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Jan 02, 2022


Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Essentials for Spiritual Strength

Keywords: god's presence, fear, strength, courage, foolishness, promises


This first in a series on "Qualities Needed to Triumph in 2022...or Anytime" deals with the biblical quality of courage. We look at what is NOT courage and what is, biblically speaking. May the Holy Spirit lead each of us to courage about the right things, in the right way and at the right time.



Qualities Needed to Triumph in 2022…or Anytime

January 2, 2022

INTRO:  Going to launch into a short 4-week series on “Essentials” prior to going back to an exegetical series in 1 Thessalonians.  In a way, this is a continuation of Advent except with a view forward to the challenges of the “new world” we’re all living in. 

If you are to finish this year that just started yesterday significantly better, stronger, more triumphant, what might your life look like 365 days from now…in 2023?  What sorts of qualities will you and I have to grow in if we are to finish 2022 “triumphant” in Christ?  There are undoubtedly many qualities that would serve us well to increase or deepen.  But as we face a more uncertain world than most of us have known in our lifetimes, there are certainly biblical, godly and righteous qualities that are called for in times like these. 

One of those is COURAGE.  And the Bible has a fair amount to say about courage.  So, let’s start today by clarifying what courage is NOT.

  1. It’s not STUPIDITY: Some people would say there is a “fine-line” between stupidity and courage.  I don’t think so…at least not biblically.  Stupidity is more like tempting fate or trying God’s patience with our foolishness.  You be the judge on the following:
    • Penguin on polar bear?
    • Man vs. lion?
    • D-Day landing
    • Boys licking flagpole
    • Man at lighthouse
    • Firefighter
    • Coastguard rescue
    • Ski jumper

Biblically there are plenty of examples of “stupid” rather than courage.  One of the stand-outs is found in 2 Samuel 25—the story of Nabal (who was living up to his name which means “Foolish”) and his wise (and courageous) wife, Abigail (which means “My Father is Rejoicing).  [Makes you wonder how naming children shapes their destinies?] 

David and his men, while running from Saul, had treated rich Nabal’s herdsmen to a wall of protection and safety in the wilderness.  So ,when one of the feast days on the Hebrew calendar rolls around, while Nabal is sheering his 3,000 sheep, David sends some of his young men to graciously and humbly ask if Nabal might bless them with a gift of a little food—meat or perhaps wool—as a token of thanks for the protection David and his men gave to all Nabal owned.  Instead, they are sent packing with curses, a belittling lecture and public disrespect. 

            Stupid people think it is courageous to pick fights with people obviously much stronger and wiser than them.  They think it is courageous to belittle, revile and publicly shame others. 

            Thankfully, Nabal had “married up”.  His wife, Abigail, was told what had happened by one of Nabal’s wiser servants who realized that this would not end well for Nabal nor his household if they didn’t make amends.  So, Abigail raids their food stores (taking probably a lot more than David would have reasonably expected) and puts together a gift that took several donkeys to carry:  200 loaves of bread, several skins of wine, 5 already butchered sheep, a bushel (60 pounds) of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins and 200 fig-cakes.  Abagail sends them ahead of her to intercept David and his men who were about to teach Nabal his last lesson in life! 

            Sure enough, they encounter David and his men, angry, fully armed and ‘on the war path,’ coming to kill every male in Nabal’s clan.  This is when it takes courage to do the right thing.  Abagail has no power other than persuasion.  This beautiful woman bows with her face to the ground before David and delivers one of the most beautiful and masterful speeches in the entire O.T.  She appeals to David’s sense of justice, his desire to be blameless before God and his rightful role as future king.  And she takes the blame for her foolish husband.  David’s anger melts away like hail on a summer day!  NOTE:  Women, don’t ever think for a moment that you are not powerful!  Recognize that your power often rests in wise, humble, strong courage in the face of disaster.    

            The end of the story is nothing short of a romance movie.  Abagail goes home to drunken Nabal and waits until morning to tell him how narrowly he had escaped slaughter.  He apparently suffers a stroke on the spot, lingers and dies 10 days later.  David, upon hearing what had happened, proposes marriage to her and she (wisely…and perhaps courageously) accepts. 

Courage is not to be confused with foolishness!

  1. It’s not lack of fear either. In fact, unless there is some element of fear involved, I doubt there is no need for courage. 

In virtually every case in the Bible where people are called to courage, there is something fear-provoking facing them.  It may be a foreign power invading them and at war with them.  It may be an enemy they need to wage war against that they would rather just ‘live-and-let-live.’  It may be the need to have courage in the face of potent persecution for friendship with or allegiance to Jesus Christ.  Whatever it is in terms of external opposition that tries to dissuade us from doing what we should do or pressures us to do what we should do, that is where courage is needed. 

