TAKE HOLD OF COURAGE

CrossDSCN6309 300x300 TAKE HOLD OF COURAGEA compelling Bible principle found in several Old Testament verses says: “be strong and of a good courage”. I find those words particularly encouraging in such a tumultuous world.

World turmoil is not new, and certainly not unique. However, when it involves Christians, it is time to take note because it means Christianity is under attack. So when trouble comes, where does one find courage?

My source of encouragement comes from the many Biblical accounts of real people facing life situations. There are many accounts in the Bible where God’s people had to find courage to act or die. We learn that without God’s intervention in our lives, we have no hope of overcoming the fearful things.

Incident #1 Moses

Moses certainly encountered many times where courage was needed. In the Book of Numbers chapter 13, the descendants of Abraham had finally arrived at the land of Canaan. God told Moses He was giving the children of Israel the land of Canaan. So Moses had each tribe select a man who would go into the land to spy and bring back a report. Twelve men were chosen to go, all of them leaders among their people, as God had commanded. Moses said to these men:  “…And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.” (Numbers 13:20b, KJV)

They left hopeful and rejoicing in having reached their destination. Then, forty days later they returned. These leaders of the people came back subdued and disheartened, their hope dashed by fear. They had found the inhabitants to be strong and daunting. Caleb encouraged the men, confident they would have success, but they would not be persuaded. The people wailed when they heard the news. Soon they had determined to return to bondage in Egypt.

Where was their courage?

Why did they doubt God’s protection and deliverance? Did they not realize God had a very specific plan for them?

It soon became clear they had no confidence in God’s ability to deliver them. Their hopes were dashed. Their minds, paralyzed with fear, were clouded, revealing their complete lack of trust in God.

What was the consequence for doubting God?

God caused them to wander in the wilderness forty years until all the adults died, except Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua. Only Caleb and Joshua, out of the twelve spies, trusted the Lord and entered into Canaan.

Incident #2 Joshua

Deuteronomy 31:6-7 tells of another incident where the people were called upon to “be strong and of a good courage”. Forty years have passed. The generation that came out of Egypt has died off, leaving their children to take up the journey.

The day has come for the next generation of Israelites to go into the land of Canaan, but Moses will not be leading them. God has told Moses he is going to die for his sin, for he had struck the rock to get water after God told him to speak to the rock. Moses will not even cross the Jordan.

In Moses’ last days, he speaks to the people telling them of the Covenant God has made with them. Knowing them so well, he encourages them with these words:  “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them:  for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

What a powerful message of hope! Who could be fearful knowing that the God of the Universe is ready to lead and defend? The people have grown accustomed to Moses. They have known no other shepherd.

Now it is time, for Moses must appoint another who will lead them. That man is Joshua. It is Joshua who needs encouragement to lead these people.

“And Moses called unto Joshua and said unto him in sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)

“Be strong and of a good courage” became the call to action for the Israelites. The Israelites mourned Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days (Deuteronomy 34:8). Now Joshua, strengthened with the mantle put upon him by God, is ready to lead the people into Canaan, the land God has given to the Israelites. We read his story in the Book of Joshua.

In this first chapter, God is encouraging Joshua with these words: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life:  as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee:  I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage:  for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.”  (Joshua 1:5-7)

What could be more encouraging than to know that you are in the center of God’s will and that He is with you! How comforting to know that God will never fail or forsake you! How did the people respond? Take a look at these verses:

“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee:  only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death:  only be strong and of a good courage.” Deuteronomy 1:16-18

The Israelites went on to take the land that God had given to them. God continued to demonstrate His faithfulness in another noteworthy incident.

We read in Joshua 10 about the King of Jerusalem, a man called Adonizedec. After hearing how Joshua had taken the city of Ai and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, King Adonizedec called upon the five kings of the land to come and help him defeat the Israelites. It didn’t go well for them, for God delivered them into Joshua’s hand. Then Joshua called upon God to make the sun stand still until the people were avenged. And it did!

“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man:  for the LORD fought for Israel.”

When the battle was over, the five kings were discovered hiding in a cave. Joshua called the men of Israel to come to roll a rock to the entrance, so they could keep them there. Then they went after the rest of the enemy who were delivered into their hand by God. When the fighting was finished, Joshua commanded the cave to be opened and the kings brought out. Then he encouraged his men with these words, “Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.” Joshua 10:25  Then Joshua slew the kings. God was with Joshua. Joshua 10:42 says, “And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.”

And more…Joab and David to Solomon

There are more instances where these words, “be strong and of good courage,” were used to encourage the people to carry out God’s will:

We read in 2 Samuel 10:12 and 1 Chronicles 19:13 how Joab encouraged his men with these words as they fought the Syrians and the children of Ammon. In 1 Chronicles 22:13, David encourages Solomon with these words, and again David reminded Solomon “to be strong and of good courage” in 1 Chronicles 28:20 when he gave instruction about building the Temple. David’s use here was emphatic. Consider the strength of the entire verse:

“And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it:  fear not, nor be dismayed:  for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.”

Doing the Lord’s work requires courage! Where can we servants of God find courage? In the testimony of those who have gone before us! The Bible tells us that God is faithful.  We know that those who trust in Him have His assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Consider these words from Hebrews 13 as well, for they are a tremendous encouragement to those who love God:

“…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:5b-6)

 Incident #3 Ezra

The Book of Ezra teaches us that it takes courage to obey God when the rest of the world is in disagreement with God’s commands. The account here is about the return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple under the direction of King Artaxerxes. We learn in Ezra 7:8 that Ezra, a priest and scribe, had purposed in his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it. Not only did he decide to learn and obey God’s laws, but he had purposed to teach them. When he arrived in Jerusalem, Ezra soon realized how far from God the people had fallen. They had intermarried with the pagan peoples, contrary to God’s Law. When they heard the Law, the Hebrew men purposed to put away their foreign wives to purify themselves, for what they had done was displeasing to God.  This was no easy thing for many had children as well. These men were called to forsake all of them so that they might be reconciled to God.  Here is the account:

“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it” Ezra 10:1-4

Incident #4 King David

King David also understood this concept of courage, for he wrote in Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the LORD:  be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:  wait, I say, on the LORD.”  We sometimes think courage is something we drum up inside ourselves, but David knew courage comes from God. David can be called a courageous man, for we read of many accounts where he fought valiantly against his enemies and survived. Yet David did not claim to have found courage in himself, but David recognized that God gives courage for those extraordinary circumstances we may face. If you know David’s history, you will understand that David was often outnumbered and in precarious circumstances. Yet in every one God delivered him and his men.

David knew his strength was in the Lord. Psalm 31 is another example of his reliance upon God for strength and help in time of need. Consider Verse 24:  “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” These are not idle words, but words from a man who knew them to be true because he had personal experience of God’s constant faithfulness.

Incident #5 Isaiah

Isaiah, the prophet, was another who took up the call to action. He encouraged the people to wait upon the Lord in chapter 40. In chapter 41, he wrote:

“They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” (Isaiah 41:6) Isaiah also wrote “fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded:  they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”

Isaiah’s message was a message to the Hebrews to return to their God. So must we as Believers. We must forsake the world’s way and obey God. That is the crux of the message of the prophets. In God is life, apart from God there is no hope.

I read the Voice of the Martyrs magazine. It tells of Christians who have faced terrifying circumstances and endured much suffering for the cause of Christ. They demonstrate repeatedly the truth of God’s Word that tells us that God is faithful to help us in our times of need, whether to live or to die. We can give praise to God for His faithfulness. So take hold of courage that can only be  found in God so you will have strength to live for Him.

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