“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
On occasion, we are faced with difficult, fearful, or even dangerous situations (real or imagined) that we can either turn our back on or enter into and face the risk.
Without risk, there is no need for courage.
In Hebrew, one of the words for courage is amatz, אָמַץ.
“Be strong and courageous (chazak v’amatz),” God tells Joshua.
After Moses’ death, Joshua needed strength and encouragement as the new leader of Israel.
So, three times God encourages him with these words as he prepares to lead the nation into the Promised Land.
The Hebrew word for strength — chazak — can also mean courage.
In fact, courage is derived from strength — and not just physical strength.
The Bible is full of instances of moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social strength that God expects His children to practice and excel at in our journey from glory to glory.
Let’s look at a few of them.
Be Strong and Courageous
The Hebrew word for strength, chazak, begins with the deep guttural and throaty ch (chet) and ends with a strong letter k (koof), with the confident z (zayin) in between. It has the sound of strength and force.
What kind of chazak does God expect us to have and when does He want us to use it? After all, there are a lot of risky situations we can walk into.
The Galilee-born disciple Peter risked his life when he cut off a soldier’s ear to defend His precious Messiah from being taken away. (John 18:10)
Unfortunately, Peter confused divine chazak with impetuousness, going after something without stopping to seek God’s will in the matter.
Yeshua, however, understood His role in the Father’s plan for mankind and accessed His immense spiritual strength that trusted in and relied on His Father, to obey Him.
As a result, Yeshua allowed the soldiers to arrest Him.
How to Receive Divine Courage
Sandwiched between two of the commands to be strong and courageous (chazak v’amatz), God explains to Joshua how to access that strength and courage:
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. … Do not be frightened or dismayed, for YHVH (the Lord) your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)
Joshua’s physical courage to enter into dangerous battles with pagan warriors and giants would be spiritually strengthened by God’s presence wherever he went, helping to ensure his victory, but only if Joshua kept God’s Word in his mind and heart — and obeyed.
Yeshua (Jesus) said something even more encouraging to His disciples:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
Out of love for God, we obey Him. In return He strengthens us so we can obey Him more fully.
The more of His strength we put into practice, the stronger and more proficient we become in using it. That is, we become more courageous.
Let’s see how this worked out for the disciples as they shared the love of Yeshua, beginning in Jerusalem.
Courage to Share the Gospel
After Peter and John healed a lame man in the name of Yeshua, the Sanhedrin (High Jewish Court) told them, “Stop it!” or they would undoubtedly face more imprisonment and flogging.
Instead of withdrawing, the disciples banded together and prayed for strength and boldness to continue sharing the love of God and healing in the name of Messiah Yeshua:
“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your Word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Yeshua.” (Acts 4:29–30)
Following this prayer of unity, the place supernaturally shook.
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
Sometimes we need to ask the Holy Spirit to refill us with His strength.
And sometimes, we need to ask others to band together with us in a united call for His power to fulfill our mission.
In Jewish understanding, individual strength is to be used for the encouragement and salvation of others.
In some Jewish synagogues, when they finish reading one of the five books of Moses (Torah), it is customary for them to shout out:
“Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek!”
“Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened.” Or “Let us strengthen one another!”
It is a reminder that the value of studying the Bible is not merely for personal spiritual development but to strengthen one another morally, spiritually, and intellectually so that we can step into courageous acts of obedience to God’s Word.
The exact words, “Chazak v’nitchazek חֲזַ֤ק וְנִתְחַזַּק֙” are found in 2 Samuel 10:12 when King David and Israel’s army are surrounded in front and to the rear.
David’s commander, Joab, tells his partner in command:
“Be strong, and let us be courageous for the sake of our people, and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what seems good to Him.
Courage to Disciple Nations
Sharing the Kingdom with those around us is the call of every follower of Yeshua. And it take God’s strength and courage to help us face the risks of the call.
Yeshua received death threats for healing others and ridicule for eating with sinners. The Apostle Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for freeing a demon possessed girl. Mary endured scorn from her own sister Martha for sitting at the feet of their friend, Yeshua.
Every day, we can find ways to love God and others at home, at work, at school, or the grocery store. Although we may face criticism, rejection, and persecution we can rejoice in knowing we were courageous for the Lord.
As Peter explained to new Believers in Yeshua:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Messiah’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when His glory is revealed.
”If you are reviled for the Name of Messiah, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
We must be on guard to not let discouragement replace God’s Spirit resting on us or living in us.
When we are discouraged, we struggle to take even the smallest action to fulfill God’s hopes and dreams for our lives. Nor are we fulfilling our call as ambassadors of the Living God.
Joshua could not afford to have any such discouragement. For the sake of Israel entering into the Promised Land, he had a mission to complete. His focus was to be on God’s presence wherever he would go.
“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
To dis-courage is to take away someone’s courage, but encouragement is always empowering. To be encouraged by God and other Believers is vital for our own growth as disciples and for making disciples.
As the Apostle Paul said, “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
In the face of daily terror on the streets of Israel, a song recorded by some 50 Jewish music artists encourages the nation to stand strong as they together sing these words:
“Chazak Chazak: We stand as one. Chazak Chazak. We must be strong.
Chazak Chazak. We will go on.” (lyrics to “Chazak Amenu”)
But these words alone cannot do what the power of God’s Spirit residing in us can!
When we are weak, then He is strong. In fact, His strength is made perfect in weakness … perfect! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
That’s better than just ordinary strength!
This is opposite to the way that the world works. We are trained to be self-sufficient and strong in ourselves, but Yeshua says,
“Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)