By Cheryl Scanlan
Courage often flies in the face of logic. While in Alaska, I visited Icy Strait Point on Hoonah Island, home of approximately 800 residents and 2000 brown bear. My husband and I were warned, stay close to the camp. As we discussed what to do if encountering a bear, I was instructed, don’t run. Instead, stand your ground, make noise. If the bear goes after you, curl into a ball, covering the back of your neck and play dead. (Some suggest lying flat is a better alternative.) Now – imagine the adrenaline, the fear and the instincts that all point to one action – RUN! But the truth tells us something else – STAND FIRM, HOLD YOUR GROUND, ACT by making noise!
Three times in Joshua Chapter 1, God tells Joshua, only be strong and courageous. It made no sense for him to stand his ground against the walls of Jericho and sound the shofar, the trumpet of the Lord. It made no sense to fight with a dwindled Gideon Army. It makes no sense to travel in a way that corners the Israelites with Egyptians behind and water in front.
It makes no earthly sense to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding and in all of our ways to acknowledge Him. Courage and wisdom go hand and hand. Scripture instructs where our strength comes from: The joy of the Lord is our strength. Scripture instructs where wisdom comes from: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
And that joy that is ours in the Lord – where does that come from? It comes from knowing we are walking in obedience because of that truth that convicts and leads us into righteousness (Titus 1:1): Walking in obedience is courageous living when our flesh screams ‘run’, the world mocks and makes fun and Satan stands ready to accuse.
Courage to do what exactly?
Act on the Truth that God has revealed to us! We know that courage is not the absence of fear. It is how we respond even when afraid: When I am afraid, I will trust in You. (Psalm 56:3) God knows we will be afraid, only be strong and courageous in your fear. Set your face on the prize that is in Christ Jesus. Set it there! And then, the steadfast focus keeps the knocking knees from buckling while we train ourselves to look to heaven’s finish line and pace ourselves by eternity’s time line. (I Corinthians 16:13)
Courage helps us to move away from the status quo and step into the preferred future God has for us. Like the Park Ranger’s advice to me in the wilderness setting, the authority of God’s voice and word gives us instruction worthy of our attention and our action as we navigate our modern day wilderness. Our God tells us what is best for our good and His glory.
Courage calls us to step into that revealed truth and we sense the joy of the Lord strengthening us for the task. “Who but for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) Because of the joy set before us, we too can, endure whatever we are asked to endure for we know the servant is not above the master. (John 13:16-17)
Who is it that the Lord is more pleased with – the son who says ‘yes, Lord’ and yet does not do the Father’s bidding, or the son who initially says ‘no, Lord’, but then, goes and does the work of the Master? (Matthew 21:28-32) Courage is demonstrated in the child who does the Lord’s bidding.
The result is, we are able to act in ways we didn’t think possible before. We find that with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) Not the “Superman type” of all things are possible where I become ‘g’od, but we see that in our weakness, He is becoming strong. As I decrease, He increases and that emboldens us even further. (John 3:30).
And oh! the blessings that come as we do the things we are told to do! (John 13:17)