The Formation of Courage

Some people are born courageous, natural leaders who come out of the womb with resilient vision. Not Moses. Moses tried to assert himself early in life and ran away the moment things got hairy. Haunted by the fears of leadership, he preferred a quiet, stress-free life of obscurity. Then the Lord called him out of it. God heard the cries of His children in Egypt and promised redemption from their sin and suffering. God told Moses that He was going to deliver His people and that he would lead the way. This is the stuff leaders crave. Moses trembled.

Topics: Courage | The Bible

Some people are born courageous, natural leaders who come out of the womb with resilient vision. Not Moses. Moses tried to assert himself early in life and ran away the moment things got hairy. Haunted by the fears of leadership, he preferred a quiet, stress-free life of obscurity.

Then the Lord called him out of it. God heard the cries of His children in Egypt and promised redemption from their sin and suffering. God told Moses that He was going to deliver His people and that he would lead the way. This is the stuff leaders crave. Moses trembled.

But listen to what was written of Moses at his death: “His eyes were undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Gen. 34:7). It sounds like a different man. This epitaph speaks to who Moses became, not to who he had been. His is a story of Spirit-led transformation. For Moses, the natural man veered far from this description.

When God called out to Moses from the burning bush, Moses responded, “They won’t believe you came to me and they won’t listen to me either!” (Exod. 4:1). When the Lord provided a miracle, turning his staff into a snake, Moses scurried away in fear (Exod. 4:3). He walked back to the presence of God, not with courage but with more excuses: “I don’t know what to say, and I won’t know how to say it” (Exod. 4:10).

Moses’ fear was paralyzing, and his unbelief was palpable. His mission was his own comfort. He wanted a life that wouldn’t stretch his faith and bolster his dependence. He wanted nothing more than to succumb to his fears.

The Lord wouldn’t have it. He would not let Moses pawn the job off to someone with more aptitude. He wouldn’t settle for Moses’ crippling view of his calling. Moses’ call, like that of all God’s children, was to be an image-bearer – to show the world how good He is. And God is not weak, nor fickle, nor fearful. His children are weak vessels to be certain, but with abounding capacity to flourish in His power.

God’s promise to His children is to shape them into new creatures. It’s not to simply make the boldest among them bolder, but to instill courage and vigor into all of His children, especially the fearful.

The story is well-known. The Lord blessed Moses, growing him as a courageous leader. Moses stepped into his calling to lead Israel out of captivity. The Lord granted him confidence and courage – his eyes grew undimmed as he fixed his sight on the power of the Lord’s promises.

Paul picks up on the power of God’s promises in a letter to Timothy. He tells his young disciple, also struggling to be courageous, not to fear, worry or make excuses. He reminds him the good news of his own redemption. He has not “given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Why? The One whom Moses foreshadowed had come and lived the life of ultimate courage. Jesus too had unabated vigor and undimmed eyes. He knew what His death and resurrection would accomplish. His children would be redeemed from the power of sin – free from the enslavement of fear and doubt like Moses and like us.

The Holy Spirit now shapes the courage of Jesus in the life of the redeemed. This is the promise of His redemption. We are emboldened to partake in and proclaim, like Moses, this gift of the gospel.

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