Courageous Through Faith and Godly Fear
“Be courageous and strong . . . Jehovah your God is with you.”—JOSHUA 1:9.
1, 2. (a) From a human point of view, what were Israel’s prospects of victory over the Canaanites? (b) What reassurance did Joshua receive?
IN 1473 B.C.E., the nation of Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land. Regarding the challenges ahead, Moses reminded the people: “You are today crossing the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified to the heavens, a people great and tall, the sons of Anakim, about whom you yourself have . . . heard it said, ‘Who can make a firm stand before the sons of Anak?’” (Deuteronomy 9:1, 2) Yes, these giant warriors were proverbial! Furthermore, some Canaanites had well-equipped armies, with horses and chariots that had iron scythes on the wheels.—Judges 4:13.
2 Israel, on the other hand, had been a nation of slaves and had just spent 40 years in the wilderness. Hence, from a human point of view, their chances of being victorious would seem remote. Yet, Moses had faith; he could ‘see’ Jehovah leading them. (Hebrews 11:27) “Jehovah your God is crossing before you,” Moses told the people. “He will annihilate them, and he himself will subdue them before you.” (Deuteronomy 9:3; Psalm 33:16, 17) After Moses’ death, Jehovah reassured Joshua of His backing, saying: “Get up, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Nobody will take a firm stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I proved to be with Moses I shall prove to be with you.”—Joshua 1:2, 5.
3. What contributed to Joshua’s faith and courage?
3 To have Jehovah’s support and guidance, Joshua must read and meditate on God’s Law and live by it. “Then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely,” said Jehovah. “Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and strong. Do not suffer shock or be terrified, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8, 9) Because Joshua listened to God, he proved to be courageous, strong, and successful. Most of his generation, however, did not listen. As a result, they were not successful, and they died in the wilderness.
A Faithless People Lacking Courage
4, 5. (a) How did the attitude of the ten spies compare with that of Joshua and Caleb? (b) What was Jehovah’s response to the people’s lack of faith?
4 Forty years earlier when Israel first approached Canaan, Moses sent 12 men to spy out the land. Ten returned fearful. “All the people whom we saw in the midst of it are men of extraordinary size,” they cried. “There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who are from the Nephilim; so that we became in our own eyes like grasshoppers.” Were “all the people”—not just the Anakim—giants? No. Were the Anakim descendants of the pre-Flood Nephilim? Of course not! Still, because of these distortions, a wave of fear spread through the camp. The people even wanted to return to Egypt, the land of their slavery!—Numbers 13:31–14:4.
5 Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, however, were eager to enter the Promised Land. The Canaanites “are bread to us,” they said. “Their shelter has turned away from over them, and Jehovah is with us. Do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9) Were Joshua and Caleb being foolishly optimistic? By no means! Along with the rest of the nation, they had seen Jehovah humiliate mighty Egypt and its gods by means of the Ten Plagues. Then they saw Jehovah drown Pharaoh and his military force in the Red Sea. (Psalm 136:15) Clearly, the fear shown by the ten spies and those who were influenced by them was inexcusable. “How long will they not put faith in me for all the signs that I performed in among them?” said Jehovah, expressing his deep hurt.—Numbers 14:11.
6. In what way is courage related to faith, and how is this seen in modern times?
6 Jehovah went right to the heart of the problem—the cowardly attitude of the people betrayed their lack of faith. Yes, faith and courage are intimately related, so much so that the apostle John could write concerning the Christian congregation and its spiritual warfare: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4) Today, faith like that of Joshua and Caleb has resulted in the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom worldwide by over six million Witnesses of Jehovah, young and old, strong and frail. No enemy has been able to silence this mighty, courageous army.—Romans 8:31.
Do Not “Shrink Back”
7. What does it mean to “shrink back”?
7 Jehovah’s servants today courageously preach the good news because they are of the same mind as the apostle Paul, who wrote: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:39) To “shrink back,” as Paul mentioned, does not mean just to experience a temporary bout of fear, for many faithful servants of God have at times been afraid. (1 Samuel 21:12; 1 Kings 19:1-4) Rather, it means “to draw back, withdraw,” to be “remiss in holding the truth,” explains one Bible dictionary. It adds that “shrink back” may be a metaphor based on “lowering a sail and so slackening the course” in regard to God’s service. Of course, those with strong faith give no consideration to “slackening the course” when difficulty arises—be it persecution, ill health, or some other trial. Instead, they press on in serving Jehovah, aware that he deeply cares for them and knows their limitations. (Psalm 55:22; 103:14) Do you have that kind of faith?
