There is a big difference between courage and false, human bravado masquerading as courage. Courage is thoughtful, properly assesses risks, understands the necessity of the personal reward and refuses to allow fear and discouragement to impede progress.
You cannot be encouraged if you don’t already have courage. To encourage (IN-courage) is to pull the courage already within a person to the surface. Encouragement happens from deep within with existing resources.
The best way to encourage someone is to stoke the fire within their belly. I have found this to be true when I have visited the bedside of members who were facing death; spoken to young adults fearfully staring at an uncertain future after college graduation, sisters who have received pink slips or brothers who must fight those unavoidable battles of racism and nullification.
However, there are times when nobody can stir our pot or even fully understand what we are going through. Their words ring hollow or we find little value when they try to encourage us. Nobody knows the trouble we see, and we see a whole lot of trouble – unresolved issues and a whole lot of nasty battles ahead with limited resources and personal inadequacy. “You in a heap o’ trouba, boy.”
These circumstances require the kind of courage only God can put within us. We need courage that is not already within us. People cannot encourage us during these moments because we lack the inner fuel. This is why the words from our best motivators ring hollow in our neediest moment. We need what the Bible calls “good courage”. Good courage is God-courage and only He can give that to us.
When Israel was about to embark on the conquest of the Canaan, God said to Israel’s commander, Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:6). Jehovah repeatedly told Joshua to be strong and of good courage in Chapter 1. The enemies he faced conquering the Promised Land were deeply entrenched, fortified, united, and stubbornly resistant.
God said to Joshua, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said” (Joshua 1:3).
God-courage is based in faith. Faith is always based on what God has said (Romans 10:17). We don’t necessarily face physical enemies like those in Canaan. However, the enemies we face require a sword and shield of faith and the courage to fight the battle. However, armor is meaningless without courage.
We must take responsibility for encouraging and motivating ourselves after God has spoken. People who cannot encourage themselves end up whining, bellyaching, and complaining about everything.
God knew that Joshua was going into battles that nobody would fully understand. He knew that even those around him would need to draw strength from his leadership. He said to him, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
We have to remind ourselves continually of what God has said in moments of uncertainty. We meditate on those things and must repeatedly verbally whisper to ourselves those things that God has said. If God says the same thing to us several times, we had better get into the practice of constantly reminding ourselves by verbally repeating on a continual basis what He has said. His word puts good courage deep within us. Repeating those words to ourselves stirs that good courage within us at any given moment we need to motivate ourselves.
We have to stir good courage within, or rather encourage ourselves, when facing challenges that surface seemingly every day. Satan has won the battle when we feel like the last thing we need is to hear another Scripture. We encourage ourselves to get out of bed, face another day, do stuff we have no clue as to how to do, surrounded by folk who do not understand us, but need our courage to survive and thrive. We see God’s reward, but more importantly the necessity of the blessing for others beyond ourselves. God gives us courage not just for ourselves for the moment, but for that which is of eternal value.
So, one more time: ONLY be thou strong and of a GOOD courage.