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“Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.” And all the other disciples said the same.[1] As they say, talk is cheap. Peter proved that no matter how well meaning we may be and how much we may profess to love the Lord, we can still speak and ask rashly, which will later prove to be our undoing. In order to accomplish and to complete that which God assigns to us, we need more than love, zeal and desire to stand by the Lord. We need something that God said to Joshua, that he would need courage.

God said, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land… Be strong and very courageous.[2] Be strong and courageous.[3] Joshua was not just commanded to be strong, but he had to be courageous at the same time. The power of God and any other power can make you strong, but strength is not courage. Never make the mistake that strength is courage. In fact, many a strong men are cowards, using their strength to hide their cowardice. Notice that God did not want Joshua to just be courageous, but also strong.

Strength can overcome obstacles, but only courage can overcome your fears.

When Paul was imprisoned by the Sanhedrin[4] because he listened to James and the elder’s advice, Jesus stood near Paul the following night and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”[5]

It is one thing to have the power of God to give you “proof of life” and “proof of love”, yet the power of God and love for God are not enough when you have to take a hard stand for the Lord.

When Jesus told the twelve that He must go to Jerusalem and be killed,[6] Peter spoke up out of love and friendship for Jesus as a man who could not bring himself to agree to something that horrible for Jesus, and said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You!”[7] For his remark, Peter received a reply from the Lord, which I pray none of us will ever hear, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”[8] Perhaps in his effort to compensate what he said in Matthew 16:22, he made the promise in Matthew 26:35, which he was doomed never to be able to keep, for Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.”[9] History has proved Jesus’ words to be true, not Peter’s.

In this light, you can see now why Peter could not say to Jesus, “I agape You,” but only offer phileo love. It takes courage to agape, but phileo sometimes needs no courage. It takes courage for agape to manifest. It took courage from Jesus to walk steadfastly to the cross and suffer it for His Father and for us.

One of Jesus’ greatest test of His courage, the ‘proof of courage’, was when Pilate offered to set Him free saying, “Don’t You realize I have power either to free You or to crucify You?”[10] Jesus could have kept silent and perhaps Pilate could have moved in compassion, even mercy, and set Him free, or even out of spite for the Sanhedrin whom he no doubt loathed. But Jesus’ next words were designed to seal His own fate forever. Jesus neutralised any power that Pilate might have had over Him by His courage.

In the King James Version, it is translated that God said, “Be strong and of a good courage…”[11] Note that it is not just courage we need, but a type of courage that God said, “good courage”; and for you and I, it means a God-type of courage for God alone is good. As such, we have come to know and understand the type of courage that God has, which He has revealed to us through Jesus Christ. The courage of God that Jesus revealed to us is the courage to endure patiently extreme discomfort and danger even though He had the power to give Himself relief immediately. It is the courage to be meek and to even appear to fail and be defeated, to patiently wait for the perfect time, God’s time.

Good courage is not just courage to lay down one’s life for a friend, but it is also the patience to wait for the opportune time to retaliate and even to leave that retaliation and vengeance in someone else’s hand. As Jesus laid down His life, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit,”[12] and He committed not just His spirit but His resurrection, and even His vengeance to His Father because Jesus will not have the fullness of His justification on Earth until He appears again over Jerusalem in the flesh. As they say in the war movies, “Hold your fire until you see the white of their eyes.” It takes courage, good courage, to wait until the enemy is almost on top of you before you retaliate or to wait until your enemy has grown strong before you attack. Such may seem foolishness to conventional wisdom, but remember that your God is also unconventional when He chooses.

