If you want to do anything significant but hard, usually someone or something will discourage you. The word discourage, in fact, is the prefix dis, which means away combined with the word courage. To discourage is to take away someone’s courage. A deeply discouraged person can be rendered ineffective in whatever endeavor they feel inadequate to accomplish. Without courage, we are doing well to keep ground, never mind take it.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
When Abraham had very little, God promised him two great and improbable things; in numerous posterity and abundant land.
“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’”
Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The word encourage has the opposite meaning of the word discourage. To encourage means “to make strong, hearten.” The Lord encourages Joshua by telling him to be strong and courageous, and to refuse to be afraid or discouraged. How was he instructed to do this? By remembering that “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The word used for courageous in these passages is the Greek word amets (aw-mats’), which translates to mean to be brave and determined, strong, bold, alert. Courage is not blind to the challenges and risks ahead. It is determined, but alert and aware and moves ahead in strength. When we are courageous, we know that God is there, providing for the task and guiding and protecting us to successfully navigate the course that He has set before us.
The word discouraged means to be shattered or dismayed.
I Corinthians 16:13 continues on this theme. Paul tells us, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” Paul also links alertness (be on your guard) and faith in God’s promises with courage and strength. How is one strong? The word used here in the Greek is actually a synonym of courageous. It’s the Greek word andrízomai (an-drid’-zom-ahee) which means to act like a man, to be brave. The call here is to emotional and mental strength. Again, the meaning is to to pull yourself together and be brave.
Encouragement is all about understanding that God is with us, wherever we go. Our response should be to step out in faith, knowing that He will come through for us. Discouragement is born out of doubt in His promise to be with us. It dismays and even shatters us. It keeps us where we are because we can’t move forward. We fear what’s ahead, or we fear failing. Discouragement can cause us to allow the enemy to take what is already ours, because we aren’t alert or determined enough to fight for it.
After God’s directive to be strong and courageous, a series of strange events ensued as Joshua moved bravely ahead. God gave him faith-testing and difficult-to-understand directive. Miracles, such as a well-timed earthquake-like event, led to victory. Joshua 6:20 says, that after marching around the city 7 times, “When the people heard the sound of the rams' horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.” God did get the glory, and they devoted the city to Him (verse 21). Joshua had pulled it together and prevailed!
Perhaps Joshua needed to be told more than once to be courageous because it was so counterintuitive to be courageous in such a situation.
Many great heroes of the faith needed to be encouraged. In Samuel 30:6, we see David in a situation where he needed courage. It says, “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.” (New International Version) David was in a situation where he was seriously losing ground. He found his strength in God, even though nobody with him encouraged him.
Interestingly, the King James Version says, “but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” Both the New International Version and the King James Version demonstrate that strengthening and encouraging have same meaning as used in this verse, and that David understood that God was the source of this courage. Sometimes our strength and encouragement comes directly from God, sometimes it comes from other people, and sometimes we need to take the initiative to seek in God ourselves, as David did.
It is a constant in life that the enemy seeks to discourage us. In Psalm 42:11 (NLT), David begins by honestly confessing his discouragement to God. Then, mid-verse, he self-corrects by taking the focus off himself and puts it on God. David says,
“Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again--
my Savior and my God!”
When God promotes us in any way in life, He will always ask us to do things that require His presence and His actions.
Learning to be strong and courageous is essential if we want to be used by God to do amazing things for Him. Life is full of challenges that require such courage. Passivity can be our undoing if we don’t reach and grab the courage that God provides us when our faith is in Him. We can become defeated when we allow ourselves to be overcome with fear and anxiety and doubt God’s goodness. Christ’s empowering strength is available to those who trust in Him.
Be strong and courageous, whatever mountain may lie ahead of you! He will never leave or forsake you! Courage is yours to give to others around you, too! When your friend stands before an obstacle, remind him or her of God’s presence, love and deep concern. Help one another find courage when dismay seeks to overwhelm. Many people never see victory because no one reminds them of His faithfulness and power, and they simply give up. When we do encourage one another, we will see miracles happen, we will achieve victory, and God will receive the glory! Amen.