8, 9. (a) How did Jehovah strengthen the early Christians’ faith? (b) What can we do to build our faith?
8 At one time the apostles felt that their faith was lacking, so they said to Jesus: “Give us more faith.” (Luke 17:5) Their sincere request was answered, especially at Pentecost 33 C.E., when the promised holy spirit came upon the disciples and gave them deeper insight into God’s Word and purpose. (John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4) Their faith strengthened, the disciples embarked on a preaching campaign that despite opposition took the good news to “all creation that is under heaven.”—Colossians 1:23; Acts 1:8; 28:22.
9 In order to build our faith and to press on in our ministry, we too must study and meditate on the Scriptures and pray for holy spirit. Only by impressing God’s truth on our mind and heart—as Joshua, Caleb, and the early Christian disciples did—will we have faith that gives us the courage needed to endure in our spiritual warfare and to come off victorious.—Romans 10:17.
Faith—More Than Just Belief
10. What does true faith embrace?
10 As demonstrated by integrity-keepers of old, faith that leads to courage and endurance embraces more than mere belief in God. (James 2:19) It requires that we come to know Jehovah as a person and have full confidence in him. (Psalm 78:5-8; Proverbs 3:5, 6) It means believing with all our heart that paying heed to God’s laws and principles is in our very best interests. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Faith also involves having full assurance that Jehovah will fulfill all his promises and become “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:1, 6; Isaiah 55:11.
11. In what way were Joshua and Caleb blessed for their faith and courage?
11 Such faith is not static. It grows as we live the truth, “taste” the benefits, “see” answers to our prayers and, in other ways, sense Jehovah’s direction in our life. (Psalm 34:8; 1 John 5:14, 15) We can be certain that the faith of Joshua and Caleb deepened as they tasted God’s goodness. (Joshua 23:14) Consider these points: They survived the 40-year trek in the wilderness, as God had promised they would. (Numbers 14:27-30; 32:11, 12) They were given an active role in the six-year conquest of Canaan. Finally, they enjoyed an abundance of life and health and even received their own personal inheritances. How Jehovah rewards those who faithfully and courageously serve him!—Joshua 14:6, 9-14; 19:49, 50; 24:29.
12. How does Jehovah ‘magnify his saying’?
12 God’s loving-kindness to Joshua and Caleb calls to mind the psalmist’s words: “You have magnified your saying even above all your name.” (Psalm 138:2) When Jehovah attaches his name to a promise, the fulfillment of that promise is “magnified” in that it exceeds all expectations. (Ephesians 3:20) Yes, Jehovah never disappoints those who “take exquisite delight” in him.—Psalm 37:3, 4.
A Man Who “Pleased God Well”
13, 14. Why did Enoch need faith and courage?
13 We can learn much about faith and courage by considering the example set by another pre-Christian witness—Enoch. Even before he commenced prophesying, Enoch likely knew that his faith and courage would be put to the test. How so? Because Jehovah had stated in Eden that enmity, or hatred, would exist between those who serve God and those who serve Satan the Devil. (Genesis 3:15) Enoch also knew that this hatred had erupted early in human history when Cain murdered his brother Abel. Indeed, their father, Adam, lived for nearly 310 years after Enoch was born.—Genesis 5:3-18.
14 Despite these facts, however, Enoch courageously “went on walking with the true God” and condemned “the shocking things” that people said against Jehovah. (Genesis 5:22; Jude 14, 15) This fearless stand for true worship apparently made Enoch many enemies, putting his life in danger. In this instance, Jehovah spared his prophet the pangs of death. After revealing to Enoch “that he had pleased God well,” Jehovah “transferred” him from life to death, perhaps during a prophetic trance.—Hebrews 11:5, 13; Genesis 5:24.
