Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good Courage? (LONG BLOG)

On Sunday after church I read a familiar verse, Psalms 31. I've kept the that verse in my memory for a few years, but reading it this time around two words stood out- good courage. ‘Be of good courage’ is a common phrase throughout the Bible and for the first time I found myself asking why.

After doing some studying I’ve came to see that Good Courage is an attitude of the heart. Good Courage is an outlook of confidence, boldness and expectation. It’s an outlook that remembers that God is God even in the toughest of situations. Be of Good Courage is often followed by the admonishment to Be Strong. Connected to ‘Be of Good Courage’ is a promise of things to come. The admonishment is to act like a winner; like you know you’re coming out of the situation you’re in. Saying Be of Good Courage is like Saying Don’t Lose Heart.

What is said of a player that goes all out? Typically it will be said of that player that he or she played with heart. They never gave up; they played with a winning attitude. Despite losing streaks and scoreboards, they always gave their best effort. I believe many times in life we are in the same situation but we cannot allow ourselves to break down psychologically and accept defeat. I look back Game 4 last week of the NBA Finals and how valiantly the Celtics played. The were down on the scoreboard, but they never disengaged from the game. The Lakers thought they had the game on lock, but then Boston struck back! The difference between the basketball game and our real lives is that for us there is much more hanging in the balance than a ring, a trophy and the fanfare.

If you think back to the cross Jesus was in a situation that it look like he lost, but he never lost heart. He never lost heart because he knew by faith that the battle was already won, he just had to press through to receive this reward. Jesus made a faith declaration when he declared before Golgatha, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (cheer is also translated as courage in this context).

It’s funny; I didn’t even intend to go in this direction. But let's delve deeper. The examples that jumped immediately into my head were the references to Good Courage in the beginning of Joshua (1:6-9). There is a similar admonition towards the end of Psalms 27.

All of these references use two Hebrew words, Amats (um) and Chazaq (qzr). speaks of being brave, bold, strong and determined and is translated into words like courage, established and fortify. The second word, AmatsChazaq primarily speaks of strength (resolve) and is translated into words like encourage, repair, strengthen, and stronger.

Over half of the 22 references to courage were accompanied by an admonishment to ‘be strong.’ Like when someone you know is doing the right thing, but stuck in a tough situation, and you try to encourage them by saying ‘Be Strong, you’re gonna make it’ or ‘‘It’s gonna be alright, I’m here for you.” This is very similar to what God is saying to us, ‘be strong, I got you. I’m gonna see you through' (Gal 6:9). ‘I’m here with you.'

-If you're like me you might have responded in you're heart “If God is with me, why the hell is all this going on?’

This frustration is very understandable but we cannot allow our hearts and hopes to grow weak. In our natural bodies, when our heart grows weak we become more susceptible to disease and sickness; so it is in the spiritual. When our hearts and hopes grow faint we become more susceptible to the lies of the enemy. The goal of the enemy is to dis empower you by severing you from God. This goal is accomplished through tampering with our trust. The same is true for a relationship, take a relationship that is going through a testing period and throw in a little bit of mistrust and it’s a wrap homie! The devil uses the same tricks when people are at their most vulnerable states (old lies, capturing new victims, i.e. Peter 5:8).

Okay, but I want to narrow the scope of the study by focusing on 3 verses (Joshua 1:9, Psalms 27:14, Psalms 31:24.) First, let’s take a look at Psalms 27:13-14.

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Verse thirteen is so on point, I can definitely relate to that. Verse 14 is begins with Wait on the Lord, a phrase that is often followed up with a promise (Isaiah 40:31). Similarly, Be of Good Courage is tied to a promise!! There is a functional purpose to be of good cheer! It’s not an empty phrase.

‘…And He shall strengthen your heart’ refers to the fulfillment of the promise. Until then do like Outkast and Hold On, Be Strong!

Now lets jump a few chapters ahead to Psalms 31. Psalms 31 begins with faith filled proclamations and ends with a strong encouragement but the middle (v. 9-13) is some real talk. David writes stuff like ‘My eye wastes away with grief… my bones waste away.. Fear is on every side…They scheme to take away my life.’ In other words his life is in a very precarious place, he has haters on every side conspiring to take his life. He is in a time of physical, psychological, and spiritual turmoil. But listen to how he moves on to something more important than his situation- his outlook.

14But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD…

15 My times are in Your hand..

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness…v.
21 ‘Blessed be the LORD’…For the LORD preserves the faithful


24 Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.”

Lastly there is Joshua 1:9 which reads,

" Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

What I like about this verse is that it is more than a strong affirmative, statement it is a command. Then the verse introduces two things that are antithetical to being courageous.

The Hebrew word for the word fear here is arats- which means to dread, to be oppressed, to be terrified, to break, ect.

The Hebrew word is for dismayed here is Chathath. Chathath means to be shattered, beaten down, break in pieces, or confounded.

I could give some illustrations, but I think ya’ll get the point. Essentially what I take away from this study is that it is important to guard your heart from fear and discouragement. Staying encouraged is like keeping a good immune system; you have to take care of yourself and be mindful when you are coming under attack to not behave passively. The biggest thing that sticks out to me is the importance of JOY. The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10 that the Joy of the Lord is our strength and we cannot allow our joy to be taken away because our joy is inextricably bound to our faith and the fulfillment of every single promise God makes. Often people reference Prov. 4:23 to talk about things like lust and other obvious temptations, but we must never forget how the enemy works through discouragement. So I implore you all to be on guard, and also to take some time to examine if there are people around you who need some encouragement. Many times simply being a listening ear can be the most comforting thing for someone who is in a rough spot. We can always offer to pray with people when they are down, but we shouldn’t forget the most practical items like simply-being there. Hanging out, watching movies, Starbux’in it up © are all ways that we can deepen our relationship with others and serve as an encouragement to our people. If you need some encouragement, holla.


By the way I will write a follow up, especially if ya’ll got comments. To be honest, this topic is challenging because it is something I’ve struggled with a lot this year. However, it makes sense why we need to cultivate Good Courage, it keeps us from turning back and giving up. When we lose heart, we've have lost the battle.



Joshua said...

"The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10 that the Joy of the Lord is our strength and we cannot allow our joy to be taken away because our joy is inextricably bound to our faith and the fulfillment of every single promise God makes."
You had a lot of good things to say in this blog, but this is the one that stood out to me. The reason that it does is because we lose this perspective so much. It is vital to have the vision that God is our strength and that His joy sustains us through our confusion and fear. The elder Zosima in "The Brother's Karamazav" says that "fear is the result of many lies." This idea is interesting in the context of your blog because it means that if we aren't connected to God and understanding God's sovereignty and purpose/character we will inevitably turn to fear. I am glad to hear that you are growing in your "good courage" in the Lord... also glad that you could join us in the skit last night. Peace.

katherine said...

I learn so much from you! Thank you!

Elliott Ashby said...

Likewise KT. Our conversations are sporadic, but always soo beneficial.