God The Source Of Courage
"BE strong and of a good courage!" More than three thousand years ago
the inspiring words were spoken by a great military leader to men about
to undertake a tremendous task. Some of them were dismayed. The
difficulties in the path appeared insurmountable. Their minds were
filled with worries and fears and anxieties, until the present was heavy
with doubt and the future loomed before them dread, angry, portentous.
Their hearts were like water, until Joshua, the leader, with great
confidence gave his message:
"Be strong and of a good courage--
"Only be strong and very courageous--
"Have not I commanded thee?
"Be strong and of a good courage.
"For Jehovah thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
THAT'S FOR ME!
Two men were going around the marvelous horseshoe curve on the Tyrone
and Clearfield Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad when one called the
attention of his companion to the most picturesque part of the way.
"I was looking at that precipice when I had my first understanding of
the fact that the Bible is a personal message; that I had the right to
appropriate its words to my own life.
"It was the summer following the end of my final year in college. A few
months earlier I had reluctantly yielded to the urging, first of my
physician, then of a nerve specialist, by turning my back on college at
the vital portion of the year. They told me that if I persisted in
remaining they would not answer for the consequences; they said I had
applied myself unwisely to my books until my brain was in revolt. 'It is
a grave question if you will ever be able to take the professional
course to which you have been looking forward,' the specialist said.
'One thing is certain, however: if you do not do as you are told you
will not do any real brain work the rest of your days.'
"That scared me, for my heart was wrapped up in my plans for the
future. I felt that life would not be worth while without some sort of
active brain work. So I gave myself to a real bit of vacation. For
months I cut myself loose from all books except the little copy of the
Testament and Psalms which I carried with me more for form's sake than
for any other reason, I fear. Daily as I tramped here and there in the
wilds I read a verse or two, more because I thought I ought to do this
than because I had any idea of receiving help.
"Toward the close of the summer I submitted myself to a specialist who
shook his head, at the same time declaring that it was doubtful if even
yet I could go on with my plan. He wouldn't say it was impossible for me
to do brain work, but he urged that the probabilities were against me. A
second specialist told me the same thing.
"So I faced the future as all summer long I had feared to face it.
Finally my mind was made up to turn my back on professional studies.
When the decision was made a suggestion came that I go into the
mountains of Pennsylvania to investigate opportunity for a sort of work
that I might do.
"The journey was begun. As we left Tyrone to climb the mountains my
spirits sank lower and lower. I rebelled against the idea of taking the
offered opening. How I longed to enter professional school in two weeks!
But I dared not do it. To be sure, the physicians said that they saw no
reason why I should not, though they feared the result. Why not try it?
I had used all available means for restoration of the brain to the
old-time keenness. Yet it would be awful to try and fail. No, I did not
"So I was in the depths when my hand touched the pocket Testament and
Psalms. Mechanically the book was opened, probably because of the
unconscious realization that the daily portion had not yet been read.
But listlessness was gone in an instant when my eyes fell on the words
of Psalm 37:5:
"'Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He will bring it
"At first the words dazed me. Then I said: 'That's for me, and I'll do
it! I've spent the summer as the doctors said I must. Surely I am
warranted in committing myself unto the Lord in just the way the Psalm
says. Of course I can't be sure that the result of going back to school
will be precisely what I hope; but I can trust, and do my best. Then if
the attempt results in failure, I shall have the satisfaction of
knowing that I am following Him to whom I have committed my way.
"Some of my friends thought it was folly to begin my professional
course. Can you imagine my joy when, from the day school opened, I had
no recurrence of my trouble? Of course I was very careful until I could
feel sure of my health."
"How do you explain your ability to go on with your studies?" his
"I am not trying to explain it," was the reply. "But without question
the assurance that came to me with that text from the Psalm, the
assurance that God is my God and that I have a right to count on Him,
made me strong to face things to which I had been unequal only a few
"And is it strange that I have often wondered if there would have been
any breakdown in college, if I had only known a little sooner of the
strength that waits for those who, while putting forth their own utmost
endeavor, at the same time count on God's unfailing strength?"
