Be Courageous and Strong Through Faith
“Be courageous and very strong to take care to do according to all the law . . . in order that you may act wisely.”—Josh. 1:7.
1. How did Judas prove himself to be the treacherous agent of the Devil, and what indicates that his plans were carefully laid?
IT WAS Nisan 14, A.D. 33, passover night. At Jerusalem treachery was in the air at that late hour of night. The betrayer had his plans well laid. Nothing was left to chance. Yes, there was a full moon, but, thought the betrayer, it could be cloudy, and in that garden of beautiful olive trees the Master might be sitting in the shadow of their leaves. So there must be torches and burning lamps to light the way up the hillside of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was sure to be. The betrayer “Judas took the soldier band and officers of the chief priests and of the Pharisees and came there with torches and lamps and weapons.” As the Devil’s agent Judas at last proved himself to be the disloyal disciple of Christ Jesus by being the leader of the mob that would soon seize the Son of God. He “knew the place, because Jesus had many times met there with his disciples.”—John 18:2, 3.
2. (a) Why was the betrayal to his enemies no surprise to Jesus? (b) How did he show courage in their presence?
2 This was no surprise attack to Jesus. He was aware that he was going to be betrayed that very night and that he would die that same passover day upon a torture stake. “Because he knew before the festival of the passover that his hour had come for him to move out of this world to the Father, Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) This was the hour; and, hearing the crushing of dirt under many feet and seeing the lights coming closer, “Jesus, therefore, knowing all the things coming upon him, went forth and said to them: ‘Whom are you looking for?’ They answered him: ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them: ‘I am he.’” (John 18:4, 5) For him to say that took courage! He knew it meant his death.
3. (a) While with his faithful disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem, how did Jesus show that he knew what lay ahead for him? (b) How was courage on Jesus’ part demonstrated in his prayer in Gethsemane?
3 Just a few hours earlier in “a large upper room” in the city of Jerusalem Jesus introduced to his eleven faithful disciples something new. Judas did not even know about it. He was not there with Jesus when “he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.’” (Luke 22:19, 20) Jesus knew that he must die so as to carry out the will of his Father. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to his Father with such earnestness and fervor that “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” He prayed: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42, 44) It took courage to pray this.
4. Contrast Jesus’ courage and Peter’s bravery.
4 Jesus Christ had internal strength, full confidence in Jehovah God his Father as he stepped forward into the full light of the moon, the burning torches and the lighted lamps, facing these men with their weapons, swords, clubs and staves. After he identified himself to them, “they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore he asked them again: ‘Whom are you looking for?’ They said: ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus answered: ‘I told you I am he.’” (John 18:4-8) He had no fear of men. His hope was in Jehovah! He was calm but courageous. However, Peter, the impetuous one, was the man who was going to display momentary bravery. The historian Mark tells us that the betrayer Judas “came straight up and approached [Jesus] and said: ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him very tenderly. So they laid their hands upon him and took him into custody. However, a certain one of those standing by drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest and took his ear off.” (Mark 14:45-47) The name of the slave was Malchus. Jesus, however, said to Peter: “‘Put the sword into its sheath. The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?’ Then the soldier band and the military commander and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him, and they led him first to Annas; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.”—John 18:10-13.
5. Even under extreme pressure from the enemy, what course did Jesus reject, and how did he expose their methods of operation?
5 Jesus did not show his courage by fighting with carnal weapons nor did he want his disciples to show theirs that way. So he touched the ear of the man that Peter struck and healed him. With calm courage “Jesus then said to the chief priests and captains of the temple and older men that had come there for him: ‘Did you come out with swords and clubs as against a robber? While I was with you in the temple day after day you did not stretch out your hands against me. But this is your hour and the authority of darkness.’” (Luke 22:52, 53) Satan the enemy of Jehovah God and of the Son of God did not seize Jesus in broad daylight while preaching in the temple. Stealthily he had his cowards do his dirty work at night. Persons filled with hate, as the Devil is, cannot see light. “He that says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness up to right now.” (1 John 2:9) How true Jesus’ statement: “But this is your hour and the authority of darkness”! It took courage not to fight back.
