nature, as we have seen, we are self-interested and self-protecting. If it were otherwise, we would not have to be commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves; we just would.

But we don’t. Love must be learned, and so also, Christian courage. We must be taught the proper ends toward which courage should be directed. Slicing off an unarmed servant’s ear in a dark garden is not the kind of Christian courage we require. Standing firm when others accuse us of being followers of Jesus, especially when taking such a stand is not convenient, or perhaps safe, that requires courage. Peter was not courageous in the garden of Gethsemane, and he was not courageous in denying the Lord three times. But he would become one of the most courageous Christians of his generation. He had yet to learn the true nature of Christian courage, which the Lord was at pains to teach him through these patent failures of courage.

True courage doesn’t typically issue in heroic behavior. Rather, it simply enables us to go beyond our selfish interests or perceived safe zones into gestures and conversations that cut new grooves for the Gospel to flow into the lives of the people we see each day. Or it allows us to take new works, pursue new projects, or undertake new disciplines so that Jesus can be more fully formed in us and more consistently present through us. The more we learn courage in every area of our lives, the more our heart and soul will be strengthened to serve Jesus consistently.

But beyond learning about courage, we need the power of God if we are to act courageously. Again, by nature we do not act courageously, whether by word or deed. But if we can learn the true nature of Christian courage – what it is, where it comes from, why it matters, and how to express it – then, when the opportunity for courage arises, we can draw on the Spirit of God to take us beyondour fears, beyond our comfort zone, beyond any previous experiences, into realms of word and deed that we can only account for as the work of the Spirit within us – words and deeds we’ve never dared to think possible or to ask the Lord to do through us. 

Exceedingly abundantly more
Real Christian courage enables us to be and do more – even exceedingly abundantly more – than we would ever have thought we were capable of in serving Christ and advancing His Kingdom. As we grow to understand the key components of Christian courage, and as we discover the means for engaging the indwelling Spirit of God, we will surprise even ourselves to see how God can work within us in courageous ways.

Christian courage is a work of God’s Spirit, so we will never take credit for it, never boast of being brave at heart by our own efforts, and always make sure to give God the praise, glory, and honor whenever any of His people act in courageous ways for Christ and His Kingdom.

Jesus commands us not to be afraid, but to overcome our fears by looking to Him. He has overcome the world and everything in it, and as we grow in Him – in His mind and heart – we may expect to have brave hearts sufficient for every challenge and every opportunity for glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom.

For reflection
1.  Give some examples of courage directed to improper ends. How does such courage differ from Christian courage?

2.  Why do we say that Christian courage is a work of God’s Spirit? What are the implications of this for becoming more courageous?

3.  Meditate on Acts 1.8, Galatians 5.16-23, and 1 Corinthians 12.7-11. Given what we see in these passages, how might we expect the Spirit to try to encourage us?

Next steps: Where does courage come from? How can we become more courageous? What opportunities do you expect to have today for manifesting Christian courage? How can you prepare for those opportunities now?

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.

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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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