Courage for the Cowardly Christian

May 09, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

What do you think of when you hear the word “Courage?” Maybe it’s the first responders at the World Trade Center. It could be a soldier in the midst of a great battle, like the hero in the movie Hacksaw Ridge. Or maybe it’s a friend who speaks out against an injustice even when it might get them cancelled.

Whatever the image, we all have someone or something that comes to mind when we hear the word Courage.

So what is courage? Does it mean the person is not afraid? No. They may be very afraid. Courage is doing the right thing even when we are afraid.

Courage is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, on the feast of Pentecost, the apostles are in the upper room with the door locked. The Bible tells us that they were there out of fear. Then along comes the Holy Spirit. They are anointed with tongues of fire, and they go out to the balcony and preach the Good News about Jesus Christ. The danger was still there, but it didn’t affect them. Peter, who denied Jesus three times out of fear, is now boldly preaching the Word of God. The courage he lacked at the cross is now present on Pentecost. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. If you have been baptized, you have this gift. And that’s cool!

Why do we need courage? We need it because we fear, even though Jesus said do not be afraid. We’re human, and so we are afraid. Through prayer and spiritual growth, we can be less fearful and take advantage of the gift of courage given in our baptism.

Here are some times when we can use some courage:

  • We need courage to share our faith. We live in a post-Christian society, which means Christianity is not the dominant worldview. As a matter of fact, in some places it’s quite dangerous to be a Christian. In other places like the US, we can be ridiculed or sued or lose our job or our livelihood. Those real risks may keep us from witnessing to others about the saving mission of Jesus. The example of the apostles can help us realize the importance of bearing witness in the world. And we need the gift of courage to do that.
  • We also need courage to fight sin. Maybe we think that a particular sin is necessary for our happiness. We are afraid of what it will mean if we make that change. Maybe all of our friends will leave us. Maybe our family members will become estranged. Maybe we will be all alone. We need courage to do the right thing, no matter what the cost. And we need courage to acknowledge the sins in our life. That’s embarrassing. We may be ashamed that people will know what we did. But that is, in fact, what God calls us to do – to fight and overcome. So we pray for the courage to repent.
  • We need courage to grow in self-knowledge. If I want to grow spiritually, I have to know myself – my strengths, my weaknesses, my fears, my sins. But maybe I don’t want to know those things. I may realize that I’m not perfect, but I don’t want to know exactly how imperfect I am. It’s the ugly part of me, and who wants to look at that. The thing is, God does this in a gentle way. It’s not like when an actor or actress goes to audition and the director picks apart everything about them. That can be devastating. No, my experience is that God shows me my weaknesses most often when I am critical of another person. But he doesn’t show me so that I am on the defensive and humiliated. He shows me because he loves me and wants me to grow in holiness. He is my biggest champion. And still, I need courage to look at myself – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • We need courage to wait on God’s timing. When I have an idea, I want to run with it. I don’t need to think much – just get started. So when I ask God to help in a difficult situation, I want Him to act NOW. I have a plan, and I’m sure it is a great one. And if He doesn’t make it happen now, I may miss out. I can’t wait so I take things into my own hands - kind of like Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is told he will be the Father of many nations and that Sarah will have a child. But it was taking too long so Abraham decided to help God out a little. That didn’t work too well. I can be like Abraham. I’ll take care of it my way. But I need courage to wait on God, to trust in God, to know that His way is always going to be better than mine.
  • We also need courage to forgive others. There is so much fear in forgiveness. What if they hurt me again? What if they think what they did didn’t matter? What if my forgiveness lets them off the hook? What will other people think if I forgive? Maybe they will think that I am weak, and then more people will take advantage of me. So much fear! We need supernatural courage to forgive as Jesus did even while we are still in pain.
  • We need courage to listen and respond to God’s promptings. He nudges us to go somewhere or to speak to someone or to give someone a gift or to invite someone to join you or to write something or to pray with someone. It may not be (and likely won’t be) an audible voice. It can be an impression or a desire or a thought. If we fight the fear of looking foolish, God will give us the courage to act – to be his hands and feet. I know people who have had a sense that they were supposed to pray with a stranger. They may have felt foolish, but they did it anyway. I know someone who was told to speak kind words to a stranger at the gas pump next to her, so she did. In our Sisters in Faith gatherings we end by praying with each other in pairs. Many people are a little uncomfortable with this, but they do it anyway. And they get more comfortable over time. We just need courage to get over ourselves and do what God asks.
  • We need courage to face the evil in the world – and there is plenty of it. We can get discouraged when we see the mess of the world or of a family member or of an organization. We may be ready to give up hope. But we Christians are a people of hope. We need courage to lift up others when they are dragged down by the darkness of the world. We need courage to be the saints for such a time as this. Maybe it is our turn to be Esther – read that book of the Bible and you’ll see what I mean. She was fearful, but she fought the fear and went with courage to the King to save her people.
  • We need courage to have a more profound encounter with Jesus. It’s easy to live a superficial faith – to go to church on Sunday and maybe say grace before meals. But there is so much more. There was a time when I considered people who were serious about their faith as fanatics. They were really out there, and I tried to avoid them. I just wanted my Sunday morning faith. But God is pretty clear about what he thinks of Sunday morning Christians. He calls them lukewarm. He would spit them out of his mouth. (That’s in Revelation in the letter to the Church in Laodicea.) God is always calling us to more. He wants to give us more. We have to let go of our fears and ask for the courage to be whole hearted toward God.

There are so many ways that courage can help us each day. God calls us to greatness and the only way to achieve that is to have the courage to follow the Way of Jesus. Ask God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to give you the courage you lack. Then see what great things He will do through you!

Here are a couple of questions to bring to prayer:

  1. When have I experienced the supernatural courage of the Holy Spirit in my life? How did God work in that situation?
  2. Where do I need more courage today? What fears are holding me back? Pray for the gift of courage.