And sometimes, when our courage is lacking and God knows just what we lack because He knows what we need, God Himself will allow the circumstances of our lives to bring us to that place where our love is proven. In Peter’s case, that may be why Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”[13] Notice that when Peter is old this would happen, when His strength is gone that He would be led where he does not want to go. Sometimes, our strength is the biggest hindrance to our courage, which also explains why Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”[14]

Thus, when God tells us to be strong, we must be wise to realise that strength can impair courage, especially good courage. In fact, strength can encourage cowardice. This is crucial to our understanding of power, for a church at full power with ‘proof of life’ and ‘proof of love’ may be tempted to hide behind that power and become a cowardly tyrant. The history of men, be they men of the church or of the world, shows that so clearly. The tyrants are always ‘courageous’ when they are strong because in truth, they are cowards, hiding behind their strength. Strength and the power that supplies the strength are not substitutes for courage, and indeed, beware; it can be the screen behind which cowards hide. The real power of God is not proved by strength alone, but it is proved with courage, Jesus’ type of courage, the One who had the power to call on twelve legions of angels, yet submitted Himself to death on the cross. The so called strength displayed by the Roman Empire to whip and crucify one man, exposed the cowardice that it shields. The cowardice that lies in their emperors and kings who would not march out to battle themselves at the head of their armies, but hide behind the ranks of the soldiers.

King David displayed his courage, not his strength, against Goliath. It was David’s courage that impressed God, not Saul’s strength. In the same way, it was Moses’ courage that God used, not Moses’ strength, for he was already 80 years old… an 80 years old man with a wooden stick to front up against the most powerful and probably most ruthless nation of his day. That did not mean that Moses went in his weakness, as in lack of strength, for he went in the power of God.

The key then to God’s power after all your tests of perseverance, patience, endurance, kindness, gentleness and fruitfulness is courage. Indeed, the first of the sinners to be condemned to the Lake of Fire are the cowardly.[15]

As such, it is not the enthusiasm of your words and the brashness of our claims like, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water,”[16] that really inspires God, for the situations we find ourselves in may test us and prove us cowardly, and we call out in fear, “Lord, save me!”[17] or deny Him saying, “I don’t know the Man!”[18] Rather it is a quiet conviction that when it comes to the crunch, you will not retreat in the hope that you will lose your head. The courage displayed by the two great men of David, Eleazar son of Dodai[19] and Shammah son of Agee[20] who took their stands as the armies of Israel retreated.

Aside from strength, what is another impedance to courage, real courage? If you look at Peter’s exchange with Jesus, he just called out, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water,”[21] and then his second cry was, “Lord, save me!”[22] The Law of Men, which is ‘I, me, my, mine’, is an impedance to true courage and what is often masked by Peter’s faith and bravado is that he distracted himself and the others from the repentance that they needed to make for not listening and obeying Jesus so that He found them in the middle of the lake instead of being warm in bed in Bethsaida. Instead of a warm bed and perhaps some supper, Jesus had to walk out into the lake; probably got His feet wet and ended up in Gennesaret at the fourth watch of the night. Peter’s concern for his life and well being also caused him to deny Jesus at the trial and later still, his concern for his reputation in the eyes of the men from James led him into hypocrisy, as Paul informed us in the letter to Galatians.

Courage is needed to love with agape love. Courage is needed to repent. It takes courage to say, “I am guilty. I sinned,” rather than to blame someone else as Adam did. Courage is needed to remain true to your faith, even if it costs you your life. Courage is needed to speak the truth. Courage is needed to forgive as well, so that you would not seek vengeance for yourself, in the same way as Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[23] Above all else, it takes courage to lay down your life for one another.

Thus, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 did not only display power and strength, they also displayed courage to allow the Beast who would come out of the Abyss to overpower them and kill them, for they knew that was their fate, even before they started their ministry.

It took courage, good courage, the best of courage from Jesus to come in the flesh, to allow Himself to be persecuted and killed as the Lamb of God in the manner that He was, and yet not retaliate. The Pharisees had the guile and the Romans had the strength and power, but both of them lacked the courage, real courage.

The Pharisees lacked the courage to sacrifice themselves for the God they claimed to serve. Thus, it is only right that if you and I are to be purged of all traces of the yeast of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, who are indeed the cowardly, unbelieving and the vile of Revelation 21:8, we need ‘proof of courage’.

The Pharisees, through Caiaphas, prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,[24] saying, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”[25] Yet he did not volunteer himself but gladly prophesied that it was Jesus. We have no right to set up the man who is the False Prophet if we are not prepared to be likewise damned ourselves for Jesus’ sake. It does not take courage to nominate someone else to be the False Prophet, it takes courage to volunteer yourself to be the False Prophet so that Jesus may return without further delay.

