“A dead fish can float downstream,” observed comedian W. C. Fields, “but it takes a live one to swim against the current.”
That is true not only for fish, but for people as well. It takes a life of vitality and courage to go against the prevailing tide of public opinion. But that is the call of the follower of Jesus Christ. Notes author John Piper, “Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ.…Courage is indispensable for both spreading and preserving the truth of Christ.”
Joy is also to be found in the fact that while God has called us to live courageously, He has also equipped us for that life of boldness and strength. Scripture is replete with examples and instruction:
- Courage comes from being assured of the presence of Christ and God (Mt. 14:27; Heb. 13:5).
- Courage is the result of Christ’s victory over sin and death and the world (Jn. 16:33).
- Courage is the result of being sure and certain of the future, which comes through Christ’s victory (2 Cor. 5:6ff).
- Courage is the result of the assurance that sin is forgiven (Mt. 9:2; Prov. 28:1).
- Courage is the result of seeing others live victorious, bold lives for the cause of Christ (Phil. 1:14).
- Courage comes from trusting God (Ps. 31:24). Here is the heart of it — when we don’t live trusting God, we will live in perpetual fear.
When the nation of Israel completed its 40 years of wandering in the wilderness because of its rebellious refusal to enter the land when God promised it to them (Numbers 14), they were also left without their leader Moses who died at the end of that 40 years. Joshua remained to lead them but he was untested and unproven in that role. The giants were still in the land. And it would have been a temptation to have the same fear of their fathers who refused to enter the land. So three times in the first nine verses of Joshua 1, Joshua is told by the Lord, “be strong and courageous” with promises that He would be with Joshua and the people wherever they would go. It was that command and those promises that bolstered Joshua and the people to act boldly and confidently in taking the land of Canaan.
The time in which we live demands Christians to also live courageously. There are many temptations to be fearful about the influence of the world and the attacks against biblical morality and the Christians that uphold those morals. But then again, every time and place has been in need of people bold for God and Christ. And that is why God has given the command for boldness not only to Israel, but also the church. And that is why God has also equipped us with His power to live with courage. And we do well to remember that this command to boldness and courage is not because of our own inherent strength, but because of the infinite strength and wisdom of God that indwells us and is supreme over all people and powers everywhere. That is our confidence!
A perfect love of God will lead to a heart full of trust. And a heart that trusts in God is a heart that refuses to be afraid of any man or any thing.