Drawing Courage from the Word of God
“We may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”—Heb. 13:6.
1. What circumstances have filled the hearts of men with great fear, and in the face of them who only can be courageous?
WHO can be of good courage in a world such as this—a world that is saturated with fear? Never before in the history of man have there been more forces working together to strike fear into the hearts of men. Fear of war has given rise to the most frantic arms race in the history of the human race. Year by year the crime rate spirals upward, adding to the anxiety. With alarming frequency, earthquakes bring men’s homes crashing down on them, killing 180,000 at one blow in China in 1920, over 12,000 in Iran in 1962, and thousands more each year in other places. Drought, locust plagues and storms ruin crops, resulting in severe food shortages. Disease, too, continues to take a terrible toll—not only diseases such as cancer and malaria, but also those caused by the greed of men, resulting, for example, in the birth of thousands of deformed children due to the use of harmful drugs. In a world as plagued with causes for fear as this, who has sound reasons for being courageous? Only those who can say: “Jehovah is my helper.”—Heb. 13:6.
2. What other situations often call for courage, and where should one turn for guidance at such a time?
2 It must be borne in mind that the circumstances that call for courage are not only those that make news headlines. Sometimes they are the very personal tragedies of which few others may be aware. These things often strike harder in the life of the one involved than the threat of nuclear war. To face up to these problems courageously and with success, one must look to God and turn to his Word for guidance.—Ps. 46:1, 2; 119:105-112.
3. Why is it that particular courage is required of Christians?
3 Outstandingly is courage required of all who endeavor to live with godly devotion as followers of Jesus Christ. With firm determination they must reject the pressures that suck one into the whirlpool of materialism and sensuality that marks the ways of the world. As imitators of Christ, they must be fearless witnesses of Jehovah God. They must not be afraid to expose falsehood and to advocate the truth of God’s Word, no matter how unpopular it may be. For their integrity to God they may be thrown into jail, forced out of their employment or deported from the country of their residence. Of this they can be sure: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) From where does the courage come to stand up against such pressure? It is the possession of those who have faith that is rooted in the Word of God.
COURAGE FROM KNOWING THE GREATNESS OF GOD
4. How is Christian courage defined, and on what is it founded?
4 While it is true that courage is internal strength, Christian courage is not self-reliance. It is not the result of looking to oneself. Rather, it results from reliance on God, and in a knowledge of him lies the key to this strength. Thus, to get courage, we must look to the Bible, because it is from this source that we learn of Jehovah God and his matchless qualities, and it is this Word of God that impresses upon our minds his greatness. By telling us of his works it makes it clear to us that he is “the God that made the world and all the things in it.” By relating his deeds in connection with his servants, it shows us that he is “the Most High over all the earth,” that he is “God Almighty.” “Jehovah is in truth God. He is the living God.” He hears the supplication of his servants, and his hand “has not become too short that it cannot save, nor has his ear become too heavy that it cannot hear.” Worshipers of such a God have every reason to be courageous.—Acts 17:24; Ps. 83:18; Ex. 6:3; Jer. 10:10; Isa. 59:1.
5. Like the psalmist, what practice that strengthens courage should we pursue?
5 Since accurate knowledge of God’s Word is a prime factor in having courage, it behooves us to etch it upon our hearts and minds. Do as the psalmist who said: “I shall remember the practices of Jah; for I will remember your marvelous doing of long ago. And I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Ps. 77:11, 12) Spend some time every day reading the Bible, meditating on it and discussing it with others. Dwell on the activities of Jehovah instead of making the squabbling of the rulers of this world your chief concern. Giving attention in this way to the Word of God, thus growing in love for God, dispels fear of the proud oppressors among mankind, be they men in power who arrogantly seek to stamp out true worship or nations that are stockpiling weapons for nuclear war.—1 John 4:18.
6, 7. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses not become fainthearted even when powerful nations threaten to exterminate them?
6 Those who are the dedicated worshipers of Jehovah God do not become fainthearted even when nations that are armed to the teeth threaten to exterminate them. While Christians ‘do not wage warfare according to what they are in the flesh’ and ‘the weapons of their warfare are not fleshly,’ this does not mean that the nations have a free hand to snuff out the lives of God’s people and put an end to right worship. (2 Cor. 10:3, 4) Jehovah is with his people, and they have confidence in him. From his written Word they know him as the One who in the days of King Jehoshaphat of Judah delivered his people from the combined forces of Moab, Ammon and the land of Edom. On that occasion he said to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “Do not you be afraid or be terrified because of this large crowd; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . You will not need to fight in this instance. Take your position, stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah in your behalf.”—2 Chron. 20:15-17; Ps. 34:7.
