As part of our staff Bible study this week, we’re discussing one aspect of the meaning of courage. There is good news for all of us today: we are all invited by our Creator to live the powerful reality of who He’s made us to be and the purpose He’s designed us for—we simply have to be courageous to live like it’s actually true.
What exactly does that mean? This is the reality facing us: Jesus, who is unafraid, bold, kind, loving, and strong, made you as a model of Himself. He also created you with unique gifts and talents to be a powerful voice of truth wherever He’s currently placed you, whether in government fighting injustice and corruption, at school, in the culture, the church—you name it. Even more, He is with you wherever you go, and He’s planned a hope and a future for your life.
Those truths about you and about God are reality, just as much as the sun existing in the sky or Mt. Everest or the Atlantic Ocean. We had nothing to do with them being there and can’t think them out of existence. They’re simply what’s real.
So what hinders us from living what’s already true? Choosing lies and opinions instead of what God says is real.
The book of Romans says sin corrupted all of us and separated us from God; we lost our way from Him and the powerful life He intended us to live. But Jesus gives us hope in that He came to earth, paid our punishment for sin so that if we would turn away from the lies and choose what He says is true, we’ll be restored again to the reality of who He made us to be.
Yet despite God’s word about us being what’s real, lies still try to convince us, even Christians who already follow Jesus, that it’s not.
We may think our voice in our sphere of influence doesn’t matter because some people disregarded it.
We may think we’re not really valued or cared about by God, that our talents and gifts are somehow not good enough.
We may be afraid to act or speak out on an issue we care about because we’re not sure how others will react.
There are a thousand different lies, and all try to attack either our personhood or God’s. But this is where courage comes in.
We hear talk of “courage” all the time, the word itself often evoking dramatic pictures of intense heroism, like Braveheart-esque scenes of an armor-clad Mel Gibson running in slow-motion through a raging battle.
But the reality is, courage also happens every day with what we choose to think is true, not just if we’re fighting for Scottish independence against King Edward I.
See, the word “courage” has to do with the mind. In Hebrew, one definition means to be “steadfastly minded,” and the word “steadfast” comes from two Old English words that, combined, mean “firmly in place.”
Essentially, courage isn’t simply a notion of professing the correct thing or momentarily mustering up enough adrenaline to do something, but rather it’s an idea of being deeply rooted, “firmly in place in your mind.”
When lies come, when others’ opinions or difficult circumstances come, courage means we can be secured regardless, because we can still choose the truth. Things may definitely be hard sometimes; indeed, C.S. Lewis said that “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
But take a look at this encouraging story in Scripture, about the Hebrews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. These three men were servants in the foreign land of Babylon, and their king, Nebuchadnezzar, commanded them to bow down and worship his golden statue or else be thrown into a furnace.
Yet despite the king’s claims and clamor, the Hebrews refused because they knew the reality—they knew his lifeless metal mold wasn’t really a god, the only true Creator was the living God of the Hebrews. Nebuchadnezzar’s threats and intimidations didn’t change reality. The king might as well have tried to convince them that the sun didn’t really exist.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter,” the Hebrews replied to him. “If [you throw us in the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Their response infuriated the king so much that he heated the furnace seven times hotter than normal and threw the men in. Within moments, however, Nebuchadnezzar was astonished: the men were not burning, and there was another person in the fire with them that he said looked like “the Son of God.”
The king immediately called to the men and told them to come out, and the three Hebrews emerged from the blazing furnace with clothes and hair completely unsinged, without even the smell of smoke on them.
The Hebrews made a choice based on who they knew to be true and reliable—and they had the courage to stay with their choice despite the noise and threats around them because they knew the reality hadn’t changed simply because others chose not to believe it.
One of the most courageous acts we can ever do in our lives, especially as Christians, is to choose what’s already true—God’s word—rather than the distracting facade of opinions. Your voice and life can be powerful wherever your current sphere of influence.
Besides, why would we want to live any other way? We were never meant to simply sit in a dull box of sad passivity, wading around aimlessly and never really grabbing hold of reality, the true life that’s available to us. Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck said that “an unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times.”
Be encouraged, have the courage to choose the truth, regardless of who or what may try to intimidate you along the way, and know this: “Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”