Courage…The Biblical Kind

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For my current seminary course I had to write a short-ish post about courage and how it relates to the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love…I thought you all might find it interesting…

butterfly on many flowers

According to courage is the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” And courage is lauded in heroic deeds on battlefields, in sports arenas, hospitals, and burning buildings. However biblical courage is different than just rising above difficulties and fear. A biblical definition of courage is “The quality of being able to act bravely under difficulties or in the face of opposition; being prepared to do dangerous or risky things in obedience to God, in the belief that he will strengthen, guard and protect his people.” [1] Courage then can be exercised in both a biblical and unbiblical way.

The Word of Faith Movement applies Christian vocabulary to an unbiblical sense of courage. Teachers of this movement claim “…God has always wanted His people free from sickness and disease…”[2] so one can face illnesses with the courage that he will be healed by God. Unfortunately this is a false sense of courage because it fails to understand that illness is part of God’s will (see Job, John 11). This type of unbiblical courage is based on having enough faith instead of trusting a Sovereign God.

Biblical courage looks like three young men standing next to a fiery furnace knowing God is able to save, but acknowledging that God might not. Even so they refuse to worship another god. (Daniel 3) The courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego flowed from faith in a Sovereign God. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Their faith developed a hope that God is able (Ephesians 3:20), His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), and God has good plans (Jeremiah 29:11). And hope developed a love for God so deep that they refused to bow their knees to another god. Biblical courage then is founded in faith, hope, and love.

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote, “To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer.”[3] Therefore whoever exhibits biblical courage – the kind that comes from faith, hope, and love – will suffer. Jesus promises as much Himself, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It takes courage to love this suffering sinful world and God calls all His children to love and suffer. In our culture, biblical courage means in faith accepting all of life’s circumstances as part of God’s sovereign plan when we would prefer to name and claim the course of our lives. In hope biblical courage understands that ultimate victory lies on the other side of eternity and thus can ask, “what can man do to me.” Finally biblical courage is speaking the truth in love when our culture would rather their ears be tickled than their sinful lives exposed.

[1] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[2] Copeland, Kenneth How to Receive Healing

[3] Wolterstorff, Nicholas (987). Lament for a Son. Pg 90.



What do you think? I hope you join in…I’d love to hear your thoughts.