7 Again, in the days of Hezekiah it was that the king of Assyria, ruler of the mightiest government among men in that time, after a successful campaign through parts of Palestine, turned his war machine against Jerusalem. Confident of conquest here too, his military commander Rabshakeh taunted Hezekiah: “What is this confidence in which you have trusted?” (Isa. 36:4) Hezekiah showed what the confidence was in which they trusted by going up to the house of Jehovah to pray and by sending word to Jehovah’s prophet Isaiah. The defiance of the Assyrian monarch was, not merely against Hezekiah and his people, but against Jehovah God. For his own name’s sake God took action, and the invading armies were not even permitted to erect their siege ramparts against the city or to shoot a single arrow there. In one night Jehovah’s angel of execution destroyed 185,000 of the Assyrian host and sent the king reeling back in defeat to Nineveh, where he met his own death while worshiping his idol god. Likewise in this twentieth century, when the powerful dictatorial government of Nazi Germany threatened to stamp out Jehovah’s witnesses, it was thwarted in its efforts. Jehovah, who in all these cases delivered his servants, is the One concerning whom the world ruler Nebuchadnezzar was himself humbled to say: “He is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’” (Dan. 4:35) Soon now at the universal war of Armageddon he will completely wipe out those who oppose him and oppress his people, but even now he does not permit them to thwart his purpose. Those who worship him have good reason to be courageous. Dwelling under his loving care, they can say with the psalmist: “Jehovah is on my side; I shall not fear. What can earthling man do to me?”—Ps. 118:6.
8. When the Israelites were captives in Babylon, how could they draw courage from God’s written Word?
8 Not long after providing deliverance for Jerusalem from the military forces of Sennacherib, Jehovah had recorded in his Word encouragement that his people would need at a later time. “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says the God of you men. ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her that her military service has been fulfilled, that her error has been paid off. For from the hand of Jehovah she has received a full amount for all her sins.’” (Isa. 40:1, 2) Yes, for turning apostate and walking in the footsteps of unfaithful Samaria, which Jehovah gave into the hands of Assyria, the inhabitants of Judah and of Jerusalem were taken into exile in 607 B.C. to serve under Babylonian masters. But what a comfort it was for those captive Israelites in the seventieth year of Jerusalem’s desolation to realize from the written Word of God through his prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah that the time for deliverance was at hand! They could take courage!—Dan. 9:1, 2.
9. Why was the long journey back to Jerusalem no reason for them to lose heart?
9 It is true that a long journey lay ahead of them en route back to Jerusalem, but would this thwart the fulfillment of the promise of their God? “Listen! Someone is calling out in the wilderness: ‘Clear up the way of Jehovah, you people! Make the highway for our God through the desert plain straight. And the glory of Jehovah will certainly be revealed, and all flesh must see it together, for the very mouth of Jehovah has spoken it.’” (Isa. 40:3, 5) God himself would see that obstacles were cleared out of the way. He would invisibly lead their return, even as he had led them out of Egypt, for by means of this restoration of his name people Jehovah’s glory would be made manifest before all the nations.
10. What kind of promise would have been no sound reason for courage, but what made the hope cherished by the Jewish captives a better one?
10 This was no vain promise of some nationalist leader among the Jews who hoped to break the Babylonian yoke. It was not in such a scheme that they could find reason for courage. They well knew that one of the inspired writers of the Psalms had warned them against looking to earthling men for deliverance, because men perish; they dry up just like the grass. “But as for the word of our God, it will last to time indefinite.” (Isa. 40:8) “Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.” (Ps. 146:3-10) In fulfillment of his word, as a loving shepherd gathers together his sheep, so Jehovah gathered together his people to Jerusalem to rebuild its temple of worship, in 537 B.C. The confidence that they based on the promises of God’s written Word was not misplaced.
“RAISE YOUR EYES HIGH UP”
11. Through the prophet Isaiah, what facts concerning his creative works did Jehovah draw to the attention of his people, and why?
11 When foretelling through Isaiah this deliverance that he would bring about for his people, Jehovah went on to draw their attention to his creative works. He urged them to observe here evidence of his almighty power and to see in it reason to have confidence that he would uphold those hoping in him. He made clear that to him the seas are something to be measured in the hollow of his hand; the heavens he measures off as the distance between his extended fingers, and all the nations are but as the film of dust on a scalepan. But can man control the mighty seas? Has he even been able to see to the limits of creation, to say nothing of measuring distances to remote heavenly bodies with certainty? Then what sound reason could there be for those who are hoping in Jehovah to fear what men can do? None at all!—Isa. 40:12-17.