APP:  I’d like us all to pause and consider what are the things or people at this time in our lives that are threatening us with fear?  What are we holding back on that we shouldn’t be because we need more courage?  What are we putting off because we are afraid it might cost us something…perhaps a lot?  Don’t be afraid to jot those things down. 


  • Trying something new (a new habit, sport, class, skill, group, project, etc.)
  • Taking a risk that holds good possibility of a valued return: a financial investment, a relationship commitment, a job change.
  • Challenging (graciously, kindly, patiently) false beliefs in our culture, in our friends, neighbors and acquaintances.
  • Speaking up about our faith; sharing our spiritual story.
  • Continuing to initiate relationally with friends or relatives who may not be easy to relate to.
  • Facing a health issue that is going to take courage to keep fighting.
  • Making a change of something for the better—kicking a bad habit, finding a ‘better’ place to live, getting into counseling or a support group for something that has been dogging you for a while.

While you are doing that, consider a few verses that speak to needing courage in the face of challenges or fear.  And remember that fear is precisely the soil where God often wants us to pursue courage. 

  • The nation of Israel transitioning from the desert to the Promised Land. & Joshua.  One example:  Joshua 1:5-9-- No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 
  • A couple of realities here about courage:
  • Biblical courage is about God’s strength when we’re not all that’s needed.

Biblical courage is closely associated with strength…but not just physical strength.  Sometimes ‘courage’ is translated ‘strength’, sometimes ‘determination’, sometimes ‘bravery’ our ‘stoutness’.  We could, therefore, associate a lack of courage with a dominance of some sort of weakness.  It may be moral weakness.  It may be spiritual weakness.  It could be mental resolve. 

Nobody likes to be ‘weak’, whether it’s perceived weakness or actual weakness.  God doesn’t want us ‘weak’ when it comes to things He has called us to or challenges He has put before us.

Joshua was about to lead over a million people into the Promised Land.  They hadn’t fought any serious battles in 40 years…other than the ones with their own souls.  Joshua was THE (or 2nd) oldest man living in the nation.  He was probably 65-80 years of age when God placed this mantel of leadership on him.  I don’t know about him, but if our country has to go to war in the next 5 years, I don’t really think I’m the best candidate for an infantry soldier.  I don’t want to be going hand-to-hand against some 20 year-old Russian or Iranian or Chinese brute.  Yet here is Joshua, probably not a strapping Hebrew man, facing a land full of really giant people in well-protected cities.   Joshua needed to find ‘strength’ against his doubts.

  • Courage has to do with 2 realities about God: His PROMISES & His PRESENCE. 

See Joshua 1:5, 9 (above).  How many times does God make a promise in this one passage to Joshua?  Vs. 5 = 3x; Vs. 6 = 1; Vs. 8 = 2x; Vs. 9 = 1x.  Total = 7. 

This entire interchange with God is bookended by promises of God’s presence:  verses 5 & 9.  God plus nothing is always a majority!  God plus the weakest person on the planet is overwhelming strength. 

So, if you are building your list of WHAT LEADS TO COURAGE, put a personal realization of God’s presence right at the top!  There is a simple and basic rule of human behavior:  people will do things in groups they would never attempt alone. 

ILL:  The military does missions in squads, platoons, companies, battalions, brigades and divisions, not isolated, 1-person assaults.  And God doesn’t intend for us to face fear-provoking situations without knowing He is present. 

ILL: Mt. 14:22ff—Jesus comes to the Apostles walking on the water in the middle of the storm on the Sea of Galilei.  The disciples are terrified, not because they think it’s actually Jesus but because they think it’s “a ghost.” In response to their fear, Jesus challenges them to “Take courage!” by identifying himself.  Only at that point when he’s actually convinced it is Jesus does Peter have the courage to step out of the boat and join Jesus on the waves. 

            This is why it is SO important that you and I do whatever it is in our lives that cultivates the presence of God.  Every one of us needs to figure out what it is that makes us actually aware of God’s presence more. 

  • Prayer?
  • Fellowship?
  • Worship?
  • Reading His Word?
  • Spending time in nature?
  • Quiet meditation?
  • Fasting from food or noise or social interaction, etc.

For all of us, the promises of God’s unending presence must be the cornerstone of any existential experience with God.  We have no reason to suppose that God who is bigger than the universe should actually ‘be with us’ if it were not for His promises.  He might appear and disappear at various times.  But “abide with us”?  Hardly likely without His direct promises. 

APP:  Now think about those issues in your life right now that are calling for courage.  What ACTIONS can you take NOW that will strengthen your experience of God’s presence with you and ground you in the promises He makes about giving you strength and courage?

