By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Audie Murphy had to lie about his age when he did what he wanted to do so badly: enlist in the US Army when the US involvement in WW2 was just beginning. This younger than most any other soldier found opportunity and setting in the violence of war to show his great courage against a formidable enemy.
Courage requires opportunity and setting to be expressed, and Audie Murphy faced those with courage to the fullest. He was awarded the most medals for bravery of any other soldier in WW2.
Courage may not be seen as we live our lives day to day without an opportunity and the right setting to spring into action. There have to be these two elements for courage to be displayed and executed. Then, for someone to act in the right opportunity and setting, provided for them by providence, his or her courage must originate from an existing, deep-seated moral character, even if previously hidden.
There are actually more than these few who have so fearlessly acted, more with the same courage and character who could, at the right moment of opportunity and setting, display courage, but neither opportunity nor the right setting presented itself.
President Obama often lamented that he did not experience in his Presidency the same level of international crises that Presidents Bush before him and Trump after him faced. Therefore, he was never tested by similar crises.
Two Presidents whose birthdays we celebrate in February were tested in their presidencies: namely Washington and Lincoln. The American Revolution establishing a new nation was Washington’s, and a Civil War reunifying the same occurred under Lincoln. Both displayed great courage in these opportunities and settings; Washington, as both a military General commanding all American revolutionary forces prior to being the first President, and Lincoln as the war- President of a divided nation who led the country during the wrenching, drawn-out, bloody affair.
From whence comes the quintessential example and source of courage under fire? There must be a prototype of courage in the face of fierce opposition to turn to as our example of true courage stemming from the highest standard of moral character.
We may think that Jesus Christ never fought as a participant in physical conflict or war, that is, until He went to his trial, experiencing the worst of injustice, and underwent great torture, then final agonizing, excruciating crucifixion.
We may think His testing in the wilderness was only spiritual, but close attention leads you to see a battle that was both spiritual and physical. Weakening hunger and threat of violence was certainly present.
In any case, we take from Jesus the supreme example of courage in the face of relentless opposition, because the greatest enemy of all, Satan, was leading the forces of spiritual and physical enemies against Him. His moral character is pristine in His full opposition to these attackers, most of which you cannot see. He stands courageously against all that is thrown against Him. His courage was steadfast for those for whom He fought: namely, you and me.
Courage is primarily a virtue of character because it acts for others rather than for self. It seeks the good of colleagues or neighbors above our own safety. The opportunity and setting calls for your immediate action to avoid catastrophe. Courageous action, appearing sometimes as even supernatural intervention, saves the day for an individual or for a whole host of people.
Jesus acted on our behalf to save a people for Himself. The battle of complete obedience to His Father throughout his life, that you might rely on His righteousness, and finally, the battle on Golgotha was far more extensive than the recorded Gospel accounts, for the forces of evil were fully arraigned and focused on defeating Him, the King of kings.
They threw everything they had against Jesus to insure His defeat, but in the end they lost. Jesus, the master of courage, was victorious. As we seek to imitate the Savior, we need to ask Him to strengthen our courage to withstand Satan and his cohorts in the opportunities and settings in which he comes against us to seek our defeat and destruction. Be courageous in Him!