POINTS TO PONDER

Recently I saw a very deserving American hero awarded the Medal of Honor by the President. While reading what this selfless soldier did to rescue and protect his fellow soldiers was remarkable. There was no doubt, this soldier was a man of great courage.

But I don’t know if we really know what courage is. Psychologist Melanie Greenberg tells us that courage is something that everybody wants – an attribute of good character that makes us worthy of respect. From the Bible to fairy tales; ancient myths to Hollywood movies, our culture is rich with exemplary tales of bravery and self-sacrifice for the greater good. From the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz who finds the courage to face the witch, to David battling Goliath in the Bible, to Star Wars and Harry Potter, children are raised on a diet of heroic and inspirational tales.

Yet courage is not just physical bravery. History books tell colorful tales of social activists, such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, who chose to speak out against injustice at great personal risk. Entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, who took financial risks to follow their dreams and innovate, are like modern-day knights, exemplifying the rewards and public accolades that courage can bring.

There are different types of courage, ranging from physical strength and endurance to mental stamina and innovation. Dr. Greenberg then suggests six ways to define courage:

  1. Feeling fear yet choosing to act.
  2. Following your heart.
  3. Persevering in the face of adversity.
  4. Standing up for what is right even if you lose friends.
  5. Expanding your horizons; letting go of the familiar.
  6. Facing suffering with dignity or faith.

Then psychologist Leon F. Seltzer remarks that to most of us, courage is little more than confronting a dangerous situation without flinching. The individual exhibits valor and bravery is fearless, assured, dauntless. In the vernacular, such people might be considered “gutsy – even as, well, “cocky.” And undeniably, we view courage as what heroes are made of.

As one writer said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than the fear.”  And this seminal quote elegantly makes the point that when we decide to act courageously, it’s because we’ve already determined that the risk, danger, or the risk of doing so is worth it. It’s truly about having the “courage of our convictions,” “putting our money where our mouth is,” and who knows how many other common expressions that address our willingness to show fortitude in the face of adversity.

But we must never let fear or being fearful make us feel like a coward. Courage is the quality of mind and spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with fear but perseverance. Beginning with Aristotle philosophers have analyzed physical courage and moral courage in great detail. However, philosophy has never addressed the type of courage involved in facing the fears generated by our habits and emotions. 

And the Bible has much to say about courage. Here is what God told Joshua when he took over from Moses to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”[1] This was certainly a call for mental courage. Then later, God spoke to Joshua as he was about to cross the Jordan into Canaan: “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”[2] This was a call for courage of heart.

Then the Psalmist urged everyone, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”[3] In other words, don’t let fear stop you from putting faith in God to get you through your difficulties. And David encouraged Solomon to stick with the task given to him, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.”[4]

And when the Apostle Paul and his Roman guards got off the ship and were walking toward Rome, we read, “The brothers and sisters in Rome heard Paul’s and his entourage were coming, and they came to meet them at the Forum on the Appian Way.[5] Others joined them at The Three Taverns.[6] When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.” This encouraged Paul’s spirit.

We should not always be looking for words of courage from others, but to encourage others to remain steadfast and stick to the path God gave you to follow. Furthermore, by you showing courage it will inspire others to take courage and remain faithful to their calling and ministry. Remember to be courageous you must overcome fearFalse Evidence Accepted as Real. – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] Joshua 1:9

[2] Deuteronomy 11:6

[3] Psalm 27:14

[4] 1 Chronicles 28:20

[5] About 43 miles from Rome

[6] About 35 miles from Rome

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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