Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. oDo not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
The opposite of faith is not doubt but fear. And by the amount of times that people are told by God to “not be afraid” it is apparaent that fear is at the root of many of our problems.
Fear is under-girded by a deep rooted insecurity, which many of wrestle with the existential question of “am I good enough?”
Am I a good enough student?
Am I a good enough athlete?
Am I a attractive enough (good enough to look at)?
Am I a good enough boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse?
Am I a good enough provider, friend, blogger, father?
Three times in God’s speech to Joshua he commands that Joshua “be strong and courageous.” In fact the second time He is emphatic that Joshua “Only be strong and very courageous.”
Joshua is taking over the leadership mantel of Moses. He is to take the second generation of wandering Israelites into the promised land. He stands at the edge of the land about to carry them into a long and arduous process, and he wonders am I good enough?
God knows this is our insecurity, and so he encourages Joshua with the repetition of “Be Strong and Courageous.” Because courage is fear that is controlled by faith. As John Wayne said, “courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”
True courage is not a stoic amotionalism, but a controlled fear that stands on a deep faith.
I was struck by the interviews last fall of Robert O’Neill who was part of Seal Team Six. He said that they were convinced that their mission to kill Osama Bin Laden was a “one-way mission.” They were willing to enter that helicopter with full expectation that they would not return because their fear had been controlled by the faith in their mission. To live with that strength and courage is only feasible when you believe in something other than your self.
While most of us will never elevate to that level of courage, we are afforded small opportunities to control our fears through faith in the mission assigned to us. Believing that inaction is worse than any action.
It is picking up the phone to call that girl you met the other night. It is telling your boss that you will not participate in the deceitful business practices because you see how it undermines the community. It is reaching beyond your culturally isolated existence to engage the other. It is stepping up time and time again allowing yourself to be ridiculed, mocked and rejected.
I remember speaking with my former senior pastor who had spent 40 years in the pulpit. He shared that even to the very end there was a bit of nerves that crept into him just prior to stepping into the pulpit–and he would be concerned if the nerves were not there.
I asked a church-planter friend who had helped shepherd a new community into a 7 yearold established church of 400 people “at what point do you stop worrying if anyone will show up?” He’s reply: “never…and that’s a good thing.”
Courage is tempered fear that is certain whatever the results God is guiding us forward in His mission. Courage is the continual process of stepping up and showing up. It is saddling up when you are scared to death.