Courage of the Heart

Courage is a quality that is so admired and I think so misunderstood. We all easily understand the word when we hear of soldiers risking and giving theirs live for others. Consider these verses from the book of Psalms:
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (27:14)

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (31:24)
I guess in a sense all courage emanates from the heart.. courage comes when a person's heart is stronger than their flesh. I think that it is interesting how these verses speak to the idea of waiting for the Lord.. courage of the heart is definitely needed when life is hard and God seems absent.. and we find ourselves waiting for Him to help us. In times when life seems darkest and God does not seem present we are faced with the need to take courage. In dark times I am often reminded of these verses from the book of Hebrews:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (4:14-16)

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (10:35-39)
Here is what I glean from those verses about our need for courage:
  • God is compassionate.. He is not the cause of our weaknesses and sufferings;
  • Prayer is the response of a courageous heart.. it takes courage to say "not my will but yours be done";
  • Faith is an exercise in courage.. faith and courage are both characteristics of a strong heart;
  • Courage is needed to persevere.. it is needed to do God's will;
  • Like a pleasing aroma, so is courage in the nostrils of God.
I wonder how many times courage and faith are intermixed.. in a sense faith is always needed for courage to manifest in our lives. We are on the front lines of a great spiritual battle and, like soldiers in battle, courage of the heart is so needed.

Who is not My Neighbor?

This image reminds me of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told the story in response to a Jewish lawyer's question concerning who was the neighbor that he should love as himself. Jesus sensed the duplicity of the question and confronted the man, and many in his audience, with the idea that the Jews did not love their neighboring Samaritans.

In the parable the religious Jews are showed as uncaring and the Samaritan is shown as the one filled with mercy. Martin Luther King, Jr framed the bottom line issue this way:

The first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

I wonder who Jesus would use today as an example to us of people we call neighbors but do not love or show mercy to. Perhaps this list might be a place to start? Maybe loving our neighbor is really not all that easy? Perchance we need a few more Samaritans in our lives?