Chapter 12 – The Pursuit of Virtue – Faith and Courage

Faith:  believing the Word of God as the basis for action; having a fear of our Lord that is greater than the fear of the world; an all-embracing relationship with God based on trust, placing all cares into His hands as the way to overcoming worldliness

Courage:  willingness to act on faith regardless of deterrents; having faithful strength, perseverance, persistence, and willing obedience in times of sufferings, trials, temptations or peril

 

Faith isn’t mere belief; it is acting upon belief.  Courage is the degree to which we are willing to act upon our faith in God.  Together, they are the dynamics of a growing intimacy with God, the wheels on which we roll in our pursuit of virtue.  It is one thing to know the good news of the coming of Christ, and quite another to base all of our life’s decisions upon the gospel teachings.  Knowledge is a beginning, the realization that there is a need to be moving toward God, faith is each step we take toward Him.  The first step of faith is widely referred to as a “leap” because it moves a soul from the familiar, physical realm, into the yet unknown realm of the spirit.  For those who now choose to continue to grow, this is normally followed by many wobbly steps as we learn experientially that God is trustworthy, that His Word is Truth and His promises secure.  It helps to know that God makes all things work to the good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28), but it requires faith to put this knowledge into action, and then courage to remain faithful through adversity.

 

Faith

 

Faith has as many applications as our life has moments.  A veritable list of faithful champions is found in the book of Hebrews chapter 11.  It tells of many great deeds from the Old Testament and teaches what is possible when living by faith.  We are likewise called to put our beliefs into action, but this is as much an internal exercise as it is one that produces visible, external acts.  We are taught that God loves and cares for us (Jn.3:16, 1Jn.4:10), that Christ Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (Rom.3:21-26, Heb.2:16-17, 1Jn.2:1-3), and that in Christ we have the righteousness of God and are wholly acceptable to Him (Rom.15:15-17, 1Pe.2:4-10).  It is a matter of faith to put these beliefs into action by freeing our minds of all condemning thoughts that suggest we are 1) unworthy of His blessings or unqualified for service, 2) that our sins are so bad that we are unforgivable, 3) or that we are so wretched that we are unlovable even to God.  It is faith that calls us to identify ourselves as children of God as opposed to how we might otherwise see ourselves according to the flesh.  We exercise faith as we search ourselves for all ungodly thoughts and habits for the purpose of repentance, allowing the ways of God to be expressed through us, unhindered and unimpeded.  Faith should likewise enable us to forgive others and be free of any seeds of bitterness that prevent us from loving others as God loves us.

 

Courage

 

In our obedience to God, we carry out His will for us in both our normal routines as well as in answering specific callings.  Courage is required to part with old, familiar ways while learning the new, sometimes discomforting, ways of God.  Courage is also required when God calls us to act but our base instincts start squealing and screaming that such action is contrary to both our well-being and best interest.  Courage is the willingness to trust God firmly with sure knowledge that His ways are right and best.  Courage is the virtue that allows us to express our love for God and His ways in the face of adversity.  Courage is what enables us to keep our wits about us and pursue a righteous course of action even when the body trembles.  Courage is born of conviction; it grows with experience from intimate encounters with God that teach us He is trustworthy, that what we do in obedience to Him is truly right and best for all concerned.  Courage requires resolute affirmation that the eternal implications of the moment are of greater importance and worth than any immediate, temporal trauma.  Courage also enables us to sacrifice the status quo in order to introduce the potential for greater goodness.

 

If there is a rarity of courage, it may be because we perceive it to require dire external circumstances in order to be manifest.  This is not necessarily so, courage is required to address many internal issues as well.  Consider a painful event from the past whose wound still festers, or owning up to an addiction or sinful habit, or anything about ourselves or our lives that we prefer to avoid because thinking about it causes pain or discomfort.  These are all areas where courage is needed to redress our life’s issues in accord with the ways of God.  After deciding to address our personal issues, it is best to work with another Christian more experienced in the ways of spiritual growth.  An effective way to cultivate courage when dealing with our personal issues is to begin with a smaller, less potent demon, then use this experience to ensure our steps are sure in the ways of our Lord before proceeding to larger ones.  For those whose ungodly desires were removed by God all at once, the process of learning virtue should begin immediately lest the demons return sevenfold on account of the new believer’s lack of experience.  A firm foundation in Christ prevents making a difficult situation worse due to a believer’s lack of knowledge or understanding (Mt.12:43-45).  Exuberance accompanied with false bravado, incompetence from inexperience, and trepidation from lack of preparation, are a few human failings the demons exploit with jeer in their attempt to frustrate our good intentions.  Instead of this, we are to trust God, allowing Him to determine both the proper time and priorities, while maintaining an ear anxious to listen for His guidance.

