Thu February 24, 2022

By Shelly B Short

Courageous by Design

Daniel Bramlett

The word courage has been on my mind and heart the last few days since we rewatched the movie “Courageous.” (If you’ve never seen the movie, you absolutely should!) We watch movies like “Braveheart” and mistakenly walk away believing courage is the ability to do what is right in the face of extreme adversity. While courage is gritty, this definition is not completely accurate. Courage comes from the Lord. It is a gift He gives to the faithfully obedient. It isn’t just found on the High School football line or on the battlefield. While it certainly can appear in these places, the spot we most often find courage, it is much quieter and in the background. Courage shows itself every time a child of God chooses to obey when everything in his life says “No.” It’s present every time the tired father sits and listens to his kids and the worn out mother prays. It’s very present when we face decisions; one way is easy and the other is hard. When we choose the hard way because it is the right way, courage shows up.

I’m thinking about this word for more reasons than a good movie. We’ve been walking through the book of Judges for the last few months on Sunday mornings. This last week we unpacked the story of Jephthah. At first glance this guy appears to be a hero, full of courage and grit. But as we dig, we find almost exactly the opposite.

Israel is spiraling out of control as we approach Jephthah’s story. The narrator tells us they have adopted the gods of multiple nations and ignored the One, True God who has rescued them more times than they can count. They find themselves in a pickle again and reach out to God for some aid. This time He tells them “I’ve rescued you from all these other nations multiple times, yet you continue to forsake me and serve other gods; therefore, I will save you no more. Go, cry out to the other gods you’ve chosen; let them save you.” (Judges 10.11) God is giving them what they asked for: His absence. The people ignore this and “set their idols aside and serve the Lord.” They come up with a plan they think will please Him, but as soon as the opportunity arises, they leave Him and go their own way again. It didn’t take long for the opportunity to arise.

The enemy attacked and the leaders said “Let’s go get Jephthah to fight for us!” Jephthah was the son of a prostitute, so they kicked him out once he came of age. But now he had become a “mighty warrior” so they went begging. Jephthah has surrounded himself with what the Bible calls “empty men.” These guys were no good and he was their leader. They promised him the head position if he would come back and fight for them.

Boy did he ever come back. Jephthah haggled his way into a position of power and he wasn’t about to let go of it. To gain a little more confidence about the fight, he made a vow to offer whatever came out of his door to meet him back to God. The battle went well and his daughter just happened to be the first thing outside to greet him. He bemoaned her, but the fault lay squarely with him. This empty man was no good for Israel and only lasted six years as their leader.

Why did this story trouble me so much? Was it because of the mixed reviews on courage? I believe it was because I saw Israel rejecting God and heard God reject them. Then I see the Spirit of the Lord come upon this empty man, win the battle and kill his daughter. This is messed up! It wasn’t until I began to compare this story with the story of Saul, Israel’s first king, did I start to understand it. I believe God anointed Jephthah because they empty leader—the leader who doesn’t care about anything other than his own desires—because that is what Israel wanted. He let them taste this disaster first, so when Samuel came on the scene, they would know what a real Judge looked like.

I know God has given every single person reading this article some position of leadership. It may be in the business world, with your friends, in your home or at your Church. Every one of you has some area you are called to step up and lead out. Doing so courageously does not mean you have to be brash, loud or out front all of the time. It simply means you have to be obedient to the Lord, especially in the hard times. An empty man is created when we give into our own desires rather than submitting ourselves to the Lord. Over time this compiled rejection of everything faithful and good renders us empty and useless. Can an empty heart be redeemed? Absolutely, but not without sacrifice. If you sense emptiness in your life, I beg you turn back to the Lord now. Don’t get to the place where you think it pleases God to sacrifice your daughter to get what you want.