Here are some of my favorite verses from the Bible on the topic of courage.
“In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you…”
(1 Pet 4:4)
“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled…”
(1 Pet 3:14)
And a longer one:
1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
(1 Cor 4:1-5)
Or this one:
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
(1 Cor 4:12-14)
Or this one:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.
18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
So often we have this very repressed view of Christianity as happiness, politeness and cleanliness. We don’t want to offend anyone, or to be disliked by anyone, or to make anyone feel bad about not knowing God and not living in a way that respects him.
Here’s John Piper explaining the importance of being “thick-skinned”:
One thing is for sure: if you begin to lead others you will be criticized. No one will be a significant spiritual leader if his aim is to please others and seek their approval. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “Am I seeking the favor of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men I should not be a servant of Christ.” Spiritual leaders do not seek the praises of men, they seek to please God. Dr. Carl Lundquist, former President of Bethel College and Seminary, said in his final report to the Baptist General Conference that there was hardly one of the 28 years in which he served the Conference that he was not actively opposed by many people.
If criticism disables us, we will never make it as spiritual leaders. I don’t mean that we must be the kind of people who don’t feel hurt, but rather that we must not be wiped out by the hurt. We must be able to say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We will feel the criticism but we will not be incapacitated by it. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart.”
Leaders must be able to digest depression because they will eat plenty of it. There will be many days when the temptation is very strong to quit because of unappreciative people. Criticism is one of Satan’s favorite weapons to try to get effective Christian leaders to throw in the towel.
And here is C.S. Lewis writing about courage:
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
– from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis
In my life, I have had to say things like this: “I’m really sorry that you don’t like me. I’m really sorry that my decision to honor God makes you uncomfortable. But I’m not going to change for you. I’m OK with being the underdog. I don’t have to be happy right now. I don’t need you to approve of what I am doing.”
It makes me laugh that people think I care what they think of me just because I don’t act against my conscience to approve of their sinning. I’ve thought through my views, and seen the evidence from peer-reviewed publications, and debated with people who disagree with me and I’ve won. I couldn’t care less about their desire for me to approve their reckless, selfish behavior. I interpret their desire for approval as weakness and I scorn their weakness. If they were right, they wouldn’t need my approval.
Every Christian comes to a point where the things we hoped that God would do for us do not happen, when our former allies fall away from us, when the people entrusted with caring for us failed in their obligations… at that point we have to decide what we are going to do with God. I think Psalm 27 is an excellent thing for people to read who are in that situation. It’s my favorite Psalm – I used to read it when my life was very difficult. And if things got difficult again, that’s where I’d go for comfort.
By the way, Christians should have an eye out for other Christians who are in distress while striving mightily for the Lord. Act self-sacrificially in a way that you strengthen their relationship with God in Christ. Make plans to support that person, and carry them out. Instead of reducing support for Christians to just private devotions, prayer and Bible reading, you ought to act to give them support that is calculated to solve the problem. That could involve the use of money, spending time, expending effort, resolving intellectual challenges, defeating a challenger in a discussion for them, writing them with advice… anything. Really, we need to stop turning inward when another Christian is in distress. Know what the Bible says first, pray second, then take action to solve the problem. Use your mind to think of what will get the job done. That is the goal, isn’t it?
You may enjoy listening to this lecture entitled “Giants in the Land“, by Dr. Walter Bradley. It talks about courage, and I would say that it is the lecture that best prepared me to not care what people would think of me. There’s a Bible study in the lecture, so have your Bible ready.