It does not take courage to believe in what you see, but it takes courage to believe in what you do not see. That is why faith works by love (agape), but agape love requires courage to be fulfilled. It takes courage to have faith in God. The Sadducees who do not believe in spirits have no courage for they only believe what they see.

And it does not take courage to order the slaughter of babies, which is what Herod did. The Herodians represent the vile, and are politicians who use other people to effect their murderous desires to remain in power. Thus, the lack of courage or the absence of courage leads to cowardice, which leads to unbelief, which leads to vileness. Jesus did not remit these three sins as He did the others to the dogs outside New Jerusalem.

The elementary teachings of our Lord in Matthew 5:39 (“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”) through to Matthew 5:42 are elementary practices for the development of courage: courage not to run or retaliate; courage to bless and do good to your enemies; courage to believe that God will protect you and above all else, even if He does not, you would do it just because He said you should.

It takes courage to pray for a cripple and risk failure when you are on TV. It takes courage to do your praying, fasting and acts of righteousness in secret so that you have no success to show for your hard work, so that no one knows except the Father. It takes courage to ask God to discipline you, to rebuke you and to strike you without warning if you disgrace Him, for as Paul wrote: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.[26] It took courage for you to say, “Avenge the blood of Your Son on me, O Lord,” as some of you did without even knowing the full consequences of what you have said. If your ignorance of the consequences was overcome by your faith in God that whatever He does is good for He alone is good, be it light or darkness, prosperity or disaster, then you have given the missing ingredient to the mountain moving mustard seed of faith that has been absent for so long – courage.

You and I know many who have faith, indeed, we have mountains of faith and yet cannot move a mustard seed, much less a mustard seed of faith that can move mountains. Courage is the missing ingredient that stops our faith from moving mountains even though we love God.

If you look at the relationship between God and Joshua, there was never mentioned that God loved Joshua or God commanded Joshua to love God. God already knew that Joshua loved Him and had faith in God’s words, for he was one of two who believed in the promise of God while the rest of Israel disbelieved. As such, to a man who already had faith in God and indeed loved God and obeyed God, God commanded him to be strong and of good courage.

The church of Smyrna was poor and yet Jesus said, “…you are rich!”[27] They were rich in not just faith, but courageous faith… faith that could withstand the hard times, not faith that clapped in the good times. Likewise, to the church of Philadelphia, Jesus said, “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My Name,”[28] and, “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”[29] That door is the door to the courage of God. When God gives you His Courage who is Jesus Christ and is displayed in the life of Jesus Christ, no one can shut the door on you because it is your hand that is jamming it open; it is your feet that is jamming it open; and it is your body that is jamming it open. All the wounds of Jesus represent the crushing of Jesus as He stood in the gap and kept the door open so that we would escape God’s wrath through Him. No one could shut that door because Jesus has jammed it open with His body.

If you have a little courage of your own, just enough to repent, then your faith will move the mountain, the mountain of God. Your faith opens the door to the storeroom of the treasures of God, but as they say, you reap what you sow. If your faith has courage, the door to the storeroom of the courage of the Lord is opened to you so that He can say to you as He said to Paul, “Take courage!”[30] Now see the difference in command: to Joshua He said, “Be strong and courageous,” but to Paul He said, “Take courage!”

The ‘proof of courage’ is not only if you have courage of your own, but whether Jesus has permitted you to take His courage to use. He has said, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”[31] One of the greatest treasures of Jesus Christ, your Lord, is His courage…

· courage to tell the truth,

· courage to love and obey even if it meant death on a cross,

· courage to say no when they wanted to crown Him king,

· courage not to see His glory for He said, “Father, glorify Your Name!”[32]

· courage to forgive,

· courage to share what the Father gave Him, even His glory,

· courage to entrust the task of avenging Himself to someone else, the Holy Spirit,

· courage to wait patiently.