12, 13. How does a comparison of the creative works of God with the achievements of men impress us?
12 Look up at the heavenly bodies and consider what their existence means: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.” (Isa. 40:26) This is good to keep in mind at this time when men are bragging about their scientific achievements. They boast of having put manned spaceships into orbit around the earth. They are proud of having sent space probes toward the sun, the moon and the planets Venus and Mars. But do these feats mean that man is now the one to whom we must look for preservation? Certainly not!
13 The moon has been in orbit since long before men began their space programs, and it is not the kind of satellite that burns out after a few months. But it is only one of these heavenly bodies, none of which were put there by men. Why, the earth itself is a spaceship, and one with live cargo. Rather than just one human passenger, it has three billion of them and animals without number, and they are not all packed into space suits to survive. Great though the works of men appear in the eyes of men, they become downright pathetic when viewed alongside the handiwork of God. Men may have hydrogen bombs and missiles in their arsenals, but Jehovah God can turn loose earthquakes equivalent to thousands of hydrogen bombs, and unleash storms of hail against which they cannot make a counterattack. Even with a gentle snowfall he can immobilize their operations. (Josh. 10:11; Job 38:22, 23) The scientific achievements of the nations will not enable them to avoid being called to account for the blood they have spilled on this earth. Because of that all lovers of righteousness can take courage.—Amos 9:1-3; Ezek. 38:22.
14. Although Jehovah is almighty, why is it not easy for one to be numbered among his worshipers at this time?
14 Yet the fact that Jehovah is almighty does not mean that it is easy for those who worship him as true Christians. As Jesus told his followers: “People will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, you being haled before kings and governors for the sake of my name. . . . Moreover, you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death; and you will be objects of hatred by all people because of my name.” (Luke 21:12-17) Nevertheless, this prospect does not cause those who have placed their trust in God to lose heart. Why not?
15. In the face of official persecution, how do the Scriptures help Christians to maintain courage?
15 They draw courage from the Scriptures, which help them to view the matter in proper perspective, assuring them: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers, the One who is stretching out the heavens just as a fine gauze, who spreads them out like a tent in which to dwell, the One who is reducing high officials to nothing, who has made the very judges of the earth as a mere unreality.” (Isa. 40:22, 23) So perhaps certain rulers do ban true worship. They may declare it against the law to preach to persons of another religion. They may seize the children of Christian parents and give them a blood transfusion because those parents refuse to approve a violation of God’s law, and they may turn deaf ears to the appeals of those parents for justice. But Jehovah God has a different view of matters. He does not fail to observe what is going on, and he will reverse the unrighteous decrees of these men who abuse their authority. Then those whom the world has judged to be unfit God will choose to be the ones that will live forever in his new world, because they hoped in him.
LISTENING TO GOD
16. What sort of persons are the ones who find cause for courage when they study God’s Word?
16 Certainly, then, it behooves all men to listen to what God has to say. We cannot expect him to approve our course if we turn a deaf ear to his counsel, nor is he pleased with those whose lips profess the love of God but whose hearts are alienated from him. The Scriptures offer no reason for courage to people of that sort. The ones who find cause for courage when they study God’s Word are those whose attitude is like that of the psalmist who wrote: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations, that I may observe it down to the last. Make me understand, that I may observe your law and that I may keep it with the whole heart. Cause me to tread in the pathway of your commandments, for in it I have taken delight.” (Ps. 119:33-35) It is those who are thus moved by love for God and for his righteous ways that have sound reasons to be courageous. Not only are they courageous in the face of opposition, but they have the courage to order their lives in harmony with the high moral standards set out by God.
17. In what way is courage needed to remain morally clean, and how can that courage be strengthened?
17 Courage is needed to do that, because even when one exercises care to avoid bad associations, he still comes in touch with immoral people. They may be persons with whom he is secularly employed, neighbors or classmates in school. It is not easy to refuse to go along with the crowd. But Jesus said that his followers are not part of the world. (John 17:11-14) They must be on the watch. They dare not let down their guard by feeding their minds on the immoral literature and lewd entertainment of this sex-crazy world. They must courageously show their hatred for what is bad and their love for what is right. Delighting in Jehovah’s commandments, making them our meditation, fortifies us against the immoral conduct of the world; and keeping always in mind that “all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting” further strengthens that determination to do what is right.—Heb. 4:13.
