Recently there has appeared in American society a jagged character that has infected and affected daily life, be it social, academic, religious, or communal. This phenomenon has had a stranglehold of what I identify as an epidemic of weakness, leaving intelligent people fearful of fulfilling their roles in leadership positions.
Real courage today seems to be a missing commodity in the actions of those in positions of executive leadership.
And with this lack of courage, we also find the companion concept of a lack of vision. The very character of true leadership is a prophetic statement of where things ought to be, for nothing in life worth its weight ever occurs apart from a dynamic vision and a genuine courage to fulfill both.
Somewhere along the line, those making courageous decisions according to the will of God rather than of the popular masses have forgotten the basic teachings given to us by God.
In Scripture we find in the person of Joshua, one of the earliest examples of God approved leadership. Joshua, who had been given the mantle of leadership after the death of Moses, finds God coming to him and personally giving him an exposition on what he is to do. God says:
“ . . . As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Underscore the imperative: I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
These words of God are not for the faint-of-heart. God reached out and grabbed Joshua by the lapels and offered him four aspects of courageous leadership. He is told that such courage rests upon a clear assignment from God; the assurance of God’s presence; upon focused determination; and is anchored by the word of God.
The underlined passages delineate clearly these intentional foundations by God.
Joshua learned that there was no such thing as courage apart from the mission, just as there is no such thing as faith apart from challenges. One is not to be courageous simply to be courageous, but for something more. In reiterating to Joshua what he had told Moses to do, God now gives Joshua the assignment.
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1.9).
Jesus spoke comparable words to His disciples as he sent them into the world:
And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt 28:18-20).
Christ sent his Apostles into the to the world with four similar facets of courageous leadership:
- A clear assignment from God: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …;
- The assurance of God’s presence: . . . remember, I am with you always;
- Focused determination: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
- And is anchored by the word of God: teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
The clergy of the Armenian Church are to live this passage each day. They understand better than most that being a Priest is not having a job as some may see it, but as one committed to the Lord God, to his vows of ordination and vocation, and to his Armenian Church and people.
Like Joshua, a Priest knows that God’s assignments come with a special sense of God’s presence, for if God has truly called a man to serve him, he fills him with the assurance that he does not walk alone, that God is with him always.
The courage a Priest displays doesn’t mean that he is not afraid. It means that he fears God more than he fears his environment. It means that he trusts in divine resources more than the resources of man, having his Priesthood strengthened by acts of obedience to God.
A wise woman once told her newly ordained son: “Remember, they crucified Jesus for doing his work. Do your work as well and don’t worry or complain. God will be with you.”
St Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians wrote:
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
Both seem like good advice.