Moral Courage

By Mike Willis

The Lord revealed that “the fearful” would be cast into hell along with the unbelieving, abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars (Rev. 21:8). Moral courage, therefore, is a character trait which those who desire to be saved must develop.

What Is Courage?

Webster defines courage as “the attitude or response of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful instead of withdrawing from it; the quality of being fearless or brave.” Its opposite is cowardly conduct. Rahab described the loss of courage in the hearts of the Canaanites as Israel moved to invade the promised land: “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you” (Josh. 2:11). A courageous man is one who is brave, willing to face his enemies and difficult circumstances, without withdrawing in fear.

What Gives A Man Courage?

Several passages show us what gives a man courage. Here are several suggestions which may help to develop courage:

1. One can have courage because of the Lord’s promise never to leave or forsake him. When the Lord commanded Joshua to be courageous, he said, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage” (Josh. 1:6-7). The Lord’s promise never to forsake his children gives them courage to face every foe (Heb. 13:5-6).

2. The knowledge that our enemies are the Lord’s enemies gives us courage. When young David went out to fight Goliath, he took courage when facing the Philistine champion from the knowledge that Goliath was the Lord’s enemy. Goliath defied the armies of the living God (1 Sam. 17:26). Hence, David asked, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Sam. 17:29)

We can take courage so long as our enemies are the enemies of the Lord as well. Wherein those who are against us are the Lord’s servants, proclaiming his divine will, we have reason for our hearts to melt within us. So long as our enemies are the Lord’s enemies, we can take courage.

3. A trust in the providence of God inspires courage. Moses told Israel to trust in their God. He said, “The eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). A knowledge that the Lord in heaven is aware when a sparrow dies and even knows the number of hairs on my head inspires me to trust in his watching, caring, and keeping of his saints. “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. . . . The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psa. 121:5-8).

4. A wholesome fear of God inspires courage. A fear of man creates timidity, cowardice, hypocrisy, fawning, and other ugly attributes of character. However, a wholesome fear of God creates courage in men’s hearts. Jesus inspired his disciples to withstand those who threatened their lives by saying, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28)

Esther showed this reverence for God when she risked her life to save her people. She had a greater fear of the Lord than she had of her husband king Ahasuerus or Haman. Mordecai exhorted her to have courage saying, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then there shall enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14).

5. A confidence that God hears and answers prayer inspires courage. David found the courage to face his enemies in the knowledge that he could present his plea to God and God would answer his prayer. There are many examples of this in the psalms, but one is Psalm 140. David prayed that the Lord would deliver him from the evil man (140:1) saying, “Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord. O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle” (140:6-7).

6. A confidence based on past deliverances inspires courage. When David faced Goliath, he found courage based on the Lord’s having delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear (1 Sam. 17:37). As we reflect on the difficult circumstances from which the Lord already has extricated us, we can find assurance that he will deliver us from present problems and face them with courage.

We Still Need Courageous Christians

1. We need courageous young people. There are many enemies facing our youth. They face the temptations of the devil daily, including the temptations of sensuality (pornography, petting, lasciviousness, fornication, etc.). They face the temptation to hide the sin of fornication through abortion. They face the temptation of drunkenness, whether induced by alcohol or drugs. They face the temptation of peer pressure to conform to the world in speech, dress, music, etc. They are tempted to conceal their faith, if not give it up altogether. We need young people with the courage to stand in the hour of temptation.

2. We need courageous parents. Our mothers face a tremendous assault from the devil. Today’s woman is tempted to conformed to this world’s mold of what a successful woman is, to minimize her role as a mother, to refuse to be submissive to her husband, and to look for a career outside the home. We need courageous young women who will stand against this temptation and be the kind of woman God depicted in Proverbs 31:10-31, instead of the modern woman depicted in the magazine and on the TV.

We need parents who will not allow the devil to determine their agenda for their children. Our world is sports crazy and many parents are wasting precious time with their children driving them to baseball, football, basketball, and track practice. Then they participate in choral groups and any number of other extra-curricular activities so that they will be well rounded children. The result is that parents are running in circles, filling their own and their children’s lives with secular activities to such an extent that there is no room for God and his church. We need courageous parents who will say “no” to this agenda and quietly take control of their homes, feeding their children the spiritual milk of the word.

3. We need courageous evangelists. Evangelists face a temptation to “tickle the ears” of those who assemble for worship (2 Tim. 4:3). Some members do not want a preacher to expose their sins of worldliness. They do not want a preacher who condemns them for allowing their children to attend the prom, for wearing the immodest dress of cheerleaders and twirlers, for going mixed swimming on public beaches, or social drinking. They do not want a preacher who rebukes them for putting other things ahead of God when they miss worship for social activities. They do not want a preacher who preaches against unscriptural divorce and remarriage. They do not want a preacher who exposes and opposes denominationalism by name. They do not want a preacher who calls the name of false brethren among us. Preachers are tempted to shape the message to please the people. We need men with courage filling the pulpits – men who will speak the word of God without fear of being fired.

4. We need courageous elders. We need men who meet the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and who have the courage to lead the congregation in obedience to God’s word. We need men willing to withdraw from the ungodly, regardless of how influential the family is in the congregation. We need elders who will stand behind the preaching of the word, even though the message may offend some prominent members.

We Need The Courage to Confess Sin

David manifested courage when he openly confessed to Nathan his sins with reference to Bathsheba (see Psa. 32, 51). David confessed two sins which were punishable by death – adultery and murder. Not knowing what lay ahead of him, he openly confessed his sin.

We need this kind of courage today. Christians need to openly confess their sins without regard to what circumstances may befall them. We should not try to hide our sins by clothing our confessions in ambiguity, but openly should say, “I have sinned.”

None of us lives sinlessly (1 Jn. 1:6-10). We stumble and fall from time to time. Jesus is willing to forgive our sins when we confess them to God and turn away from them in repentance. We need the courage to break away from the devil’s bondage, turn away from our sins, and openly confess them to God and others, as may be necessary (Jas. 5:16).


We witness the moral courage of several Bible characters such as Esther, Daniel, David, and Jesus. Let us learn to emulate their courage by building our faith in God.

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 20, pp. 610, 629-630
October 18, 1990