Bravery. Courage. What are they? What does it mean to be brave? This world offers a variety of answers to those questions. And an array of motivators. Not all of them are honest, or wholesome. Some of them don’t align with scripture. So as Christians, where does bravery come from, and where can we look for a definition
Bravery is more than optimism in uncertainty, or stoicism in hard circumstances. And sometimes humans exhibit bravery that doesn’t come from honorable motivation. But lasting, long-term bravery, the kind that causes a person to be labeled by others as brave, comes from faith. Biblical bravery is saying, “Because of Jesus, who He is and the power He provides, I will follow Him, even when it’s hard. I will do what’s right, regardless of the cost.” Biblical bravery comes from faith, and faith is doing all we honestly and ethically can and leaving the rest to God.
Lasting bravery and courage are based on scripture. They develop in our lives when we recognize:
God’s Forgiveness (Matthew 9:2)
True Righteousness (Proverbs 28:1)
Trust and Hope Rooted in God (Psalm 31:24)
God’s Promise (Joshua 1:9)
God’s Strength (1 John 4:4)
The Power of Prayer (Psalm 138:3)
In Matthew 14 we see a picture of courage. The scripture tells us that immediately after Jesus fed the 5000 Jesus made the disciples get on the boat. This isn’t the same boat outing we read about in Matthew 8. This time Jesus puts them on the boat, and He heads off to pray.
One can’t deny that the Disciples are exactly where Jesus wants them – it was Jesus who made them get on the boat. As the night wears on, this trip across the sea that should have taken about two hours was taking more than three times that as a storm brewed in the sea. As Christians we tend to assume if we are in the center of God’s will, we’re out of the path of the storm, but that simply isn’t true. Scripture teaches us that obedience doesn’t shield us from the storm, and sometimes it’s our obedience that leads us into it.
And here are the Disciples, aware that Jesus put them on the boat, growing tired and afraid as the trip doesn’t progress as they expected it to. The mythology with which they would have been familiar because of the pervasiveness of Greek thought in their culture found its way to the forefront of their minds. As the waves seemed to turn against them, they found themselves fearing the angry sea. And because of this, when Jesus appeared on the water, in the midst of the storm, instead of recognizing Him, they assumed He was a ghost – mythology was coloring their thought and leading their minds astray. How often do we let our minds wander from the truth of God’s Word, causing us to mistake His hand for something else?
Jesus announced Himself to them, and the words He used carried deep meaning – “It is I,” a variation of “I Am,” a reference to God anyone who knew the Jewish scriptures would understand, a proclamation that Jesus wasn’t just the guy these disciples had been following, but God incarnate.
Peter, impulsive Peter, hears Jesus, but he needs more encouragement. Peter asks Jesus, if it really is Him, to call Peter out of the boat. Whether you see Peter as the only disciple brave enough to call on Jesus and get out of the boat, or you see Peter as brash and disrespectful in his request, he is inarguably with Jesus. Peter provides a solid blueprint for us: We see Peter exercise the courage to believe Jesus, obey Jesus, follow Jesus, and then lose his focus on Jesus and get scared all over again, prompting Jesus to reach out to Peter. Peter held on to Jesus as they got back in the boat. And when Jesus got in the boat, the scripture says the wind and waves died down.
A night on the stormy seas, which were stilled when Jesus got into the boat, was enough to remind the Disciples of what they were learning time and again. They worshipped Jesus, proclaiming, “You truly are the Son of God.”
Miracle after miracle points to the same thing. The miracles aren’t about healing the sick or raising the dead. They aren’t about feeding the hungry or calming the seas. They’re about showing Jesus to be who He says He is, the Son of God. And in this particular miracle, we learn that sometimes we have to have the courage to allow Jesus to lead us into the storm to really know who He is.