Planting Courage

Good morning again from Managua, Nicaragua!

In past posts I have written about the importance of planting what you want to harvest, both in farming and in life.  In that discussion, I talked about how the seed selection process is a vital piece of the puzzle.  The question is, if you know what you want to harvest, how do you ensure that you pick the correct seed to grow it?  In planting, many seeds look very similar and you could easily mistake one seed for another and end up with the wrong fruit.  I believe this true in our lives as well.  While I don’t know if there is full-proof way of ensuring you pick the right seed in every case, I do think we can learn a lot from looking at the past and going to a couple of trusted sources for words of wisdom. Over the next few weeks, I want to take a look at a few character traits that I want to be true of me and how I believe we can “sow” them into our lives.

Growing up, I can remember watching The Wizard of Oz many times.  If you haven’t seen the movie, Dorothy, the main character, and her house are swept up in a tornado and taken to the magical land of Oz where she meets a few interesting friends.  One of these friends is a lion who is a self-described coward and wishes he could one day find courage.  As they go through their journey in the land of Oz, the Cowardly Lion displays bravery, but doesn’t believe he is courageous because he continues to experience fear until he finally meets the Wizard of Oz who gives him a medal of valor to take away his fear and give him courage.  So is that how we become courageous people?

In my experience, the answer is yes and no.  I do not believe a medal of valor, or any tangible object for that matter, can truly bring us courage, but I do believe true courage comes from a belief and trust in something outside of and greater than ourselves.  A big part of the reason for this, I think, is that courage is not a lack of fear as our lion friend believed, but a willingness to keep moving forward despite the dangers ahead and the fears inside.  In fact, fear is not a bad thing as it warns us and helps us make wise decisions many times.  If you were to look at the lives of many people known for courage such as great military heroes, or people like Martin Luther King, you will find their belief in something greater than themselves is what allowed them to stand in the midst of fear where others couldn’t.  Another great example is a guy from the Bible named Joshua.  In the book of Numbers in the Bible we can read about the exploration of the land God had promised to the people of Israel when they left Egypt.  Upon returning, ten of the twelve men Moses had sent out to explore the land returned overwhelmed with fear about the challenge that awaited them.  Two of the spies, however, had a different perspective.  “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire assembly, ‘The land we passed through is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.'” (Numbers 14:6-8, NIV 1984)  Joshua’s courage was not self-driven, but came from a belief in God and His purpose for his life.  

What does that look like in our lives?  Honestly, I think it looks pretty much the same.  You see, this was just the beginning of the road for Joshua.  If we flip over a couple of books to Joshua (you must be doing something right if you have an ancient manuscript named after you), we can read these words God said to Joshua- “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6, NIV 1984)  It continues from there and Joshua does in fact lead them into the “Promised Land”.  It is important to note, however, these words in Joshua are recorded forty years after Joshua’s original report regarding the land God had promised them.  What I believe we can learn from Joshua, and other people in history who have lived courageous lives, is that real courage comes from continuously living out our belief in something greater than ourselves.  We don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, I believe you would find small steps of courage driven by his belief in God throughout Joshua’s life before he explored Canaan.  Living this out every day allowed him to courageously stand in the face of opposition that day and eventually equipped him to lead the people of Israel against the very people that once caused them to shrink with fear.  In applying this to our lives, I believe we need to do the same thing.  Despite our fears, we need to choose to stand for what is right every day because we believe real life is found in living for something greater than ourselves.  In beginning to do this with the small things, I believe we will be prepared to be courageous when the big things come.  To put it another way, by planting small seeds of courage each day, we will have a forest of courage when we need it.  As was true with Joshua, I believe there is no greater thing to live your life for and, therefore, gain your courage from the Creator of the Universe.  I can’t imagine any better place to build a foundation to stand in the storms that will inevitably come.  Got courage?  Why not start planting today?

– James Belt


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