In the Bible, courage is also called “good cheer” as in Mark 6:50 when Jesus gave the command to the disciples who saw Him walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee and coming toward them. The Greek word translated “courage” and “good cheer” means literally “boldness and confidence.” In the Bible, courage is the opposite of fear. When God commands us to fear not, to be of good cheer, and to have courage, He is always commanding against fear, which is the opposite of courage.
But God doesn’t simply command courage with no reason behind it. In nearly every incident where God says “fear not,” there follows a reason to have courage, and that reason is God Himself, His nature and His perfect plans. When God calms Abram’s fears after his battle with the kings of Sodom, the captivity of Lot and his rescue, God says, “Fear not, [for] I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1). When Hagar was despairing for her life and that of her child in the wilderness, the angel of the Lord tells her, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is” (Genesis 21:17). God’s promise to the Israelites in Isaiah 41:14 is similar: “Fear not [for]…I am the One who helps you.” In each incident, we see God commanding courage, not because it is natural for man to be brave and courageous, but because, when God is protecting and guiding us, we can have courage because we are confident in Him.
In the New Testament, we see the angel of the Lord telling Mary to have courage to face the trial of being pregnant with Jesus by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, despite having no husband. Again, the reason for her courage is that the almighty God controls all things: “Do not fear…for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The shepherds are similarly commanded to be of good cheer and have courage by the angel who brought good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10), and Zachariah was told not to fear, for his prayer had been heard (Luke 1:13). In each incident, the courage commanded is the result of understanding the foreknowledge and sovereignty of God, whose plans and purposes cannot be thwarted and whose omnipotence makes every circumstance of life subservient to His will.
God’s promises to us have the same rationale. We can be confident, courageous, and of good cheer because of Him. “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25-26). Here is the promise of God’s superintending care for us, a care that is absent from the lives of those who reject Him. But for those who have placed their faith in Christ for salvation, we are to have no fear because “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). In this great promise lies the basis of our confidence, our courage, and our good cheer.