Part two of a series on courage.
When Israel’s beloved King David was close to death, he charged his son Solomon saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth, so be strong, act like a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to Him, and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:2-3).
King David knew that strength and courage were linked with maturity, responsibility, and faithfully following God’s directions. The Apostle Paul also charged New Testament believers, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous (literally, “act like the man,” i.e., adult rather than child); be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Being a grown-up in God’s developmental plan corresponds to being strong, being alert and standing firm in the faith. Both John the Baptist and Jesus exemplified this principle during their childhood. Their day-to-day life decisions reflected strength and maturity of spirit (Luke 1:80, 2:40, 47).
In these examples of the connection between courage and maturity, being strong and courageous is never the goal of our behavior or development. Instead, strength and courage are the means–the instruments by which we become the adult God intended.
We cannot grow up if only easy things happen to us. Even with the earliest developmental milestone courage is needed. When a child is learning to walk, it is the unrelenting attempts of getting up after falling that finally yields the skill of walking. This persistent pattern fits all the domains of development: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual.
Courage is essential to development because growth requires change. Change requires letting go, at least temporarily, of whatever securities we cling to in order to seize upon something even better. Surrendering our security, even for a greater good, requires courage. This greater good is growing into our full potential that God designed–living a life that reflects God’s nature in us “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Bill Beausay in his book Teenage Boys! (Waterbrook Press, 1998) writes, “Real self-esteem happens inside kids when they learn they can actually overcome an obstacle and do things, it’s built one brick at a time.” Without the firm persistence and following through with our responsibilities, obstacles cannot be overcome. None of us grow a healthy sense of who we are and what God intends without strength and courage. Instead of a beautiful structure built one brick at a time, a life without courage will resemble a discard pile of broken rubble.