18. What is the Christian course in the face of dishonest business practices?
18 Of course, there are men who lack such a keen awareness of their accountability to God who nevertheless have a certain sense of decency. They live what they consider to be moral lives, but when adherence to high moral standards seems to put them at a disadvantage they often lack the courage to do what they know to be right. For example, when they find their economic security threatened by dishonest practices of worldly business competitors, they may feel that the only way to handle the situation is to adopt their methods, much as they dislike them. Or they may conclude that, if their employer demands that they deal dishonestly with customers, there is nothing else they can do. Not so with a true Christian. He does not allow himself to be overcome by the evil practices of the world. He does not become envious of those doing unrighteousness. He believes as did God-fearing David: “Better is the little of the righteous one than the abundance of the many wicked ones. For the very arms of the wicked ones will be broken, but Jehovah will be supporting the righteous ones. Jehovah is aware of the days of the faultless ones, and their very inheritance will continue even to time indefinite.” (Ps. 37:16-18; 119:36) Because of strong faith in God, they are courageous. They do not grow fainthearted because of anxiety over what they will eat or drink or the clothing they will wear. They know that if they keep on seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Jehovah God will see that the other things are added. They draw courage from the Word of God.—Ps. 37:1-4, 27, 34; Matt. 6:31-33.
19, 20. How does a knowledge of God’s Word enable one to avoid compromising his Christian faith even when faced with the threat of death?
19 That written Word can strip away the superstitious and ignorant fears that have caused men to fall into woeful bondage. From its pages one can learn the origin of life and the meaning of death. But how many persons, because they have not listened to God’s Word and do not know what he says about death and future life, prove themselves to be the kind the Devil described when he said to God: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. . . . thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as his bone and his flesh and see whether he will not curse you to your very face”! (Job 2:4, 5) Job was not that sort of person, but many are. They will give anything in exchange for their lives. They will forfeit virtue, honesty and a clean conscience in order to avert death. They are willing to live a lie, professing to support ideologies they hate and performing vile deeds against their will, in order to pacify those in power. For fear of death they are in slavery all through their lives.—Heb. 2:15.
20 But those who have an accurate knowledge of the Word of God do not live in such fear. The One whom they serve is the Source of life, and they have listened to him. They know that he has made provision for deliverance from the grave. They have confidence in his promise of resurrection from the dead, so they do not balk at proving themselves faithful to God, even to death if need be. (2 Cor. 4:13, 14; Rev. 2:10) Knowledge of the Word of God makes them courageous. It strengthened Jesus to maintain integrity in the face of an ignominious death. It gave Stephen the courage to speak the truth without compromise before the court that was trying him for his life. It has likewise imbued thousands of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah in this twentieth century with courage to stand firm for true worship.—Heb. 12:2; Acts chap. 7.
21. What is it that enables a Christian to be courageous in the face of the critical times now confronting all men?
21 It is that same Word of God that strengthens one to act courageously in the face of threats of war, food shortages, terrifying earthquakes and savage crimes, all of which are so prevalent in the world today. These circumstances touch the lives of Christians even as they do the rest of the world. They too may be driven from their homes by aggressors in time of war, lose their belongings in an earthquake, face food rationing, and have to exercise increased caution because of the prevalence of crime. Yet their outlook is different from that of the world around them. Fortified with a knowledge of the Scriptures, they can do as Jesus said: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) They recognize in these things an evidence of the near end of this wicked old world and the incoming of God’s righteous new world. This knowledge gives them courage, not only to face the hardships that all share in common, but to speak out as fearless advocates of the kingdom of God.
22. What confidence can Jehovah’s people have as to their relationship with their God, and how do they keep this confidence strong?
22 Having listened to God, they know that he cares for them. They know that they can call upon him in prayer and that he will hear them. (Ps. 145:18) Lovingly he watches over them, as a shepherd caring for his flock. No matter what the circumstances with which they are confronted, they have confidence that as long as they continue to listen to God and respond to his loving counsel, there is nothing that ‘will be able to separate them from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus.’ (Rom. 8:31-39) Wisely, therefore, they continue to feed their minds and hearts on God’s Word by studying and meditating on its precepts every day of their lives. Because they do so in faith they can “be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid.’”—Heb. 13:6.
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“What is this confidence in which you have trusted?”