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If we consider all the things we could be afraid of, we can quickly see why don’t be afraid, in one form or another, is one of the most repeated commands in Scripture. Put positively, God calls us to “be strong and of good courage.”1
But how can we become courageous?
Fear is often our natural response. We don’t have to think of all our reasons to be afraid; fear comes unbidden. But being strong and courageous doesn’t come naturally. Often, we have to think through different reasons why we ought to overcome our fears with courage. God calls us to take courage because it doesn’t just come naturally; we have to fight for it. Confronted with fears on every side and even from within, courage must be seized. …
In other words, good courage is fueled by faith in ultimate reality: what God promises his people. We are to be encouraged by God’s promises to forgive all our sins,2 to never forsake us,3 to cause light to dawn in our darkness,4 to provide for all we really need,5 to provide an escape in every temptation,6 to work all things, even the worst things, for our ultimate good,7 to cause us to ultimately overcome our worst enemies,8 to make us live, though we die,9 to someday wipe away every tear,10 and to give us fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in his presence—because of his presence.11 And many, many more such promises.
Since courage is fueled by faith, and faith is believing God’s promises, … believing all that God promises to be for us in Jesus12—biblical courage, “good courage,” results directly from taking hold of these promises. We must take courage.
This is exactly what David was doing when, faced with dangerous opposition, he wrote, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”13 … Based on what he believed,14 he exhorted himself to “let [his] heart take courage.”15 By faith, he resisted the temptation to overestimate what threatened him and underestimate God’s power or willingness to keep his promises. Letting his heart take courage meant letting himself believe God’s promises.
Courage is always fueled by faith. Good courage is fueled by faith in the ultimate good of the real God and all he promises to be for us in Jesus. Therefore, good courage must be taken—we must take hold of real promises given by the real God so that having done all, we can stand firm in the evil day.16 Come what may, we know that we “shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the [eternal] land of the living.”17—Jon Bloom18
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!”—John 16:3319
There isn’t a human being alive on this planet who isn’t acquainted with troubles. Times of difficulty arrive unexpectedly, often remain indefinitely, and the sorrowful memories they produce take deep root in the mind. It is no wonder, then, why Jesus’ promise in John 16:33 also takes deep root in the minds and hearts of so many Christians: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This comforting verse is found within a larger section in the Gospel of John. Chapters 13–17 make up what theologians refer to as the Farewell Discourse. These are Jesus’ final words of reassurance, comfort, and encouragement to his disciples in the upper room before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. …
In this verse, we see two certain realities: 1) the followers of Jesus will suffer great distress, and 2) Jesus has already won the victory. He didn’t want his disciples to be under the delusion that their future ministry would be full of ease and comfort, and he doesn’t want us to think that either.
Following Christ is difficult and there will be opposition. Yet, the reality of Christ’s victory over sin and death via his own death and resurrection provides peace and courage. … By entering into our world and suffering alongside of us, Jesus offers certain hope that transcends the temporal sorrow and suffering this world throws at his followers.
Therefore, we are not called to overcome the world ourselves, because Jesus already did. He provides his children with a certain future—a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”20 It is because of this reality that we can “take heart” and “be of good courage.” …
An appropriate way to respond to Jesus’ words in John 16:33 is to ask, “What do I hope in?”
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Could it be that troubles and trials make our heart sick because we are placing our hope in that which does not satisfy—a job, a relationship, a position? Christ calls us, not to place our hope in temporal, uncertain things, but in his eternal victory over sin and death on the cross of Calvary. … If your hope is in Christ, then rest assured that no trouble or trial in this life will take that hope away from you. …
We are called to take heart, not in our own abilities or willpower, but in the finished work of Jesus.—Aaron Berry21
The courage of meekness
My Bible dictionary defines meekness as “an attitude of humility toward God and gentleness toward men, springing from a recognition that God is in control.” It is strength and courage under control, coupled with kindness.
This kind of meekness is having faith and peace, because you know God’s in control. You can be mild and quiet of nature, because you’re full of faith. You have the assurance that God’s going to work things out no matter how incredibly overwhelming or desperate the situation might be.
You have faith, and therefore you have trust. You’re mild because you’re not frantically trying to work up a solution in your own strength. You’re not depending on your own talent, your own wisdom, your own charisma, but on the Lord, and that calmness translates to others as the Lord’s presence right there with you. You can be of good courage because of that meekness, that quietness of spirit about you that builds faith and trust in God’s unfailing care.—Peter Amsterdam
The courage to be kind
One sunny afternoon roughly seventy years ago, a young girl and her friends were watching through the mesh of a barbed wire fence as a group of men played football [soccer], enjoying the excitement of the game and the skill of the players. Suddenly, a kick sent the ball in an arc over the fence, and it landed near the children.
“It’d be great to have a ball to play with,” one of the boys remarked. “Let’s keep it.”
But a girl disagreed. “It’s not right for us to keep it,” she insisted, throwing the ball back over the fence.
This simple gesture of kindness and integrity took place in the heart of Germany in the early 1940s, during World War II. The players were British prisoners of war, interned in a camp on the outskirts of town. Some of the girl’s friends grumbled. After all, the players were prisoners—why should they have a ball when the children didn’t?
Kindness takes thoughtfulness, effort, and time. It also takes courage. Courage to stand alone on an issue. Courage to give, especially when one doesn’t have much. Courage to say no to indifference. Courage to act according to what one knows is right—especially when the right choice seems so obvious that “surely someone else with more time and resources will notice and do something about it.”
There is strength of character in kindness—the moral and mental strength to step out, to give, to believe, to persevere, to be true to one’s convictions, even when it means enduring challenges or paying a price. These are the kindnesses that leave a lasting impression.
It’s been over three-quarters of a century, but there may yet be survivors of that summer scene—and if so, I imagine they might remember my grandmother, the village girl who returned a football.—Avi Rue
Published on Anchor November 2021. Read by John Laurence.
Music by John Listen.
1 Daniel 10:19.
2 1 John 1:9.
3 Hebrews 13:5.
4 Psalm 112:4.
5 Philippians 4:19.
6 1 Corinthians 10:13.
7 Romans 8:28.
8 Romans 16:20.
9 John 11:25.
10 Revelation 21:4.
11 Psalm 16:11.
12 2 Corinthians 1:20.
13 Psalm 27:13–14.
14 Psalm 27:13.
15 Psalm 27:14.
16 Ephesians 6:13.
17 Psalm 27:13.
20 1 Peter 1:3–4.