Creating Courageous Leaders

by Ivan Veldhuizen, Executive Director of International Ministries
leadership development

Courage is an essential characteristic of leaders. Through a recent study of Joshua’s leadership, I was again convicted that, for godly leadership, courage is absolutely essential. After all, God told Joshua to be “strong and courageous.”

So how do we become courageous?

Courage thrives with truth. Here’s what I mean. When we have all the information on something and fully embrace it, courage is ratcheted up.  The future king David had such stunning courage in facing Goliath because he saw more than most people saw. Rather than being paralyzed with fear at the size of the enemy and the tiny chances of success (from the human perspective), David also realized that God was bigger than Goliath, God was passionate about his glory in Israel and God would enable him to succeed. The young David didn’t check his brains out at the rim of the valley. He actually became courageous because he had the full truth and radically embraced it.

We need to embrace truth if we’re going to be courageous. I’m reminded of the early disciples in Acts 4 when, after being threatened by the snobbish religious leaders of Jerusalem, they ran back to their friends and fell on their knees in prayer. The situation looked bleak, and their resolve was waning. When they prayed, however, they restated the truth about what God wanted them to do, and what he promised them he would help them do. They embraced the greatness of God with fresh resolve, the urgency of their task and the sufficiency of God to get it done. The result? Christianity spread like wildfire. Courage was restored when the full truth of the situation was embraced.

Joshua two reveals at least three ways that God enlightens us and infuses us with courage:

1. We need to bring people into the inner circle of our life. Joshua did this when he “secretly sent two spies” into Canaan to spy out the land. This was not to determine if they would enter, but to provide the fullest information possible as they entered Canaan. These men entered Joshua’s inner circle. They helped him discover God’s plan and discern next steps, and they partnered with Joshua in doing what was right. Courage never grows in isolation. We were meant to have people who enter into our lives and help us to succeed.

2. We are often enlightened by the most unlikely sources. In the case of Joshua 2, it was through a harlot named Rahab that God spoke loud and clear. This is not the type of person through whom you would normally expect to experience God, but the spies certainly did. In fact, this foreign prostitute had such belief in God that she risked her life for the sake of the Israelites, proclaimed her allegiance to the God of heaven and earth and is listed in the Hebrews 11 hall of faith as a person of exceptional trust in God. The courage of Joshua and company was greatly enhanced by the life and faith of this unexpected God-follower. In our everyday world of living the Christian life—especially in cross-cultural settings—we can easily exclude those who don’t look, sound, live and believe just like us. However, God often reveals himself in the most unlikely ways. When he does, it’s powerful and often life-changing. It certainly was for the spies, Joshua and the Israelites. 

3. We are infused with courage when we see how God has gone before us. As the Israelite spies were seeking to understand the daunting challenges before them, they realized, more than anything else, that God was doing miraculous things before they ever arrived. Besides Rahab’s amazing faith in the face of a godless culture, the people of Canaan “melted away” at the thought of Israel’s presence. They had heard of God’s miraculous hand and unlimited power when he brought Israel through the Red Sea 40 years earlier. The Canaanites were paralyzed with fear when they thought about the Israelites’ amazing victory over two great kings in the area, Og and Sihon, 40 years earlier. And not only were the people of Canaan terrified of the Israelites, but God kept them that way for 40 years, transferring it over to the next new generation. It was obvious God was powerfully at work to provide this Promised Land for his own people.

God wants to give us The Land. He wants us to live in the fullness of his promises. Let us not be like the first generation of Israelites from Egypt, who cowered in fear, turned their backs on God and wimped out in a wilderness. Instead, let’s be like the second generation—boldly crossing the Jordan, entering the land with lionhearted courage and glorifying God by our faith-filled actions.

    Point - September 2018

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