The Bible repeatedly urges God’s servants to: Be courageous; and don’t be afraid.
The Bible also continually warns God’s servants (and others) to: Be humble; and don’t be proud.
These bits of counsel may seem contradictory. Yet, by looking deeper, we see they are beautifully harmonious. I believe the common sense of the world has muddled our understanding.
To many people, courage is synonymous with bold, out-front-style leadership; much like a hero dashing into a fight. Many a brash and reckless person has been considered brave. And with our flawed, sinful natures, any kind of success, victory, or heroism usually leads us to pride. So, we have often linked courage to pride. We continue this charade when we continually wink at the excesses of the egotistical especially when they are good at what they do. We have come to believe that courage and pride are flip-sides of the same coin; that we cannot have one without the other; a weakness for every strength, etc.
To some people, being humble is synonymous with being a fearful, weak door-mat; the kind of invisible, unimportant person everybody steps on and nobody wants to be. A humble attitude does not jive with our culture’s current Self-love/Self-respect philosophy. So we tag humility as fear and timidity and lock it away with the other weak, undesirable traits.
When we begin to understand the true nature of both pride and humility, the picture becomes much clearer and simpler. A mix-up has, indeed, occurred. Pride and courage do not belong together; and a humble heart and a fearful heart are not the same.
In truth, pride is closely related to fear. Pride has to gather all honor and rewards now, because it is fearful of not being paid its due. Fear screams to be noticed and calmed. Neither pride nor fear can wait; having no patience, faith, or trust. The proud heart is a fearful heart; and a fearful heart is a proud heart. Pride and fear both devastate the human heart with extreme weakness.
The courageous is brother to the humble. They are both strong in a manner the world has long forgotten; a quiet, deep trust in God. Bravery and humility are both free from the frantic cries of fear and the me-centered demands of pride. The humble heart is a courageous heart; and a courageous heart is a humble heart. These are the strongest hearts of all mankind.
So, you may ask: How can I be courageous and avoid pride; And how can I be humble and avoid fear? The answer is found, as are all answers, in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was humility personified. He purposely laid aside His Godhood and took on the nature of a servant. Holy God touched unholy humanity. He laid down everything He was and picked up everything we were; taking our sins, our shame, and our punishment … on Himself. Yet, can we think for a moment that Jesus was weak … or fearful … or lacking in courage? Never. He faced His grim task head-on. Jesus was strong and determined; stronger than anyone else in all of history; more courageous than all other heroes combined. It took great courage to purposely lay down His might and allow Himself to suffer so intensely; for crimes He had not committed; for those who were currently His enemies; for many who would never reciprocate His love. Not once did Jesus forget who He was and what His mission was. He had a peaceful, confident strength that did not need to be on full display to be effective. Just as the setting sun and the night sky do not negate the fact that the sun is still shining in all its glory.
Many have supposed the meekness of Jesus to be weakness. Yet, He had complete control of every situation and could have destroyed every mocker, beater, and persecutor. He held back out of love and great mercy. Meekness is great power under even greater control. If this be God’s weakness, it is vastly superior to all of man’s strength combined. Man roars at God and does not even squeak in a tiny speck of the vast universe … God whispers to man and thunders throughout the cosmos.
So, where does a mere human, easily swayed toward pride and fear, gather the deep peace and confident trust necessary to be humble and courageous in the face of difficult troubles or even stunning victories? From Jesus.
Let’s be strong in the power and might of our Lord Jesus Christ; in the grace and strength only His Holy Spirit can give. We gather this strength directly from Him by abiding or dwelling in Him. Jesus likened this power transfer to a branch attached to and gathering its life from a vine, possibly a grapevine. (See John 15.) David and Jeremiah both compared this power transfer to a tree reaching its roots deep into the soil and tapping into a nearby ample water source. (See Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8.) Practically, this means spending time in Jesus’ presence; talking to Him, listening to Him, and learning from His written Word, the Bible.
So let us reject pride and fear as the weaknesses they are, and use our Lord’s great strength to courageously, humbly, and meekly serve Him. In this way, we can walk gently and kindly among men as He did.
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”
“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”
“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
“Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God. So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.”
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” ~ Jesus
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”
“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”
“And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’”
1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”