Strength, Confidence, and Courage

Courageous-posterAfter the death of Moses, Joshua took the leadership reins of the Israelites and guided them along the path to the Promised Land.  In one of his first speeches, he admonished them, saying: “Only be strong and very courageous to ensure that you obey all the instructions that my servant Moses gave you—turn neither to the right nor to the left from it—so that you may succeed wherever you go (Joshua 1:7).”

Joshua’s call to courage reminds me of the words of Alfred North Whitehead: True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.

Some people act courageously because they assess a situation and move forward with confidence in their abilities.  There are others who are just as confident, but for a different reason; their available resources give them a sense of boldness.

David is a good example of both forms of courage.  In Psalm 27, he said: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of? Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence in the Lord.

Courage, as David used it in this Psalm, is resource-based. He speaks of his trust in the presence and power of God.

Earlier in his life, David displayed courage that was focused more on his own ability.  This was the  skill he used to kill the wild animals as attacked his sheep.

There may be times when you doubt your ability, but you should never doubt God’s availability.  Just as God was present to walk David through the trials of life, He is present for you as well:

  • God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble—Psalm 46:1
  • God is the shield of Your salvation, and His right hand will support you—Psalm 18:35
  • God will deliver you because He delights in you—Psalm 18:19
  • The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and He saves those crushed in spirit—Psalm 34:18

While there’s not a single one of us who can look to the future and know for certain what challenges await us, each of us can be confident in knowing that God is waiting to guide us.

Solomon believed this, and he wisely said: “The heart of man devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps . . . He that follows after righteousness and mercy shall find life, righteousness, and honor.”

The Terminated and the Terminator

FEAR1-1024x734ITIT can get you in its bear-like grip and paralyze you.  IT can loom so large in your life that you can’t see beyond it.  IT can be so heavy that you are too weak to carry ITIT can seem so foreboding that IT fills your mind with worry.

Everyone has an IT, but not the same one, nor to the same degree:  IT may seem to have no end, while other ITs appear to come and go.

The fear of IT may leave you fret-filled and fret-full.  Whenever tragedy strikes, your IT monitor scans the horizon for potential harm and the news media fills your IT tank with fear that’s fresh and toxic.

When fear begins to creep into your life and consume your thoughts, remember there’s “grace to help in time of need,” and it flows from the throne of God.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Grace is somewhat like the manna in the days of Moses.  I’s present when needed, but it can’t be stockpiled for the future.  Grace never comes too late and never arrives too early.

The phrase “grace to help in time of need” can be thought of as, “grace for a well-timed help.”  We live in the context of the moment, and think in terms of hours, days, months, and years, but God lives in the scope of eternity. Because He understands and has full knowledge of the beginning, the present, and the end,  at the same time,  He comprehends what confounds us.

This is one reason God says: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

The next time IT begins to dominate your thoughts, remember that you’re not forgotten:  God knows your name and He knows your need.  You’re always on his mind, before His eyes, and at the center of His heart:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands (Isaiah 49:15-16).

One of the best ways to manage the potential predicaments that IT sets before you, is to turn your thoughts to the promises of the Psalms, and the 145th Psalm is an IT Terminator:

The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh shall bless His holy name, Forever and ever (Psalm 145:17-21).

Instead of trying to live with IT, I encourage you to live without IT.