Profiles in Courage

In 1955 a young Senator named John F. Kennedy wrote a book about several historical people who had acted with integrity and courage in politics. The book, which later won the Pulitzer Prize, was entitled, “Profiles in Courage.” Perhaps we also would do well to examine some Bible characters who acted courageously.

Caleb and Joshua — When twelve spies were sent to the land of promise, ten came back with a negative report (Num. 13:27-30). Caleb and Joshua showed remarkable courage in standing for their convictions: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). This faithful and optimistic stand nearly cost them their lives (Num. 14:10).

Esther — Whoever appeared before the Persian king uninvited faced almost certain death (Esther 4:11). When God’s people encountered a terrible plot against them, Queen Esther found herself in a position to save her countrymen. She risked her life by going to see the king: “So I will go to the king, which is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Nehemiah — Has there ever been, save for the Lord Himself, a wiser leader than Nehemiah? His focus on the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was remarkable, to say the least. Nehemiah was invited by his enemies to come meet them for a, “summit meeting.” His reply: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3). Do we view the Lord’s work as a great one?

Jeremiah — One of the most courageous preachers in the Bible refused to compromise truth for anybody — even the king himself! When Zedekiah pulled Jeremiah out of a dungeon and asked him, “is there any word from the Lord?” (Jer. 37:17), Jeremiah’s bold response was, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon!” Where are the Christians who will speak the truth so courageously today?

Jesus Christ — The life of Jesus is itself a profile in courage and integrity, but one particular incident stands out in this writer’s mind. Jesus had nearly been stoned for preaching God’s word (John 10:31), and when Lazarus died, He determined to go right back to where His life had been at risk. Thomas, one of the twelve, bleakly declared: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).

Steven — Steven was accused of blasphemy and called before the Jewish authorities in the temple (Acts 6:12-14). He then proceeded to preach exactly the sermon that the Jews needed to hear on that occasion — a sermon about rebellion against God Himself! At the conclusion, his audience responded by killing him (Acts 7:54-60).

Barnabas — Barnabas was an encourager, but in order to encourage, one must first have courage! Barnabas is the disciple who took the newly converted Saul of Tarsus and introduced him as a brother in Christ (Acts 9:26-27). Barnabas staked his very reputation on the power of the Gospel to convert a man like Saul! What faith he displayed!

Antipas — In Revelation 2:13 we read of a saint named Antipas who was, “killed among you, where Satan dwells.” Though this is all we know about Antipas, his courage must have been something to behold. Oh, how it should strengthen our faith to know that Christians believed in the Lord so strongly that they were willing to be faithful until death! — JB