  • Find specific Scriptures.
  • Commit them to memory.
  • Make a plan of action that requires courage.

So, to recap, courage is not to be confused with foolish risk-taking.  And it is not to be banished or defeated by fear.  Courage is not a lack of fear but a presence of God’s strength and our faith. 

But this last point about God’s presence leading to courage directs us to another thing God wants to use to build our courage:  His Word.  And His Word is always pared with ACTION. 

For a biblical illustration of this, let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 15.  This is a passage that deals with the reign of a king in Judah named Asa.  Asa was one of the better kings.  He reigned for 41 years, one of the longer reigns of a king in the 9th century B.C.  Let’s read about him. 

Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”

Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the Lord which was in front of the porch of the Lord. He gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 

            This prophet, Azariah, was not only giving Asa a direct word from God; he was repeating the message of all the prophets of God through all times:  if you seek God and obey his Word, you will find Him, His presence and His blessings.  When Asa heard God’s word to him, it produced courage in his young heart to tackle some of the most systemic spiritual problems of his nation.  He acted.  He tore down the idols that had been put up all over Judah AND he built up the place and practice of Temple worship in Jerusalem. Courage moved him to action. 

TRUTH:  It isn’t biblical courage if it doesn’t involve action in obedience to God.   

            We are living in a land where there are many idols and ‘high places’ that people, institutions, groups and culture have, over the past 100 years, have built up.  IF we are to restore the proper worship of God to our families, our churches, our city, we will need to engage in a little “tearing down”.  But be careful how you ‘tear down.’ 

We are also living in a day when radically destructive forces in our culture are telling us every day we must tear-down a host of things that our nation and culture was built on.  For a solid 50 to 100 years, secular humanism, rationalism, Marxism and a number of other ‘isms’ have been literally removing even the knowledge of God from the public square.  Our state-sponsored educational institutions from grade schools through universities have mocked the belief that there is a God or that humans in any way need God to live good, meaningful and productive lives.  Guiding biblical truths that used to inform both children and adults have been cast off as unnecessary if not downright destructive. 

But just as human souls were created to abhor a spiritual vacuum, so societies abhor godlessness.  Cultures and societies simply cannot last long without some deity they serve.  Marxism replaced the God of religion with the god of statism—the belief that the right government could lead to a eutopia economically, socially and politically.  Modern progressives are trying to replace God and His truths about life with things like radical individual freedom that puts the happiness of the individual on the idol-pedestal.  Rather than self-sacrificing love for God and neighbor as historic Judeo-Christian culture was built on, they are calling for a soul-destroying loathing of certain racial sub-groups so that other racial sub-groups can supposedly flourish.  Rather than following God’s direction about work and debt and money, today we are told that we need economic equalism in which those with more are forced to give more and more to those with less.  The objective of elimination of poverty and of shared blessings of wealth is admirable.  But it flies in the face of what God tells us about human nature, about love, about sound economic practices and about benevolence. 

We are entering an age of new ‘soft totalitarianism’ in which, in the name of nice ideas, the authority of God over the human individual and society is being replaced by the supposed wisdom and authority of well-meaning but equally flawed technocrats and bureaucrats. 

Until we as Christians follow the self-sacrificing God who subjugated His own personal peace and pleasure to love we human beings back into relationship with Him, we’re not going to be willing to ‘tear down’ the current idol of ‘personal happiness’ our culture is worshiping.  That idol comes in many different forms.  One is the idol of personal sexual morality that allows for any sort of sexual behavior as long as it expresses an individual’s personal preference.  Another could be the idol of personal materialism that looks to the getting of material goods as soul-satisfying rather than God and His kingdom truth of lovingly giving to others as soul-filling. 

So how do we ‘tear-down’ these types of idols in our day?  First, we don’t do it through anger or arguments or wars on other people or groups. 

  1. We begin with our own souls.

When it comes to, say, materialism, we practice compassion, generous giving and saying ‘no’ at regular intervals to the incessant drum of our flesh and our culture that says, “Get more and you’ll be happier.”  When it comes to sexuality, we say “Yes” to God’s clearly defined nature of human sexuality and sexual limits within biblically defined marriage while saying “No” to the lie of our culture that we are primarily sexual beings who must answer every sexual urge our way in order to be happy.

  1. Second, we become men and women of grace and courage who enter into relationships and conversations with people who may hate us for our beliefs. We enter into relationships with people not very much like us so we can love them.  We pray for those who rail against us.  We pray for our neighbors who we know and don’t yet know.  We share the Gospel of Jesus with everyone we possibly can in both word and deed.  We focus on the souls of individuals more than the laws and culture wars of society.  Courage is always action—loving, Christ-like, people-blessing ACTION!    

