Christian Courage (2)
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work with us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
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Courage is a powerful affection. It brings together a wide range of other affections – love, devotion, even anger at times – into a single motivating power within us. Courage can lead us to say or do things we might never have dared to think possible. But courage in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing.
Lots of people over the years have shown great courage for unjust causes and improper ends. Mere courage – a power that works within us to enable us to overcome fears and surmount challenges – is not what the Christian should be seeking. The Christian wants the treasury of his heart to be filled with distinctly Christian courage.
But what do we mean by that? We can approach an understanding of Christian courage from a variety of angles, and we shall do so in subsequent installments in this series. Most importantly, however, we need to understand that Christian courage – the ability to overcome fears and surmount challenges in the name of Christ and for the sake of His Kingdom – Christian courage is a work of the Spirit of God, Who dwells within each believer.
Why must this be so? Why do we need a work of the Spirit of God to move us to acts of Christian courage? A couple of reasons: First, we are not naturally courageous – at least, not in the right directions. By nature we are self-interested and self-protecting. If it were otherwise, we would not have to be commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves; we just would.
But we don’t. Love has to be learned, and so does Christian courage. We must be taught the proper ends toward which courage should be directed. Slicing off an unarmed servant’s ear in a dark garden is not the kind of Christian courage we require. Standing firm when others accuse us of being followers of Jesus, especially when taking such a stand is not convenient, or perhaps safe, that requires courage. Peter was not courageous in the garden of Gethsemane, and he was not courageous in denying the Lord three times. But he would become one of the most courageous Christians of his generation. He had yet to learn the true nature of Christian courage, which the Lord was at pains to teach him through these patent failures of courage.
But beyond learning about courage, we actually need the power of God in order to act courageously. Again, by nature we do not act courageously, whether by word or deed. But if we can learn the true nature of Christian courage – what it is, where it comes from, why it matters, and how to express it – then, when the opportunity for courage arises, we can draw on the Spirit of God to take us beyond our fears, beyond our comfort zone, beyond any previous experiences, into realms of word and deed that we can only account for as the work of the Spirit within us.
Real Christian courage enables us to do more – even exceeding abundantly more – than we would ever have thought we were capable of in serving Christ and advancing His Kingdom. As we grow to understand the key components of Christian courage, and as we discover the means for engaging the indwelling Spirit of God, we will surprise even ourselves to see how God can work within us in surprisingly courageous ways. Christian courage is a work of God’s Spirit, so we will never take credit for it, never boast of being bold or courageous, and always make sure to give God the praise, glory, and honor whenever any of His people act in courageous ways for Christ and His Kingdom.
Where does courage come from? How can we become more courageous? Talk with your pastor or one of your church leaders. How would they advise you to become more courageous for Christ and His Kingdom? Share what they share with you with some of your Christian friends.
For more insight our affections – such as courage – and how they work, order a copy of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections from our online store. You might also enjoy studying the ViewPoint series, “Keep Your Heart,” which examines Edwards’ great work.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.