It is through the initial action of courage that faith in God is developed. Think about all the times when you doubted God but mustered the courage to trust Him. Then after God responded faithfully, you grew in your faith and trusted Him more fully. Aren’t you still doing this?
Your children need opportunities to build courage. They need opportunities to manage the uncertainty that surges within them at times if they are ultimately to develop faith in God.
What does it mean to have courage?
When you begin your focus on this essential attribute, explain to your child that courage is “trusting God, even when my doubts and fears want to be in charge.” The last portion of this definition is something that every child can quickly grasp and understand: being in charge. Wanting to be the boss and telling others what to do is a natural human tendency. We need to work with our children to teach them that God is our boss, and we follow His laws and ways.
Help your children understand that God is continually with them.
This leads into the first portion of the definition: trusting God. Work with your children to help them understand the enormous amount of love and concern that God has for them. Share all that God has in store for them. When you praise your child, be sure to include how pleased God and Christ are as well. Help your children understand that God is continually with them (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Share your memories of when your child was blessed (during the blessing of children ceremony). And equally important: Personally continue to ask God to honor and fulfill that blessing. Help your child know God so he or she can trust Him—and want to trust Him.
The courage of Joshua
When studying the faithful servants within the Scriptures, the attribute of courage can always be found in abundance within their lives. The account of Joshua is an outstanding example to use when illustrating the quality of courage to your child. Joshua experienced the hardship of slavery in Egypt. He witnessed the power of God as He led Israel out of captivity. He walked through the Red Sea. He spied the riches and abundance of the Promised Land, urging the people not to rebel against the Lord. He wandered in the desert for 40 years, sheltered from the dishonor of death (Numbers 32:11-12). Joshua trusted God and witnessed miracle after miracle.
The Eternal knew that Joshua would need this encouragement ... to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, and beyond.
Yet even with all these powerful testimonies of God’s presence, Moses was inspired to provide a foundational directive to Joshua. What was the charge given to this man who had witnessed the wonderful saving power of the Holy One of Israel? It was this: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The Eternal knew that Joshua would need this encouragement to remain resolute as he received the commission to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, and beyond.
What allowed him to continue steadfastly in leading God’s people?
Joshua not only entered into Canaan, he also defeated Jericho and other surrounding nations. What allowed him to continue steadfastly in leading God’s people? Courage: a steady trust that God was leading him and Israel.
The courage of your family
As you shepherd your child in building courage, it is important to recount God’s help and intervention in your family’s life. What battle did the Lord go before you to win? What walls did God make fall for your household? What miraculous event has God performed to display his unfaltering love and care for you? It is important to help your child be mindful of the continual need to guard our thoughts from “taking charge” and telling us all that can go wrong, which only increases our fears and doubts.
What amount of courage did Esther need to face King Ahasuerus? How did God provide courage to Gideon? In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego displayed unwavering valor. The Bible is replete with examples of courageous servants. Share them in abundance with your children. And don’t forget to share personal examples available from your own life as well.
Actively build courage
It will not matter how much of God’s truth your child possesses if he or she does not have the courage to act upon it. Your child needs courage to be honest and upright, regardless of the potential outcome. Your child needs courage to ask for and extend forgiveness if relationships are to flourish. Most importantly, your child needs courage to stand up for God’s way of life! Courage underpins many godly character traits. Do not allow your child to bury God’s truth because of fear (Matthew 25:24-25).
Most importantly, your child needs courage to stand up for God’s way of life!
Carefully craft situations that will knowingly cultivate this important quality within your child’s character. Guide your children in forming and building their own personal relationships with others within the congregation. Bake cookies during the week, for example, and work with your children to hand-deliver them to a widow they don’t know personally. Allow your children to purchase items at the store by themselves. Learning to control anxious feelings—which naturally come from stepping outside of a comfort zone—your child, under your tender guidance, will gain the resilience and determination needed to fully trust in God during the uncomfortable situations he or she will experience throughout life.
Seize every opportunity to praise your children as they overcome and grow in courage.
If your child is struggling with courage in a particular area, be certain to highlight courage elsewhere. For example, your children may find it difficult to remain courageous amidst the unknown noises within a dark bedroom at night but may confidently introduce themselves to a new friend at camp. Seize every opportunity to praise your children as they overcome and grow in courage.
Share the times when you have had to fight against your crippling thoughts and trust God. Explain how you relied upon and trusted in God. Tell of the times when you have allowed your thoughts to be “in charge” and the outcome that it brought.
When fears and doubts overwhelm your children, encourage them forward with the comforting imagery found in Isaiah 41:13: “For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Guide your children to pray and ask God to help them. Encourage them to ask God to hold their hands and grant them the necessary courage to accomplish the task that seems so difficult.
Talk with your child about the “giants” that we encounter which keep us from moving forward and trusting God.
