The Holy Spirit and Courage
“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”- John 14:27b
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most influential philosophers in modern Western history, and he is well known for his rejection of Christianity. Among his criticisms of the Christian faith is his contention that Christianity strips people of courage and passion and does not inspire them to be “supermen” who, in light of the meaninglessness of life, are brave enough to cast off conventional morality and define their own right and wrong.
Nietzsche’s understanding of courage was rooted in his atheism and relativism, which made him unable to see that courage is, in fact, one of the most important Christian virtues. Scripture repeatedly calls us to courage, but it is a courage rooted not in ourselves but in our understanding that the Lord is with us. For instance, Deuteronomy 31:6 states: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
The Christian life is not a call to mere contemplation but a call to action, a call to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18–20). Sadly, however, the church has not always been faithful to this call, which has created barriers to the expansion of the church into all people groups. What accounts for this failure? Part of the problem is our cowardliness. The church is sometimes afraid to do God’s will because we fear the ramifications. Cowardliness is not the mere presence of fear but the refusal to act because of that fear. In fact, to be courageous requires us first to be afraid. It is no mark of courage to do what we are not afraid to do. Courage means doing what we know we need to do even when we are filled with fear.
As believers, we should be encouraged to do what is right despite our fear because of the Lord’s presence with us. And the New Testament makes it clear that the Lord is present with His church by means of the Holy Spirit. As we see in today’s passage, Christ calls us not to be afraid, and in the context of John 14, the reason we should not be afraid is the presence of the Holy Spirit among us as our “Helper” or, in other translations, our “Comforter” (v. 16). The word “Comforter” comes from the Latin phrase cum forte, or “with strength,” and it reflects the role of the Holy Spirit in giving strength and courage to His people. Translators chose this word because they understood the Spirit as the means of God’s dwelling with us to give us courage and strength.
The Holy Spirit is with His people to give them courage. Therefore, the question for us is whether we will follow His lead and do what is right even when we are afraid. Let us not look to ourselves for courage, but let us trust in God and follow what He says in His Word is right even when we are afraid of the earthly consequences.
Passages for Further Study
1 Chronicles 28:20
2 Corinthians 5:1–10