EX:  David, nearing the end of his life, speaks to his own son with the kind of grace and courage we all need in this day and age.  He calls him to action, righteous and courageous action.  But he does so in the context of knowing and respecting that Solomon will have to make his own decisions. He will have to rule courageously in righteousness or he will rule as so many rulers have through history from his own flawed wisdom.   

You see, David, truly a man of courage, was not permitted by God to build the Temple he wanted to in Jerusalem.  David had been involved in too much human bloodshed, according to God’s judgment.  So rather than foolishly pressing forward with doing something he knew God would not bless, David passes the torch of Temple-building to his son.  In the process he models the respectful yet truthful spirit every one of us should have when we live courageously calling others to the wisdom and truth of God.

1 Chronicles 22

11 Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. 12 Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.   

            Obedient followers of Jesus should be the most courageous people in the world… and the most fear-less.  When we are walking in obedience we know God has called us into, we will be experiencing His loving presence.  We will be experiencing the beauty of living in righteousness.  We will be engaging in fresh acts of faith and obedience.  All of that will lead us to have a strength, a settled-ness and a courage in the face of whatever the danger is that will fill our souls and advance the Kingdom. 

            I’ll end with one of the N.T.’s most frequent examples of courage:  boldness to publicly share the Gospel.  Several dozen times the Greek word parresia (par-rhay-see'-ah) is used to speak of the public confidence or boldness the Apostles and Paul demonstrated in proclaiming the Gospel.  It was always in the face of opposition and often outright persecution.  Here are two examples.

  • Acts 4:31—And when they had prayed, the place where 

they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

  • Ephesians 6:19—“…and prayon my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel….”

Courage to share the Gospel in a spiritually hostile culture is one of the greatest needs for courage by every believer alive today.  Anybody here who doesn’t resonate with Paul’s call for prayer that God would give him boldness in sharing the Gospel?  We all need that.  And we all need each other’s prayers for God’s work of courage in our lives to share the Gospel. 

ILL:  Story I heard yesterday about 3 men who, having been impacted by the Holy Spirit through a woman Bible teacher, Henrietta Mears, at 1st Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, CA, entered into a spiritual contract with each other.  Those young men were Bill Bright (who went on to found Campus Crusade for Christ…or CRU), Richard C. Halverson (who went on to become Chaplain of the U.S. Senate) and Louis H. Evans, Jr. (who went on to be a pastor and author).  They formed what they called The Fellowship of Burning Hearts.  The contract reads simply:

  • I am committed to the principle that Christian discipleship is sustained solely by God alone through His Spirit; that the abiding life of John 15 is His way of sustaining me. Therefore, I pledge myself to a disciplined devotional life in which I promise through prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading to give God not less that one continuous hour per day.
    Psalm 1
  • I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship begins with Christian character. Therefore, I pledge myself to holy living that by a life of self-denial and self-discipline, I may emulate those Christ-like qualities of chastity and virtue which will magnify the Lord.
  • I am committed to the principle that Discipleship exercises itself principally in the winning for the lost to Christ. Therefore, I pledge myself to seek every possible opportunity to witness, and to witness at every possible opportunity, to the end that I may be responsible for bringing at least one to Christ every 12 months.
    28:19; Acts 1:8
  • I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship demands nothing less than absolute consecration to Christ. Therefore, I present my body a living sacrifice, utterly abandoned to God. By this commitment, I will that God’s perfect will shall find complete expression in my life; and I offer myself in all sobriety to be expendable for Christ.
    Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-14

Bill Bright went on to found Campus Crusade for Christ, which is estimated to have led well over 50 million people to Christ around the world.

Richard C. Halverson wrote 26 books and eventually became the chaplain of the United States Senate.

Louis H. Evans, Jr. authored a number of books and pastored churches around the country, including Bel Air Presbyterian Church and National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.

Henrietta Mears was the director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood for thirty-five years, founder of Gospel Light Publications and Forest Home Conference Center, and co-founder of Gospel Literature International.  (BTW, I came to faith in Jesus 18 years later in a Gospel Light Publications conference in Santa Barbara, CA.)

So, you ready to enter 2022 courageously…in Christ?  Maybe one…or ALL of those 4 commitments…is what God is asking you to courageously take up.  (REVIEW.)

  • A disciplined daily devotional life.
  • Holy living evidenced by sexual purity and spiritual virtue.
  • Sharing Christ at every opportunity and trusting God to disciple 1 new believer every year.
  • Utter, expendable abandonment to Christ.

Remember, the life of courage is a life of ACTION.  So if you respond courageously to this message, TELL SOMEONE about it…and ask them to ask you regularly this next year about it. 


Go to burningheartsinc.com for some practical steps to take over this next 21 days…to set the course for 2022 in courage.