 

Exercising courage exposes our human vulnerabilities.  Therefore, we must be practiced at drawing upon the strength of God to endure, to uphold us when our frailties would otherwise leave us wounded, struggling, and thrashing about for our own survival.  To make a stand for Christ, to thwart evil with goodness, to put ourselves at risk coming to the aid of another, all require that we be well versed in the ways of our Lord and that our identity be resolutely entrenched in our standing as children of God.  Without these, we may be putting ourselves at risk needlessly, or worse, doing so outside the will of God.  To prevent this, we allow the inspiration of God to be the sole motivator and instigator of our actions.  We must be willing to act as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers us, and then be prepared to faithfully endure whatever circumstances arise from answering His call.  We must also remain open to feedback and further instruction from the Holy Spirit.  The spirit of God within us is powerful, not timid.  May our actions be bold and our resolve everlasting, for our faith is in God, not ourselves.

 

 

Scriptural References:

 

Faith:

Rom.10:17, faith is born of hearing and learning the Word of God

2Cor.5:1-9, instruction to make decisions based on eternal truths and promises of God

Heb.11:1, faith is assurance of the grace of God, deeds based on being in His presence

Heb.11:4-5, examples of faith as action and not mere belief

Heb.11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God

Heb.11:7-33, more examples of faith as action and not mere belief

Jas.2:17, belief alone is not faith, faith is acting in accordance with our beliefs

1Jn.5:3-5, faith is learning to live according to His ways and parting with worldly ways

 

Courage:

Deut.31:3-9, courage as fearlessly trusting God; overcome through obedience

1Sam.17, faith and courage personified in David’s confrontation with Goliath

1Chr.28:9-10, 20, courage is necessary to act in obedience to God

2Chr.15:1-9, courage is needed to root out evil

Ps.27:14, courage as perseverance, waiting patiently to see the hand of God at work

Mic.3:7-9, courage comes from being strong in the Holy Spirit

Mt.9:1-8, courage needed to confess sins and accept forgiveness from Christ Jesus

Mt.9:20-22, courageous faith is rewarded, healing is the result

Mt.14:27, courage is ignoring worldly fears so that we may approach God boldly

Jn.16:33, courage as the conviction that the ways of God are right and best

1Cor.16:13, instruction to act firmly upon faith, and be strong in the Lord

Php.1:12-20, courage required to proclaim the gospel boldly and with right motives

2Tim.1:7-12, the spirit of God within us is powerful, preserving us as we serve Him

2Cor.5:5-7, with courage we are to walk by faith (spirit) and not by sight (flesh)

 

 

Commentaries:

 

Faith:  

“Faith is a relational power or a relationship which brings about the immediate, perfect and supranatural union of the believer with the God in whom he believes.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 189 #8

 

“Spiritual knowledge unites knower and known, ignorance is always a cause of change and self-division in the ignorant.  Hence nothing, according to sacred Scripture, will shift him who truly believes from the ground of his true faith, in which resides the permanence of his immutable and unchanging identity.  For he who has been united with the truth has the assurance that all is well with him, even though most people rebuke him for being out of his mind.  For without their being aware he has moved from delusion to the truth of real faith; and he knows for sure that he is not deranged as they say, but that through truth – simple and always immutably the same – he has been liberated from the fluctuating and fickle turmoil of the manifold forms of illusion.”

ibid. pg. 282 #91

 

Courage:

“Courage does not consist in defeating and oppressing one’s neighbor; for this is overbearingness, which oversteps the bounds of courage.  Nor again does it consist in fleeing terrified from the trials that come as a result of practicing the virtues; for this is cowardice and falls short of courage.  Courage itself consists in persisting in every good work and in overcoming the passions of the soul and body.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that it, against men, as was the case with the Jews of old, where to conquer other nations was to do the work of God; it is against principalities and powers, that is, against the unseen demons (cf. Eph.6:12).  He who is victorious conquers spiritually; otherwise he is conquered by the passions.  The warfare described in the Old Testament prefigures our spiritual warfare.”

St. Peter of Damaskos (11th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 258

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 12 – The Pursuit of Virtue – Faith and Courage

  1. Pingback: LACK OF FAITH CAN HINDER HEALING FOR SOUL, BODY AND SPIRIT | VINE AND BRANCH WORLD MINISTRIES.COM

  2. Pingback: A Primer on Virtue & Spiritual Growth Manual For Christians | A Primer on Virtue

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