What is godly courage? Whatever it is, we know from reading Scripture that we need it — we need courage to live out gospel truths. Let’s face it, we are Americans and we tend to embrace a really shallow understanding of courage. We often view courage like this:
Courage means that I can follow and obey God because He would never allow anything bad to happen to me.
Courage means that I can follow and obey God because life will be easier for me.
At the end of Philippians 1, Paul instructs believers that as they are marching side by side for the gospel’s sake, they should not be terrified by the adversaries. Should we not be terrified because we know that God will disallow anyone from killing us? I think not. Paul himself was most likely beheaded by the Roman government. Should we not be terrified because God will actually make our lives better if we serve him with courage? No. Paul himself got stoned and left for dead because he had courage! How could he live such a life?
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Since Paul’s life was so utterly bound up in Christ, he could say that life is Christ and death only means more Christ! That’s the basis for his courage — he knows that the adversary can’t destroy him, just his body — that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord — that life is a vapor — that the heavenly tribunal awaits and he wants to hear a “well done my good and faithful servant.”