We can see this in the lives of courageous women in the Bible.
I don’t usually think of myself as being timid, but 2 Timothy 1:7 prompted me to examine my life in this regard. “God did not give us a spirit of timidity,” this verse reads, “but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
Someone who is timid is anxious, trembling, easily frightened, and lacking in self-confidence. All this is the opposite of being courageous.
So God doesn’t want us to be timid, but courageous—and he has made it possible for us to live that way. How does this apply to women?
As I thought about this, the teaching about wives in 1 Peter 3 also came to mind—that in God’s view a precious quality in women is “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). This implies that what is valuable to God in a woman is her ability to rest confidently in him, without being anxious or trembling or easily frightened. This must be the spirit of courage.
Courage comes from cor, the Latin word for “heart.” Having courage means we meet danger or opposition with inner calmness and firmness. Such is the quiet spirit God so enjoys in us.
Bill Gothard has defined courage as “acting on the knowledge that he who is in me is greater than he who is against me.” In John 16:33 Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.”
What does it mean to be a courageous woman today? I don’t think it means leading great crusades or going out into battle. I’m reminded instead of such things as being a Christian mother, with the pressures that today face the family and children. It also takes courage today for a woman to be submissive, not only to God but also to her husband.
We can learn more about courage by considering the examples of many of the women in the Bible.
When I began studying this topic, Esther was the first woman in Scripture to come to mind. You probably know her story. She was chosen by the king of Persia to be his queen, and he did not know she was a Jew. When a plan to annihilate the Jews was put forward to the king and he agreed to it, Esther was informed of this by her uncle, Mordecai, who told her that she must do something. He said God must have chosen her for this moment.
What would we do in such a situation? I would probably panic—What do you mean I’ve got to do something? But Esther responded calmly and firmly, asking that the Jewish people join her in three days of fasting.
After praying and fasting, she also displayed courage by appearing before the king, since he had the right to put her to death because she came without being personally summoned. But he was pleased to see her, and accepted her invitation to a banquet she prepared.
At the banquet the king asked Esther what she wanted, and promised to give her up to half his kingdom. At this point I would have spoken up about the order to kill the Jews. But Esther was not anxious or frightened. Confidently trusting God, she invited the king to another banquet the following day. A woman of discretion knows to say the right thing in the right way at the right time. So often we blurt out whatever we want to say without waiting and trusting God for the right time.
On the night after the first banquet when the king could not sleep, he began reading the kingdom’s historical records and came across the account of the time Esther’s uncle saved the king from an assassination plot. The king was reminded that nothing had been done to honor Mordecai for this deed. Therefore he was receptive and responsive the following day when Esther shared with him the plight of her people. Esther had shown courageous discretion.
Abigail was married to a boorish man named Nabal, who was older, wealthy, and hard to know and be around. When Nabal refused to give provisions for David and his men who were nearby, David impetuously set out to destroy Nabal and his household.
Realizing the danger, Abigail responded courageously. In this life-threatening situation, she quickly took provisions herself and went out to meet David and persuade him to stop. She met danger and opposition with calmness and firmness.
Jochebed was Moses’ mother. Put yourself in her place. The Hebrews were in bondage in Egypt, and Pharaoh ordered that all their newborn male children be killed. Jochebed had a new baby boy. What was she to do?
As she kept him hidden for the first three months, I’m sure she prayed. If I were Jochebed and God then gave me the idea to make a basket and put my baby in it and place it in the river, I wouldn’t be sure that what God was telling me was right.
But Jochebed calmly and firmly obeyed what God asked her to do, and it worked. After Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the baby, Jochebed was able to continue nursing him until he grew older and went to Pharaoh’s court.
Jochebed was in an impossible situation, and God told her to do something different, something creative, something that would go against her logic. It was what God wanted, and she did it.
When you face danger, are you willing to respond by trying something creative and different?
With the Israelites coming to capture her home city of Jericho, Rahab could have thought, Look at the wall we have—surely we’ll be safe. But with sensitivity she believed and trusted God, even though she knew little about him.
She was therefore willing to risk being caught and accused of treason for hiding Joshua’s spies on her roof. The officials of Jericho would have no difficulty doing away with her if they discovered her actions. But she risked her life because she believed God.
Would I be willing to do that? If God asked me to risk my life, would I question him? I have to ask myself how strong my faith in him is.
THE WOMAN OF ABEL
In 2 Samuel 20 we read about Sheba, a man who rebelled against David, and who took refuge from troops loyal to David by withdrawing inside the walls of Abel, a city known for its wisdom. The loyal troops, led by David’s commander Joab, pursued Sheba there, and attacked Abel’s walls.
Verse fifteen begins the account of how a courageous woman in Abel saved her city from destruction by Joab’s troops.