15. What fine example did Enoch set for Jehovah’s servants today?
15 Immediately after mentioning Enoch’s transference, Paul again stressed the importance of faith, saying: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” (Hebrews 11:6) Yes, having faith gave Enoch the courage to walk with Jehovah and to proclaim His judgment message to a godless world. In this, Enoch set a fine example for us. We have a similar work to do in a world that is opposed to true worship and that is filled with every form of badness.—Psalm 92:7; Matthew 24:14; Revelation 12:17.
Courage Borne of Godly Fear
16, 17. Who was Obadiah, and in what circumstances did he find himself?
16 Besides faith, there is another quality that contributes to courage, namely the reverential fear of God. Let us consider an outstanding example of a God-fearing man who lived in the days of the prophet Elijah and of King Ahab, who ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel. During Ahab’s rule, Baal worship infected the northern kingdom on an unprecedented scale. In fact, 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the sacred pole, were “eating at the table of Jezebel,” Ahab’s wife.—1 Kings 16:30-33; 18:19.
17 A ruthless enemy of Jehovah, Jezebel tried to eradicate true worship from the land. She murdered some of Jehovah’s prophets and even tried to kill Elijah, who at God’s direction escaped by fleeing across the Jordan. (1 Kings 17:1-3; 18:13) Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to uphold pure worship in the northern kingdom back then? Worse still, what if you worked in the royal palace itself? That was the situation in which God-fearing Obadiah,* Ahab’s household steward, found himself.—1 Kings 18:3.
18. What made Obadiah exceptional as a worshipper of Jehovah?
18 Undoubtedly, Obadiah was both cautious and discreet in his worship of Jehovah. Still, he did not compromise. In fact, 1 Kings 18:3 tells us: “Obadiah himself had proved to be one greatly fearing Jehovah.” Yes, Obadiah’s fear of God was exceptional! This wholesome fear, in turn, gave him outstanding courage, as was demonstrated immediately after Jezebel murdered Jehovah’s prophets.
19. What did Obadiah do that demonstrated his courage?
19 We read: “It came about that when Jezebel cut off Jehovah’s prophets, Obadiah proceeded to take a hundred prophets and keep them hid by fifties in a cave, and he supplied them bread and water.” (1 Kings 18:4) As you can imagine, secretly feeding a hundred men was a very dangerous undertaking. Not only did Obadiah have to avoid getting caught by Ahab and Jezebel but he also had to avoid detection by the 850 false prophets who frequented the palace. Besides that, the many other false worshippers in the land, from peasants to princes, would no doubt have seized any opportunity to expose Obadiah so as to curry favor with the king and queen. Nevertheless, right under the noses of all these idolaters, Obadiah courageously attended to the needs of Jehovah’s prophets. How powerful the fear of God can be!
20. How did Obadiah’s godly fear help him, and how does his example help you?
20 Because Obadiah demonstrated courage through godly fear, Jehovah evidently shielded him from his enemies. Says Proverbs 29:25: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” Obadiah was not superhuman; he was afraid of getting caught and killed, just as we would be. (1 Kings 18:7-9, 12) Still, godly fear gave him the courage to rise above any fear of man he might have had. Obadiah is a fine example for all of us, especially for those who worship Jehovah at the risk of their freedom or even their life. (Matthew 24:9) Yes, may all of us strive to serve Jehovah “with godly fear and awe.”—Hebrews 12:28.
21. What will be considered in the following article?
21 Faith and godly fear are not the only qualities that build courage; love can be an even greater force. “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind,” wrote Paul. (2 Timothy 1:7) In the following article, we will see how love can help us to serve Jehovah courageously during these critical last days.—2 Timothy 3:1.
Not the prophet Obadiah.
Can You Answer?
• What contributed to the courage of Joshua and Caleb?
• What does true faith include?
• Why was Enoch fearless in proclaiming God’s judgment message?
• How does godly fear contribute to courage?
[Picture on page 16, 17]
Jehovah commanded Joshua: “Be courageous and strong”
[Picture on page 18]
Obadiah cared for and protected God’s prophets
[Pictures on page 19]
Enoch boldly spoke God’s word