‘Be Courageous and Strong!’
“Take courage! I have conquered the world.”—JOHN 16:33.
1. In view of what awaited the Israelites in Canaan, what encouragement did they receive?
WHEN the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses told them: “Be courageous and strong. Do not be afraid or suffer a shock before them, because Jehovah your God is the one marching with you.” Then Moses called Joshua, who was to lead the Israelites into Canaan, and repeated to him personally the counsel to be courageous. (Deuteronomy 31:6, 7) Later, Jehovah himself encouraged Joshua, saying: “Be courageous and strong . . . Only be courageous and very strong.” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9) Such words were timely. The Israelites would need courage to face the powerful enemies that awaited them on the other side of the Jordan.
2. What situation do we find ourselves in today, and what do we need?
2 Today, true Christians are soon to cross into the promised new world and, like Joshua, need to be courageous. (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 7:14) Our situation, though, is different from that of Joshua. Joshua fought with swords and spears. We fight a spiritual battle and never take up literal arms. (Isaiah 2:2-4; Ephesians 6:11-17) Moreover, Joshua had to fight many fierce battles even after entering the Promised Land. But we experience our fiercest struggles now—before we cross into the new world. Let us look at some situations that call for courage.
Why Do We Have to Struggle?
3. What does the Bible reveal about our chief opposer?
3 The apostle John wrote: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Those words show a basic reason why Christians have to struggle to maintain their faith. When a Christian keeps his integrity, it is to a degree a defeat for Satan the Devil. Hence, Satan goes about like “a roaring lion” trying to intimidate and devour faithful Christians. (1 Peter 5:8) Indeed, he wages war on anointed Christians and their companions. (Revelation 12:17) In this warfare, he uses humans who knowingly or unknowingly serve his ends. It takes courage to stand firm against Satan and all his agents.
4. What warning did Jesus give, but what quality have true Christians displayed?
4 Since Jesus knew that Satan and his agents would strenuously resist the good news, He warned his followers: “People will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matthew 24:9) Those words proved true in the first century, and they prove true today. Indeed, the persecution that some of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses have endured has been as harsh as any throughout history. Still, true Christians are courageous in the face of such pressure. They know that “trembling at men is what lays a snare,” and they do not want to be caught in a snare.—Proverbs 29:25.
5, 6. (a) What situations demand courage on our part? (b) How do faithful Christians react when their courage is put to the test?
5 There are other challenges besides persecution that call for courage on our part. For some, talking to strangers about the good news is a challenge. The courage of some schoolchildren is tested when they are called upon to recite a pledge of allegiance to the country or to the flag. Since such a pledge is virtually a religious expression, Christian children have boldly resolved to act in a way that pleases God, and their fine record has been heartwarming.
6 We also need courage when opposers maneuver the media into spreading bad reports about God’s servants or when they try to restrict true worship by scheming “trouble by decree.” (Psalm 94:20) For example, how should we feel when newspaper, radio, or television reports about Jehovah’s Witnesses are distortions or outright falsehoods? Should we be shocked? No. We expect such things. (Psalm 109:2) And we are not surprised when some believe the published lies and distortions, since “anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word.” (Proverbs 14:15) Still, loyal Christians refuse to believe just any statement made about their brothers, and they certainly do not allow bad publicity to cause them to miss Christian meetings, to slow down in the field ministry, or to waver in their faith. On the contrary, they “recommend [themselves] as God’s ministers . . . through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as [according to opponents] deceivers and yet [in reality] truthful.”—2 Corinthians 6:4, 8.