While they were battering the wall to bring it down, a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
She continued “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”
“Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”
The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”
Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home.
There were surely many wise men in Abel, but in this situation a woman took the initiative to talk to the commander of the troops attacking the city. Instead of being easily frightened, she was willing to act boldly.
What do we do in situations where there are disagreements and discord? If you know of someone having problems with someone else, do you pray for them and encourage them to get together and find a way to be reconciled? If you yourself feel at odds with someone, do you have the courage to go to him or her and say, “I feel there’s a wall between us, and I want to take it down”?
Eunice was the mother of Timothy, to whom she passed on her sincere faith in God, and of whom Paul said, “From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:15). It takes courage for women to teach the Scriptures to their children, especially when their husbands are not believers and do not take the responsibility of teaching the children God’s word. But we have an example in Eunice.
Anna was married only seven years before her husband died. She then served God in the temple until she was eighty-four by praying and fasting. How would we respond if we lost our husband or someone else very close to us? How would it affect the rest of our life?
Anna bravely realized that God could meet all her needs, and that serving him was the greatest and most satisfying thing she could do. She knew that in God she was complete. And as we see in Luke 2, she was rewarded for her courageous faith by being allowed to see the infant Jesus when he was brought into the temple.
MARY OF BETHANY
One more woman in the Bible we’ll consider is Mary of Bethany. We aren’t told of any unusual talent Mary had. She seems be a woman much like any of us. What can we learn from her relationship with Jesus?
As we examine her life, we see that everything Mary did was in relation to Jesus’ feet She sat at his feet and listened to his teaching. She fell at his feet when he came to her after her brother Lazarus died. And she wiped his feet with her hair after anointing him with perfume, She was humble, and she respected and honored Jesus.
Being truly courageous—meeting situations with calmness and firmness without being frightened—can be done only if we’ve been at the feet of Christ, and have reverence for him. We can’t really be courageous in our own strength. But we can do all things through him who strengthens us.
I think Mary knew this secret. She had courage first of all to trust in God’s sovereignty. When she fell at Jesus’ feet after the death of Lazarus, she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). She realized his power—that he could make a difference and could change things. And of course she realized this even more after he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Do we understand God’s sovereignty? I like to think of it in this way: Anything that happens in my life over which I have no control, I accept as coming from God. I can control some things, such as my speech and actions and thoughts. If I say something hastily and hurt someone because of it, I can’t say that was God’s will.
But because we give our lives to God and we belong to him, and we want his will done in our lives, we can accept as his will anything we have no control over—a flat tire or a washing machine that breaks down or the things our children are exposed to in school. We don’t have to fall apart when unwelcome things happen to us, because God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
In situations that would devastate others, we can be courageous and confident because we have God’s power in our lives. We can trust God and his sovereignty, rather than having the narrow mentality that Mary’s sister Martha had when Jesus went to the tomb to raise Lazarus—”But, Lord,” she said, “by this time there is a bad odor” (John 11:39).
Elisabeth Elliot wrote this prayer in her Bible as a teenager:
Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will in my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.
It takes courage to trust in God’s sovereignty, because his will may bring things into our lives that we’re not sure about. But a life of trust in God is the greatest life there is.
Mary also showed courage in sitting at Jesus’ feet to hear his words. She was not frightened by her sister Martha, who wanted Mary to help her in housework. Mary knew where she needed to be, and she was self—disciplined enough to stay there.
God has given us a spirit of self-discipline. But how often do we choose work in the kitchen over adequate time each day at the feet of Jesus? This is a real battle for me—the discipline of my daily quiet time with God. It’s so easy for me to let everything else crowd out my fifteen to thirty minutes with God each day, because I’m not disciplined. Discipline is saying no to yourself, and realizing, I don’t need to be in the kitchen just now—I need to be in God’s word.
In this it is difficult for us to be courageous women today. There are so many pressures on us, so much to tear us away from the things that are truly important. But we can apply to our use of time the discipline God gives us.
Jesus commended Mary for staying at his feet—”Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Are you choosing what is better? Are you going to Jesus each day, learning from his word and spending time in prayer?
Mary was convinced of the Lord’s worthiness. She took what was perhaps the most valuable thing she had—a vial of perfume—and anointed Jesus with it. Her deed and what it means reminds me of Revelation 4:11—”You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”
How worthy is God in your life? What have you given him? How do you show him your love?
Mary gave what she had. This was true also of Anna, who prayed and fasted, and of Dorcas, “who was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). They did what they could.
God wants us to be courageous, to trust him in a calm and quiet spirit with all our heart. I thank God that he has given us this spirit—one of power, love, and self-discipline—so we can be women who bring honor to his name.
Lesson: God doesn’t want us to be timid, so he has
equipped us to be powerful, loving, and self-disciplined—aspects of courage.