The Courage to Act

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.   Joshua 1:6

Much debate took place among diplomats and political leaders during the 1930s over the type of relationship they should have with Adolph Hitler.  Many spoke of appeasement and counseled a non-confrontational approach.  Others were less sympathetic to what they already saw as a dangerous precedent.  It took a long time to know, with certainty, what type of person and regime they were dealing with.  But once that verdict was reached, their relationship with Hitler changed quickly from one of appeasement to one of active resistance.

The book of Ecclesiastes agrees that there is a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3:8).  There is, similarly, a time to wait as well as a time to fight for what we have been waiting for. And the wisdom to know the difference requires precise and careful discernment, especially when the resulting actions are such opposite ones.  Is it a time to wait further on the Lord, or a time to lay claim to what God has given us?

For many of us, the discipline of waiting on God is the one that we most need to cultivate.  If we are to truly know God’s leading in our lives we need to curtail our propensity for going ahead, too soon, in our own strength.  But people who are practiced at the art of waiting on the Lord must also be careful to not assume that this same recourse applies to all situations.  There is an important distinction that needs to be made between resignation and waiting on God in faith.

Though it often masquerades as faith, resignation is actually a form of spiritual laziness, or worse, of defeatism with regards to hope. The root meaning of this word is to “give up a position.”  Resignation no longer leans forward, but now leans back as it adopts a philosophical stance that is more akin to fatalism than faith.  Though it accepts its predicament it no longer does so in a disposition of hope, but one that actually disempowers that hope.  Its effects serve to weaken rather than strengthen our faith.  Those who opt for resignation neutralize the process of discernment and, because they are afraid to hope, they are no longer in a ready position to act.  In times when we should be mustering the courage to act, the enemy, as it was with Hitler, is quite happy to see us resigned to the side-lines.

Israel spent years in the desert learning to wait on the Lord.  There, they were tempted with doubt and discouragement with regards to God’s promises.  But after forty years of learning how to walk at the pace of God, there came a moment when it was finally time to act.  They were now called to take possession of the land that had been promised them, and to do battle with whatever opposed them in this.  “Be strong and courageous,” the Lord told Joshua, “because you will lead these people to inherit the land.”  To wait any longer before claiming God’s promise, at this stage of discernment, would be disobedience.

What are the things in your own life that God is calling you to lay claim to?  How are you tempted at times to simply resign yourself to what is?  In what ways would this be tantamount to giving up on hope?  And what would the empowerment of faith look like instead?  These are questions that are well worth exploring with regards to the subtlety of our disposition—whether we are truly exercising faith, or whether we have given up and replaced faith with resignation.