Our lack of courage is what prevents the full power of the Holy Spirit to be handed over to us, for even the slightest trace of cowardice and a sliver of self-seeking is all it takes to turn us into tyrants and false prophets. It is no wonder that many do not seek the full power of the Holy Spirit, but seek to excuse it away and seek after other powers. It does not require courage to use your political power to get others to kill for you. It does not take courage to persuade others to give you their financial power for you to spend on your visions and dreams. It does not take courage to oppress another nation when you have superior military power. It does not take courage to keep others illiterate so that your ignorance will not be revealed.

Thus, it is the lack of good courage in us that has caused us to so often take the way of Cain and make the error of Balaam and join in the rebellion with Korah, the same lack of courage that stops us from saying, “Forgive Lord, for we have lost Your trust and Your power.” It is the lack of courage that causes us to become skilled theologians to formulate our own doctrines while hiding the truth from those whom we have drawn to follow us, less they see the light that is darkness in us. It is our lack of courage that we rely on others to provide for us rather than giving what we have first. Jesus told the disciples, “You give them something to eat,”[33] and asked, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”[34] Instead they took the loaves and fish off a little boy saying, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish,”[35] except Andrew had the courtesy to acknowledge, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish…”[36] Notice none of them said, “We have nothing.” So did they have nothing or did they have something and did not offer it? Either way, they either did not confess to the truth or they hid the truth. If they had nothing, they did not confess it. If they had something, they hid it and instead, used the little boy’s loaves of bread and fish. It does not take courage to use other people’s bread and fish, especially the bread and fish of a little boy. Likewise, it takes no courage to use the child-like faith of others whom you have drawn to yourself to supply your needs. Likewise, it takes no courage for you to send others to serve or to fight the good fight whilst you sit in a marbled palace, just as it takes no courage to enforce conversion on other people with your sword and their blood.

“Be… of a good courage…”[37] God told Joshua, and then even Joshua came to a place where he could not stand so that God had to say to him, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”[38] Even Paul had to be told by Jesus, “Take courage!”[39]

Your ‘proof of courage’ lies not in your boasting that you have any, but in your confession that you need good courage, God’s courage, if you are to complete the race set before you by the Lord. It is a coward who denies he needs courage and hides behind his strength and bravado. It takes a real hero to admit he needs courage and the encouragement and the strengthening by others if he is to succeed.

Our Lord displayed His courage again and again, but for me, His greatest display was when He said to those who followed Him, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”[40] and He said to them, no, He invited them to “Stay here and keep watch” so that they would see Him in the moment of His greatest weakness and trial when He would say and plead to the Father, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”[41] In His weakness, God’s power was made perfect in Him, power to be courageous of a good kind.

If you lack good courage, have enough courage to ask for it from the Lord and to those who ask, they will receive. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”[42] Ask for good courage and it will be given to you. Seek it and you will find it. Knock and you will find that the door has been jammed open by His broken body.

Courage – have you got what it takes to ask for Him, to seek Him and to knock on His door?

Jesus is God’s proof of courage.


 

[1] Matthew 26:35

[2] Joshua 1:6-7

[3] Joshua 1:9

[4] Acts 23

[5] Acts 23:11

[6] Matthew 16:21

[7] Matthew 16:22

[8] Matthew 16:23

[9] Matthew 26:34

[10] John 19:10

[11] Joshua 1:6 KJV

[12] Luke 23:46

[13] John 21:18

[14] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[15] Revelation 21:8

[16] Matthew 14:28

[17] Matthew 14:30

[18] Matthew 26:72

[19] 2 Samuel 23:9

[20] 2 Samuel 23:11

[21] Matthew 14:28

[22] Matthew 14:30

[23] Luke 23:34

[24] John 11:51

[25] John 11:50

[26] Hebrews 10:31

[27] Revelation 2:9

[28] Revelation 3:8b

[29] Revelation 3:8a

[30] Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:51

[31] Luke 16:11

[32] John 12:28

[33] Matthew 14:16

[34] Mark 6:38

[35] Luke 9:13

[36] John 6:9

[37] Joshua 1:6,9 KJV

[38] Joshua 7:10

[39] Acts 23:11

[40] Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34

[41] Mark 14:36

[42] Matthew 7:7-8

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