6, 7. (a) On whom did Jesus rely when brought to trial and why? (b) On the other hand, what was the reaction of Jesus’ disciples at the time of his arrest?
6 While this discussion was going on the disciples of Jesus were drawing away to the rear “and they all abandoned him and fled.” (Mark 14:50) However, as they led Jesus off and brought him into the house of the high priest, Peter was following at a distance. “Now Simon Peter as well as another disciple was following Jesus. That disciple was known to the high priest, and he went in with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the door. Therefore the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper and brought Peter in.” (John 18:15, 16) But did these two disciples have enough courage to stand up for Jesus Christ then? Did they have the faith and strength necessary to stand alone as Jesus was now standing alone before the Jewish religious leaders and later before Roman rulers? It was going to come to that test for them. Jesus was then undergoing a supreme test of his courage. He had a full comprehension of the fight that was then on between Satan and himself. Jesus was trusting in Jehovah! He was setting the right example for all lovers of life to follow. He could say: “Be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.”—Ps. 27:14.
7 Previously that same night, Nisan 14, Jesus had said to his eleven faithful disciples: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” Then Jesus addressed his words to Peter and said: “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have you men to sift you as wheat. But I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” Then Peter said to him: “Lord, I am ready to go with you both into prison and into death.” But Jesus said: “I tell you, Peter, A cock will not crow today until you have three times denied knowing me.” (Luke 22:28-34) Jesus knew that Satan would try to sift all Christians as wheat, and therefore they all needed more faith. They needed a helper, the holy spirit, from God, and this Jesus promised them. He said: “I am telling you the truth, It is for your benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to you; but if I do go my way, I will send him to you. And when that one arrives he will give the world convincing evidence concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment.”—John 16:7, 8.
AN AID TO COURAGE
8. What aid to courage was provided at Pentecost, in fulfillment of what prophecy, and with what results?
8 This helper came later at Pentecost when the faithful followers of Jesus Christ received the outpouring of holy spirit, and this spirit of God moved them to speak in many tongues “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:11) This, Peter said, was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy too. “‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh,’” sons, daughters, young and old men as well as slaves. Peter emphatically stated: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2:17, 32, 33) On that festival day of Pentecost “about three thousand souls were added” to the Christian congregation. The people saw and heard the power of this helper back there at Pentecost, and people are seeing the effects of it on Jehovah’s witnesses down to this day.
9. How did Peter’s experience on the night of Jesus’ arrest show his need for divine help?
9 This helper or gift of the holy spirit Peter and the other disciples did not have at the time Jesus was seized and bound and taken before the chief priest. So we find Peter watching outside and wondering what would happen to Jesus. When “the servant girl, the doorkeeper, then said to Peter: ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said: ‘I am not.’” (John 18:17) Luke gives us a soul-stirring picture of Peter’s public denial that he was a Galilean like Jesus. Said Peter to another inquirer: “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” Then “instantly, while he was yet speaking, a cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter recalled the utterance of the Lord when he said to him: ‘Before a cock crows today you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62) Peter needed divine help, faith, holy spirit and association with his Christian brothers. On the other hand Jesus was displaying marvelous faith in his heavenly Father. He had no fleshly help. All he could do and wanted to do was hope in Jehovah! So he was courageous.
10. In what way had Jesus prepared his disciples for the trials they were to face, and why was it necessary for him to die?
10 Jesus, though, had spoken plainly to his disciples about these very happenings and gave warning of what the future would hold for non-compromising Christians. He said: “I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me. Nevertheless, I have spoken these things to you that, when the hour for them arrives, you may remember I told them to you. These things, however, I did not tell you at first, because I was with you. But now I am going to him that sent me, and yet not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” (John 16:1-5) Having Jesus so close to themselves, he being a perfect man, he being the Son of God, he being the Messiah, he being the performer of miracles, it was difficult for the disciples to appreciate that he must die upon the torture stake and be raised from the dead in order to establish his everlasting kingdom that he had taught them to pray for. But he told them all these things, knowing they would get understanding when they received the holy spirit. But their receiving the holy spirit was contingent on his dying and being raised from the dead so that he could go to his Father and prepare a place for his faithful 144,000 followers.