7. What searching questions could we ask ourselves?
7 Paul, writing to Timothy, said: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power . . . Therefore do not become ashamed of the witness about our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:7, 8; Mark 8:38) Having read those words, we can ask ourselves: ‘Am I ashamed of my faith, or am I courageous? At the place where I work (or go to school), do I let those around me know that I am a Witness of Jehovah, or do I try to hide the fact? Am I ashamed to be different from others, or am I proud to stand out because of my relationship with Jehovah?’ If anyone has negative feelings about preaching the good news or taking an unpopular stand, let him remember Jehovah’s counsel to Joshua: “Be courageous and strong.” Never forget, it is not the opinion of our workmates or our schoolmates that counts but the viewpoint of Jehovah and Jesus Christ.—Galatians 1:10.
How to Cultivate Courage
8, 9. (a) On one occasion, how was the courage of the early Christians put to the test? (b) How did Peter and John react in the face of threats, and what did they and their brothers experience?
8 How can we cultivate the kind of courage that will enable us to keep our integrity during these difficult times? Well, how did the early Christians cultivate courage? Consider what happened when the chief priests and older men in Jerusalem told Peter and John to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. The disciples refused and were threatened and then released. Thereupon, they rejoined the brothers, and they all prayed together, saying: “Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:13-29) In response, Jehovah strengthened them with holy spirit, and as Jewish leaders later testified, they “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching.—Acts 5:28.
9 Let us analyze what happened on that occasion. When the disciples were menaced by the Jewish leaders, they did not consider giving in under pressure. Rather, the disciples prayed for the courage to keep preaching. Then they acted in harmony with their prayer, and Jehovah strengthened them with his spirit. Their experience shows that what Paul wrote some years later in a different context applies to Christians when they are persecuted. Paul said: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:13.
10. How does Jeremiah’s experience help those who are timid by nature?
10 Suppose, though, that a person is timid by nature. Can he nevertheless serve Jehovah boldly in the face of opposition? Certainly! Remember Jeremiah’s reaction when Jehovah appointed him as a prophet. The young man said: “I am but a boy.” Clearly, he felt inadequate. Still, Jehovah encouraged him with these words: “Do not say, ‘I am but a boy.’ But to all those to whom I shall send you, you should go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak. Do not be afraid because of their faces, for ‘I am with you to deliver you.’” (Jeremiah 1:6-10) Jeremiah had confidence in Jehovah, and as a result, in Jehovah’s strength he overcame his hesitancy and became a remarkably courageous witness in Israel.
11. What helps Christians today to be like Jeremiah?
11 Anointed Christians today have a commission similar to that of Jeremiah, and supported by the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” they continue to proclaim Jehovah’s purposes, even in the face of apathy, mockery, and persecution. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) They take heart from Jehovah’s words to Jeremiah: “Do not be afraid.” They never forget that they have been commissioned by God and are preaching his message.—2 Corinthians 2:17.
Examples of Courage Worthy of Imitation
12. What excellent example of courage did Jesus provide, and how did he encourage his followers?
12 We can be helped in our efforts to develop courage if we meditate on the examples of others who, like Jeremiah, have acted courageously. (Psalm 77:12) For example, as we examine Jesus’ ministry, we are impressed by his boldness when he was tempted by Satan and when he faced the determined opposition of the Jewish leaders. (Luke 4:1-13; 20:19-47) In Jehovah’s strength, Jesus was unshakable, and shortly before his death, he said to his disciples: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33; 17:16) If Jesus’ disciples followed his example, they too would be conquerors. (1 John 2:6; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26) But they would need to “take courage.”
13. What encouragement did Paul provide for the Philippians?
13 Some years after Jesus’ death, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi. Later, Paul encouraged the Philippian congregation to keep “standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by [their] opponents.” To strengthen them in this, Paul said: “This very thing [the Christians’ being persecuted] is a proof of destruction for [the persecutors], but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God, because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”—Philippians 1:27-29.
14. What resulted in Rome from Paul’s boldness?
14 When Paul wrote to the congregation in Philippi, he was in prison again, this time in Rome. Still, he continued to preach boldly to others. With what result? He wrote: “My bonds have become public knowledge in association with Christ among all the Praetorian Guard and all the rest; and most of the brothers in the Lord, feeling confidence by reason of my prison bonds, are showing all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.”—Philippians 1:13, 14.
