Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6—NKJV)

There is a difference between bravery and taking courage. Bravery is usually something that is evidenced in the heat of testing trials and recognized thereafter. Taking courage is a state of mind prior to an act requiring steely nerve. It is most often a responsive attitude when facing a challenging task and work must be done.

The English word comes from the Latin root cor, meaning heart. To take courage is spirited work. It is defined as “an attitude in dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful instead of withdrawing from it.” The opposite of courage is coward or cowardly. It comes from the Latin word cauda, meaning tail. To be cowardly is quite literally to have your tail between your legs! Cowardly describes someone who is easily or excessively frightened by something recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful.

Though most would identify courage as a manly trait, it equally applies to both sexes. The Bible is actually a worthy illustration of this fact. Though taking courage will often lead to acts of fearless bravery, do not lose sight of the fact that the concept is to “take” courage. We gain our courage from many things. In the Bible we find the Greek word tharroo sometimes translated “boldly,” as in the text above. When I tell you related words found in the New Testament are translated “be of good cheer, take comfort,” you are certain to recognize the power in the command of our Lord to “take courage.” He used it in the imperative sense.

In Matthew 14:27 our Lord commands the disciples as they were foundering in a boat, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Good cheer is take courage! In Luke 8:48 He states, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Likewise in Matthew 9:2 He commands the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Blind Bartimaeus even heard the crowd in Mark 10:49 say, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” Finally from the Gospels—in John 16:33, as our Lord is instructing about His exodus from earth and the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Interestingly, with the close of the Gospels we have not heard the last of our Lord’s personal instruction to His Apostles to take courage. Acts 23:11 records His gracious, fortifying words spoken to Paul while his enemies were plotting to take His life, “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.’” Taking courage is not the act of bravery in the heat of battle, it is the steeling of the nerve and the bracing of the soul which is derived from the comfort infused by moral truth and by the close presence of the One who is able! The promise of Christ’s presence was ever the source of Paul’s boldness and confidence.

Nowhere in the Scripture is this more clearly illustrated than in Paul’s exposition on the nature of ministry found in the book of 2 Corinthians. He issues the challenge to be of courageous, good cheer in the face of death. He says, in 5:6–8, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident…to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Paul is in good company for the Old Testament is full of reminders of the power of the presence of God (Deuteronomy 31:6, 7:23; Joshua 1:7, 2:11, 10:25; Psalm 3:6, 27:3, 118:6). Proverbs 3:24–26 states, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” Isaiah 12:2 reads, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for Jehovah, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.”

Some scholars believe Paul wrote the closing chapter of the book of Hebrews. If that is so, it is little wonder that 13:5–6 reminds us of this encouraging thought: since God will never, ever leave you (relax His grip, loosen, send back) nor forsake you (abandon, leave behind helpless and defeated) you may, with courageous good cheer and confidence, declare “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Be courageous in the face of danger, difficulty, and pain; be of good cheer for your Lord is nigh! Trust and obey.