11. What made it possible for Paul to press on courageously to receive the prize of the upward call?
11 With that prepared heavenly place in view, the apostle Paul said: “I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) To gain that heavenly prize Paul kept up a courageous pursuit. Was he going to let pressure crush him? Was he going to fly to pieces under the impact of tribulation? He answers these questions by saying: “Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? Just as it is written: ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we have been accounted as sheep for slaughtering.’ To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:35-37) So Paul could press on courageously.
12. (a) How is Jesus’ conquest of the world a source of strength to his followers? (b) What, then, is the Christian’s attitude toward other men?
12 Paul’s faith was so strong that it held firm under all kinds of difficulties. Is yours as strong as that? Paul appreciated now through his own experiences what Jesus on that passover night said to the apostles: “Look! The hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when you will be scattered each one to his own house and you will leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:32, 33) When Jesus said: “I have conquered the world,” he meant that if his followers took courage they could conquer the world too. Jesus had a unified heart free from fear of men. (Ps. 86:11) So must his loyal followers have courageous hearts, strong through faith and hope in Jehovah. With such courage every footstep follower of Christ who is doing the will of God will have no fear of any religious, political or business man, because he will glorify only Jehovah’s name. He can respect men but not venerate or fear men. “Trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.”—Prov. 29:25.
13. What example of courage do we have in Moses?
13 There are numerous examples of real courage in the lives of God’s dedicated people. Moses was one of such examples. Even as Jesus admonished his disciples to take courage, so Moses long previous admonished Joshua and a whole nation to take courage. Moses had courage when standing before Pharaoh, telling him about the ten plagues that were coming upon Egypt. Thereafter it also took courage for Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea and on into the wilderness of Sinai. It took courage also to go up alone into the mountain of Sinai and receive from Jehovah God the Ten Commandments and be willing to guide the children of Israel under these laws.
14. Was real courage demonstrated in the spying out of the Promised Land?
14 It took courage for the twelve spies whom Moses chose to go into the Promised Land to see in advance what kind of country it was. These men went north to the Negeb and on into the mountainous region to learn what kind of people were dwelling in the land. Were they strong people or weak? Were they few or many? Was the land good or bad? They were to spy out the cities, dwellings, encampments and the fortifications. Was the land fat or lean, and were there trees? Before the spies set out, Moses said: “You must show yourselves courageous and take some of the fruitage of the land.” They did so. “Finally at the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.” (Num. 13:17-25) What was the report? The land was flowing with milk and honey. In proof they brought along some of its fruitage. All this was a good report; but ten spies were afraid of the people who lived there. They told of the very great fortified cities. Fearfully they said not to go into the land. But Caleb, a courageous spy like Joshua, said: “Let us go up directly, and we are bound to take possession of it, because we can surely prevail over it.” (Num. 13:30) But the Israelites were afraid because of the majority report. They did not trust in Jehovah God. They murmured against Moses and his brother Aaron, and many went on to say: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!”—Num. 14:2.
15. What held back the Israelites from going on into the Promised Land, but how did Joshua and Caleb endeavor to encourage the people?
15 The fear of men, the fear of the governments that were possessing the Promised Land, held back the children of Israel from going forward even though they had the preceding year passed through the Red Sea, gaining deliverance from Egypt, under the guidance of Jehovah God. All of this should have been fresh in their memory. Moses and Aaron, seeing the attitude of the people, fell upon their faces before all the congregation of Israel. Joshua and Caleb; two faithful men who had spied out the land, ripped their garments apart, “and they proceeded to say this to all the assembly of the sons of Israel: ‘The land that we passed through to spy it out is a very, very good land. If Jehovah has found delight in us, then he will certainly bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that is flowing with milk and honey. Only against Jehovah do not rebel; and you, do not you fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their shelter has turned away from over them, and Jehovah is with us. Do not fear them.’”—Num. 14:5-9.
