Joshua writes (1:6) “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I read about a teenage boy in a large American city describing an incident that happened to him. He was walking from the bus depot to his Dad’s apartment when he realized he was flanked by two young men. “Give me your wallet.” “No.” “This is a gun. Give me your wallet or I’ll shoot you.” “No.” “Hey, man. You don’t understand. We’re robbing you. Give me your wallet.” “No.” “Give me your wallet or I’ll knife you.” “No.” “Give me your wallet or we’ll beat you up.” By now the robber was whining. “No.” The young man had continued walking and after a while he noticed he was no longer accompanied. When he told his Dad about it, he asked him, “Weren’t you scared?” “Of course. What else would I be?” “Why didn’t you give them your wallet?” “My learner’s permit in it.”
Unless a person has courage, they have no security for preserving any other character. Courage is a basic virtue! If one doesn’t have courage, all the other virtues in one’s character will not stand up under severe testing. For instance, where courage is lacking there is no certain guarantee of integrity. Without courage the chances are that the person under pressure will lie when, regardless of the cost, they should speak the truth. They will give in when they should hold out.
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. (Matthew 26:33)
Regardless of what other virtues a person has, once courage collapses the sand washes out from all the others. Of what use is wisdom, if one hasn’t courage to act wisely? Of what value is love, if one hasn’t courage to love? Of what result is truth, if one hasn’t courage to speak it? Of what consequence is faith, if one hasn’t courage to embrace it? No virtue can stand without the underpinning of courage.
There was displayed in a variety store a small plastic tray of assorted crosses. Some were pins, some were pendants. The gold plate on many was tarnished or scratched; on others the enamel was cracked or chipped, and some, set with imitation pearls, were missing a pearl or two. All were the left-over odds and ends from an Easter sale. The sign above the tray read: Crosses At Reduced Prices.
To hear some of the preachers on television and radio you would think that life is all wonderful. They are offering people a false sense of strength and security with quack receipts that you can have power by merely willing it. We cannot escape the problems of life because they are difficult or because we have found no adequate solutions for them. Difficulties grow faith and mature our knowledge of God. Better it is to help people find courage to hit their hardship head-on. It is easy to be brave when all behind you agree with you, but the difficulty comes when 999 of your friends think you are wrong. Then it is the brave soul who stands up, one among a 1000, but remembering that one with God makes a majority. However, with God, it is not so much the visible that shows our courage as much as the invisible. Courageous acts often take place in small rooms with closed doors.
How does the Christian develop (or get) courage? For 420 years the Hebrews are in bondage in Egypt. Only to come out of bondage and spend the next 40 years in the desert. During this 40 years of time Joshua has witnessed a lot. The Red Sea parts and the people walk on dry ground. A cloud has been over their heads each day protecting them from the heat of the sun. A pillar of fire every night to give light and warm them from the desert’s cold. Manna was on the ground every morning and quail every evening. Now Moses has died and Joshua is selected to be the new leader. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.
Do we seem to get the point that God is trying to establish courage in Joshua. Be careful to obey all the laws my servant Moses gave you; obedience is a prerequisite for courage. Paul says, ROM 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. We get courage from what we know to be true. If you know the winning number in the lottery you have more courage. Jesus said, JOH 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The story of “Wrong Way Riegels” is a familiar one, but it bears repeating. On New Year’s Day, l929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game a young man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Beeny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team. At halftime the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As the others sat down on the benches and the floor, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands. A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. When the time keeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd out there.” Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder, and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Riegel finally did get up. He went onto the field and the fans saw him play hard and well. All of us have run a long way in the wrong direction. Because of the forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ, however, the game is only half over.