There are giants in the land
Slogans can be a great way to quickly draw your child’s attention to a concept that you have previously taught. One such slogan you can use with the attribute of courage is this: “There are giants in the land.”
Read the account of the 12 spies sent to scout out the Promised Land in Numbers 13-14, in which 10 of the spies report the stature of the inhabitants in Canaan as giants. They were afraid! Talk with your child about the “giants” that we encounter which keep us from moving forward and trusting God.
When difficult situations arise, all you may need to do is whisper to your children: “There are giants in the land.”
Here are some “giants” you might have heard before:
- “I can’t do it. It’s too hard!”
- “Everyone will laugh at me.”
- “I’ll try it later.”
- And the “Goliath” of all giants: “What if…?”
When difficult situations arise, all you may need to do is whisper to your children: “There are giants in the land.” Don’t be surprised if a sweet smile accompanies their newfound courage.
We should never minimize a genuine fear that a child has for his or her well-being.
A word of caution
Clearly the emotion of fear is a necessary, God-given human response. God created this strong emotion (and its physiological effects) to alert us to real dangers that we face in life. We should never minimize a genuine fear that a child has for his or her well-being.
Additionally, we must have great care and patience when dealing with a child that has a true weakness in this area. Pushing a child into uncomfortable situations that are beyond his or her emotional maturity level should be avoided. Again, careful thought and wisdom must be exercised when addressing legitimate fears that a child encounters.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Here are some suggestions to assist you in taking the initial step in creating a courageous household:
- Write out a clear, workable definition of courage and display it prominently.
- Write out one or two key scriptures that will actively guide your family’s thoughts, words and actions regarding courage.
- Study at least one individual within the Bible that displayed or lacked the attribute of courage. Glean all that you can from his or her example. Draw parallels or note contrasts (to encourage, not discourage) between the individual and your child.
- Identify one “giant” that your child encounters. Seek God’s guidance on how to wisely and deliberately shepherd him or her in overcoming this giant. Include your child in identifying his or her giant and praying for God’s guidance in how to overcome it.
GUARD AND GUIDE SCRIPTURES
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You [God]. —Psalm 56:3
This scripture can be quickly understood and memorized by even the youngest of children. Help your child be confident that he or she can trust in God. Encourage your children to know that just as you are there to keep them safe, so too is God. As you hold their hands and comfort them, so does God.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. —Isaiah 55:8
This scripture goes right to the cause of many of the fears and doubts that impede us from trusting in God: our thoughts. When we yield to our untrusting thoughts, we diminish God’s promises and power, magnifying our difficulties and dangers. We must seek God’s divine help to replace our thoughts with His thoughts. Bringing our thoughts into captivity requires great effort (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We must shepherd our children to completely and fully trust God and His overall plan for them.
It is especially important to work with your older child to understand the second half of this verse too. Not only must we yield our thoughts to God’s thoughts, we must also yield our ways to God’s ways. Help your child recognize that trusting God will not automatically bring about the desired outcome. It won’t necessarily create an immediate effect either. We must shepherd our children to completely and fully trust God and His overall plan for them (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28).
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13
This scripture brings your child’s focus directly to the source of our strength: Jesus Christ. Being courageous doesn’t mean being unafraid; it means being able to harness fear, not allowing it to control you. It is through and by Christ that your child can gain the strength to control his or her fears and confidently step forward in faith, trusting God. We must rightly acknowledge the source of our strength and abilities. Your children must always remain dependent on Christ’s leadership and never their own (Psalm 31:3).
FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING
We also recommend these additional (but certainly not exhaustive) scriptural passages that are relevant to the topic of courage:
- Esther summons her courage (Esther 4:11-5:8; 7:1-6)
- Gideon trusts in God (Judges 7)
- Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
- David faces Goliath (1 Samuel 17:23-50)
- Stand still (Exodus 14:13-14)
- Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:7-10)
- Be brave (1 Corinthians 16:13)
- Not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7)
Further Your Study
Moral Precepts for a Teachable Heart
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Monthly Study Guide: Courage
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Monthly Study Guide: Young Bible Heroes
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David, a Youth Whose Heart Pleased God
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Esther, a Courageous Queen
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The Little Maid From Israel, a Leper, and a Miracle
Imagine being abducted at a young age, taken to a foreign land away from everything familiar, and placed as a servant in a wealthy household. Learn about the courageous faith of a young girl and a miracle performed through God Read More >
Just where do you begin with memory scriptures? Choose from these 21 verses about God, His Word, and His instructions to get started. Creative interactions are included to help engage your children and reinforce the meaning of the scriptures. Read More >
Heroes of Faith
Who inspires you from the “faith chapter,” Hebrews 11? Create this chart and add additional names of people from the Bible or faithful individuals you have known personally. Makes a great accompaniment to our “Feast of Trumpets” Read More >