16. What did the Israelites lack that caused them to continue as wanderers in the wilderness?
16 If these Israelites had had the spirit of David, who lived centuries later, they would have cried out enthusiastically: “Be courageous, and may your heart be strong, all you who are waiting for Jehovah.” (Ps. 31:24) They would have moved ahead. But they lacked courage and stayed as wanderers in the wilderness. They had no faith, therefore no courage. Now they would be like exiles for forty years until the whole faithless generation died off. What a disgrace, when they with courage could have been conquerors!
17. How did Moses, at the age of 120, show faith when he gave advice to the Israelites?
17 With the rebellious ones having died off in forty years, the time came for the nation to cross the river Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses, 120 years old, was about to die too. But he was not weak in faith, for with conviction he said to the nation: “Jehovah your God is the one crossing before you. He himself will annihilate these nations from before you, and you must drive them away. Joshua is the one crossing before you, just as Jehovah has spoken.” Now comes very strong admonition from Moses for all the new generation of Israel to hear: “Be courageous and strong. Do not be afraid or suffer a shock before [these enemies], because Jehovah your God is the one marching with you. He will neither desert you nor leave you entirely.”—Deut. 31:3, 6.
18. Speaking to Joshua, what advice did Moses give, and how did the people respond to Joshua’s courageous leadership?
18 Moses talked to Joshua personally as their leader and said: “Be courageous and strong, because you—you will bring this people into the land that Jehovah swore to their forefathers to give to them, and you yourself will give it to them as an inheritance.” (Deut. 31:7) Did the Israelites show courage to follow their new courageous leader? History proves they did. They marched with Joshua across the Jordan, and Jehovah gave them the victory over their enemies.
COURAGE TO FACE A NEW WORLD
19. For the Israelites to move into their new land required what on their part?
19 To the children of Israel this was like going into a new world. It was a new land, not a wilderness, but a very pleasant land, virtually a Garden of Eden. They had to work for it, in fact, fight for it, but not in their own strength. It took faith in God, for his servant Moses said: “He himself will annihilate these nations from before you.”
20. (a) What questions concerning New World prospects properly arise in these last days? (b) In what way are many proving the depth of their faith in God’s new world?
20 In these last days, at the conclusion of this system of things, how many people have the courage to move on into a new world of righteousness? Yes, how many even want it? How many have the courage to preach it publicly and from house to house? Do you believe that the Greater Moses, Christ Jesus, died for you so that you could live in that promised land on earth, actually the new Garden of Eden? How much do you believe in the new world of righteousness? Only enough to pray silently or inside a religious building: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth”? (Matt. 6:10) Hundreds of thousands of men and women of all nations not only believe in praying for that kingdom but are actually proclaiming it loudly, publicly, just as Jesus and his faithful followers did one thousand nine hundred years ago. Are you?
21, 22. How can we today benefit from advice that Jehovah gave to Joshua?
21 Read what Paul wrote for us today: “Now these things . . . were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the system of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11) Do you feel just as Joshua felt when Jehovah said to him: “Only be courageous and very strong to take care to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn aside from it to the right or to the left, in order that you may act wisely everywhere you go. This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely”? (Josh. 1:7, 8) Faith and courage did it then! Faith and courage will do it today, if all believers will not depart from the complete “book of the law,” the Holy Bible. Read it! Study it! Live it! Make this matter of taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and his Son your life, because that is just what it is.—John 17:3.
22 No one can turn aside from the instruction of Jehovah God, not even right or left, and act wisely. Wisdom comes from Jehovah God. He is the source of all knowledge, and the information men need today is found in Jehovah’s written Word. Oh yes, many will say the Bible is old-fashioned, an ancient history book. Is it? Well, your salvation is written in there. Life or death—which do you choose? It takes courage today for most people to look inside a Bible, let alone study it or discuss it with someone. If it was necessary for Jehovah to tell Joshua: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth and you must in an undertone read it day and night,” in order for him to “act wisely,” how much more do we need it today so as to act wisely! Let us have the courage today to do so in this world. A person who believes and lives according to the teachings of Christ will have the necessary courage to act even when faced with tribulation. Satan, “the god of this system of things,” will not be his friend any more than he was Jesus’ friend. Satan was Jesus’ adversary. He is the adversary of all Christians, too, but they can courageously conquer his world.