15. Where can we find fine examples of faith that will strengthen our determination to be courageous?
15 Paul’s example encourages us. So do the fine examples provided by modern-day Christians who have endured persecution in countries under dictatorial or clergy rule. The stories of a number of these have been reported in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and in Yearbooks of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As you read those histories, remember that the individuals whose stories are being told were ordinary people like us; but when they were in very difficult circumstances, Jehovah granted them power beyond what is normal and they endured. We can be certain that he will do the same for us if circumstances should demand it.
Our Courageous Stand Pleases and Honors Jehovah
16, 17. How can we today develop a courageous attitude?
16 If one stands firm for truth and righteousness, that is courageous. If one does so in spite of feeling afraid inside, that is even more courageous. Indeed, any Christian can be courageous if he truly wants to do Jehovah’s will, if he is determined to remain faithful, if he constantly relies on God, and if he always remembers that Jehovah has previously strengthened countless individuals like him. Moreover, when we realize that our courageous stand pleases and honors Jehovah, we are even more determined not to weaken. We are prepared to endure mockery or worse because we love him deeply.—1 John 2:5; 4:18.
17 Never forget that when we are suffering for our faith, it does not mean that we have done something wrong. (1 Peter 3:17) We are suffering for upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, for doing good, and for being no part of the world. In this regard, the apostle Peter said: “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.” Peter also said: “Let those who are suffering in harmony with the will of God keep on commending their souls to a faithful Creator while they are doing good.” (1 Peter 2:20; 4:19) Yes, our faith pleases our loving God, Jehovah, and brings honor to him. What a powerful reason to be courageous!
Speaking With Authorities
18, 19. When we take a courageous stand before a judge, what message are we, in effect, delivering?
18 When Jesus told his followers that they would be persecuted, he also said: “[Men] will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matthew 10:17, 18) To appear before a judge or a ruler because of false accusations takes courage. Still, when we boldly use such occasions to witness to those individuals, we are turning a difficult situation into an opportunity to accomplish something important. In effect, we convey to the ones judging us the words of Jehovah, recorded in the 2nd Psalm: “Now, O kings, exercise insight; let yourselves be corrected, O judges of the earth. Serve Jehovah with fear.” (Psalm 2:10, 11) Often, when Jehovah’s Witnesses have been falsely accused in court, judges have upheld freedom of worship, and we appreciate that. Some judges, however, have allowed themselves to be influenced by opposers. To such ones, the Scripture says: “Let yourselves be corrected.”
19 Judges should be aware that the highest law is that of Jehovah God. They should remember that all humans, including judges, are accountable to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. (Romans 14:10) As for us, whether we receive justice at the hands of a human judge or not, we have every reason to be courageous because Jehovah supports us. The Bible says: “Happy are all those taking refuge in him.”—Psalm 2:12.
20. Why can we be happy if we have to endure persecution and slander?
20 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.” (Matthew 5:11, 12) Of course, persecution itself is not pleasant, but our standing firm despite persecution, including slanderous reports in the media, is a cause for rejoicing. It means that we are pleasing Jehovah and will receive a reward. Our courageous stand shows that we have genuine faith and assures us of God’s approval. Indeed, it shows that we have complete trust in Jehovah. Such trust is vital for a Christian, as the following article will show.
What Did You Learn?
• What situations today call for courage?
• How can we cultivate the quality of courage?
• Who are some fine examples of courage?
• Why do we desire to act with courage?
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Simone Arnold (now Liebster) in Germany, Widdas Madona in Malawi, and Lydia and Oleksii Kurdas in Ukraine showed courage and resisted the wicked one
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We are not ashamed of the good news
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Paul’s courage in prison accomplished much for the good news
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If we courageously explain our Scriptural position to a judge, we are delivering an important message