“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point … a chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”—C.S. Lewis.
God’s people have always been called to bravery. Obeying God, especially when it seems to be to our disadvantage, is the crux of the Christian life. Scripture tells multiple stories of those who demonstrated true bravery in the context of their times. Through these examples, we see at least two callings for us to consider.
1. God calls us to public demonstrations of bravery.
We have numerous examples.
In Joshua 1:1-9 God instructed Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, their inheritance as His people. In this passage, God directed them to be “strong and courageous” three times, promising that He would never leave them.
The Israelites had the daunting challenge of going to war with the inhabitants of the land who were fierce adversaries. They were terrified of these enemies (Numbers 13) yet God promised them and many others throughout Scripture repeatedly to not be afraid because He would be with them.
Bravery is faith and fearlessness.
Due to their repeated disobedience and wickedness, God allowed the Babylonians and Assyrians to take the Israelites into captivity for approximately 70 years (Jeremiah 29:4).
Psalm 137 was a national lament in response to such a devastating disaster. “How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Yet many of the Jews defied their captors and persevered in their worship of Yahweh, still believing in His goodness and promises, even in the most hostile environment. The stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego testify to their dogged faithfulness and God’s miraculous care and provision.
Bravery demonstrates trust.
First century believers also answered the call to live as “aliens and strangers in the land,” risking their very lives for the gospel in an antagonistic culture (1 Peter 2:11-12). Followers of Jesus faced intense persecution and certain death due to their insistence that there was one Lord.
Jesus had repeatedly taught that the kingdom of God was not a political or even religious system. He said to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is in your midst or within you” (Luke 17:20-21). This conflict is a dominant theme in the New Testament, and we are repeatedly exhorted to persevere and be courageous, echoing numerous Old Testament passages with similar language.
Bravery takes risks.
2. God calls us to personal demonstrations of bravery.
There is still another layer to the call to be brave. We all have intense private battles that the Spirit nudges us to confront as we seek to be conformed to the image of Christ.
- It takes courage to do the hard work in breaking a generational chain of family dysfunction.
- It takes courage to admit deep-seated jealousies and resentments.
- It takes courage to forgive those who hurt you deeply. It is much easier to leave wounds festering, rather than seeking healing. But if we truly desire God’s best, then our bravery will require perseverance.
Yes, there are places that are more comfortable for believers to live than others, where the culture is friendly to our faith. But genuine Christianity will always push against the flow of the world and the human heart. In the Sermon on the Mount—”The Christian Manifesto”—Jesus turned the world order upside down. Humility, meekness, justice, mercy, purity and peace are all qualities of the Spirit that can be bravely exhibited in even the most hostile circumstances whether in a third world culture or in the south.
And, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, kingdom-minded lives require us to be brave in living out all biblical principles, even challenging conditions.
In fact that is exactly where “true bravery” occurs.
Published January 12, 2017