What Gives Them Courage?
THE year was 1909. Four women were making an automobile trip across the United States—the first such transcontinental journey with a woman at the wheel. They were crossing Nevada when something happened that admittedly terrified the driver. Sixty-eight years later, she stated:
“Coming directly at us, we suddenly noticed a dozen Indians on horseback . . . all carrying drawn bows and arrows. They were letting out regular war whoops.”
Were the lives of those women in jeopardy? Apparently they thought so. But then there was relief from terror. “Suddenly,” recalled Alice Huyler Ramsey, “across the roadway ahead leaped a jackrabbit, bent madly on escape . . . The Indians never slowed down nor paid the least attention to us. What a day!”
Those women hardly had time to muster up courage. And their fears were unwarranted. Probably all of us have had unfounded anxieties at times. On other occasions, however, we may have been confronted with situations that have required true and lasting courage. Certainly, this has often been the case with Christians. Repeatedly they have faced trials of faith, some so severe as to arouse fear or dread in most people.
How have true Christians been able to withstand great tests of faith? What gives them their courage?
WALKING WITH GOD
An unquestionable source of courage is ‘walking with God,’ that is, pursuing a course of righteousness that harmonizes with Jehovah God’s revealed truth. This means harmonizing one’s life with the will and purpose of God, no matter what all other persons are doing. In early human history, godly Enoch ‘walked with God.’ So did well-known Noah.—Gen. 5:24; 6:9.
Most Bible readers will recall that Noah was commissioned by God to build a mammoth ark for the preservation of human and animal life. Over a period of years, this devout man and his family carried on that construction work under the eyes of ridiculing humans. But the faithful patriarch and his family had the courage needed to complete that God-given work.—Gen. 6:13-22.
Yet something else had developed that called for abundant courage. Prior to Noah’s ark-building activities, “the sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose.” (Gen. 6:2) Obviously, the ‘sons of God’ here mentioned were not human males, for certainly they had ‘noticed the daughters of men’ long before this, had married them and thus had naturally contributed to the continuance of the human race. These “sons of the true God” were disobedient angels who had abandoned their proper heavenly place, had materialized fleshly bodies, and were now living with women. In fact, the Greek Septuagint Version found in the Alexandrine Manuscript reads “angels of God” instead of “sons of God” at Genesis 6:4. This harmonizes with the apostle Peter’s words regarding “the angels that sinned” and the statement of Jude about “the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place.”—2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6.
Increasing Noah’s need for courage was the fact that the union of disobedient angels and women produced a race of Nephilim. In Hebrew, this term is believed to mean “fellers,” or, “those who cause others to fall down.” Otherwise called “mighty ones,” these Nephilim were hybrid tyrants, or bullies, who added to the violence rampant in that pre-Flood world.—Gen. 6:4.
Amid such circumstances, Noah distinguished himself not only as the ark builder but as “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:5) Yes, he had the courage to speak up and tell his contemporaries that God had purposed to bring destruction upon the wicked in an earth-wide flood. Noah’s preaching of righteousness evidently included a call to repentance and a warning of coming destruction, for Jesus Christ mentioned those days and said that the people “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
But reflect briefly on the circumstances of Noah and his family in that pre-Flood period. Doubtless they were the objects of ridicule from men, women and children. Add to that the probable taunts of the Nephilim, apparently giants noted for violence. And what about the materialized disobedient angels? Would it not take courage to face them?
THE SOURCE OF COURAGE
Without doubt, ‘walking with God’ was at the very root of Noah’s courage. In fact, the only way that Noah and his family could carry on courageously amid such circumstances was by placing implicit trust in the true God. They had to have the confidence that Jehovah would, as foretold, bring an end to that ungodly world. (Gen. 6:3) Also, that patriarch and his family could have the added assurance that the ark was not being built for no purpose. Eventually it would be used. Moreover, their courage would be enhanced by reason of their having a close personal relationship with Jehovah, especially through prayer. And surely Noah and his family could have confidence that nothing would be permitted to happen to them that would be outside the divine providence.
At God’s due time, the Flood took place, and all the ridiculers and opposers were removed. Ungodly humans perished in the floodwaters, as did the Nephilim. The disobedient angels were compelled to dematerialize to save their lives. But, thenceforth, they would be restrained, occupying merely a position of divine disfavor until the future execution of God’s adverse judgment upon them. (2 Pet. 2:4) Only courageous Noah and his family were preserved on earth, being recipients of God’s favor at that time.
GODLY COURAGE TODAY
Like Noah, Jehovah’s Witnesses today are ‘preachers of righteousness.’ Theirs is both a message of warning and a call to repentance and reconciliation with Jehovah God. Whereas Noah and his family found themselves face to face with disobedient angels, godly persons today have unseen foes. But these true Christians have protective spiritual armor from God and thus can courageously carry on in the God-given work of preaching.—Eph. 6:10-18; Matt. 24:14.
Many people ridicule and oppose God’s present-day servants, sometimes even resorting to brutal persecution in an effort to still the lips of praisers of Jehovah. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are undeterred. Like Noah, they ‘walk with God’ and have the confidence that very soon Jehovah will do what he has promised—bring an end to this ungodly world, while preserving those who love righteousness. (2 Pet. 3:5-13) Also, the courage of true Christians is enhanced because of their close personal relationship with Jehovah through prayer. Furthermore, they realize that nothing will happen to them that God does not permit.—Compare Romans 8:28.
There is real comfort in knowing that “Jehovah will not forsake his people.” (Ps. 94:14) Mere humans cannot block God’s purposes or eradicate those who love him. Confidence in Jehovah’s promises, complete trust in him and the maintaining of a close personal relationship with the Most High—these are basic factors that give godly persons their courage. And that courage buoys them up in times of intense hardship and persecution, as is evident from the following account.