I was recently asked an email question:
“I listened to your most recent sermon today and wanted to ask, what would you say the differences between faith and courage are?”
I thought the answer posted below might be helpful to others as well.
Let’s start with basic and simple definitions:
Courage is acting on the premise that there is something more important than fear, it is not the absence of fear.
Faith is cognitive and volitional trust; a trusting in, relying on, or a clinging to.
A biblical/theological understanding of faith clarifies that the faith which glorifies God has as its object, Jesus and His Gospel of the Kingdom. Also, the something more important than fear that provides courage is someone–the triune God. We rightly fear Him in a reverential way that leads to worship, knowing that His sovereign power is for us in Christ. Courage is related to faith because faith is the foundation and motivation of all courageous deeds that can be counted as acts of worship.
What Moses said to the people at Mt. Sinai provides clarity (Exodus 20:20):
“Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, …”
Be courageous in the face of all non-ultimate temporal fears.
“for God has come to test you, …”
This clause is a call for faith; trust in, rely on and cling to God and His gracious promises.
“that the fear of him may be before you that you may not sin.”
Fear of the ultimate–godly fear–is the rightly-directed reverential awe of worship.
Saving faith is directed at its object–God in Christ and His Kingdom. True saving faith is rooted in a godly fear that the believer never overcomes because God is ultimate, and we are always needy sinners, who appropriately worship God through Christ, as Lord of all.
The courage that honors God is not the absence of fear, but rather it requires fear. There is no need to be courageous if you are not afraid of something. Biblical courage is directed at obeying the Lord, who is more important than fear, in our daily lives in spite of temporal things, situations, and people that bring natural fearfulness.