BANKING ON GOD'S PROMISES
Isn't it strange that so many Christians while believing, theoretically,
in the reality and trustworthiness of God's promises, do not have the
same sort of practical belief in Him which they show in the promise of
their bank to pay them, on demand, the sum written down in their book of
And banks have been known to fail in keeping their very limited
promises, while God has never failed in keeping His unlimited assurances
For so many the strange delusion that God's promises are not to be
counted on in the same literal sense as the promises of our associates
persists through life, but there are fortunate Christians who have their
eyes opened to the truth. And what a difference the knowledge makes to
F. B. Meyer told in one of his public addresses of the transformation
wrought for him when his eyes were opened to the truth. As a boy of
thirteen he had been a student at Brighton College. He was timid and
sensitive, and the older students soon learned that they could make his
life a burden to him. With a sigh of relief he went home at the end of
the first week of school. On Sunday, however, the thought that he must
return came to him with oppressing force. How could he stand up against
the older students? He was idly turning the pages of his Bible when he
came to the 121st Psalm. "How voraciously I devoured it!" he said. "How
I read it again and again, and wrapt it round me! How I took it as my
shield! And the next day I walked into the great expanse in front of the
college so serene and strong. It was my first act of appropriating the
promises of God."
Three years later the student was agonizing because he wanted to be a
minister, yet feared to plan for the work because his voice was weak,
and he feared that he would not have the courage to speak. He had been
asking God to show him His will, and to help him in his difficulty. Then
he found Jeremiah 1:7, and read it for the first time. "With
indescribable feelings I read it again and again, and even now never
come on it without a thrill of emotion," he said of his experience. "It
was the answer to all my perplexing questionings. Yes, I was the child;
I was to go to those to whom He sent me, and speak what He bade me, and
He would be with me and teach my lips."
Another man, who had learned to accept literally God's promise, "Ask,
and it shall be given unto you," wrote gratefully of his experience:
"My life is one long, daily, hourly record of answered prayer. For
physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given marvelously,
for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the Gospel subdued, for
food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make
up life and my poor service, I can testify with a full and often
wonder-stricken awe that I believe God answers prayer. I know God
answers prayer. Cavillings, logical or physical, are of no avail to me.
It is the very atmosphere in which I live and breathe and have my being,
and it makes life glad and free and a million times worth living."
A worker among his fellows in India stated the ground of his belief in
God's promise to supply the needs of his people. The sentence was
written while he was at home on furlough:
"Whatsoever you ask, believe that you have received it, and you shall
have it. The belief is not the denial of a fact, but rather the
assurance that the petition is in accordance with God's will, and that
He is as disposed to give as we to receive; our reception of the gift
depends on our holding on to His will. Now the practical question is,
What is God's will? Am I conforming to it? Through lack of faith am I
failing to receive and appropriate for myself and Satara what I and
Satara need? Is it God's will that I should return and that there should
be better paid work? More of it? More school-houses? New houses for
A few days later he added to these notes the word "Yes." His faith
enabled him to claim God's promise.
A Christian young man in Japan was accustomed to stand at the entrance
to the park in Tokyo, offering Bibles and preaching the Gospel. Years
passed, and he saw no results of his work. Yet he believed in Him who
had promised that His name should be exalted among the heathen. At
length a Testament was bought by a young man to whom the words of John
3:16 brought life and joy. He went back to the old man from whose hand
he had received the book, and told him that he had become a Christian.
The man was overcome with joy.
"Ten years," he said, "I have been selling New Testaments here at the
park gates, and you are the first who has ever come to tell me you were
But throughout those ten years the faithful worker was sustained by his
belief in the faithfulness of Him who had promised to bless him in his
work. He knew that God would not fail him.
PRACTICAL PRECEPTS FROM PROVERBS
There is nothing like the Bible to put heart into a man. This is not
strange, for the Book was written for this purpose by men of God's
choosing whose business it was to strengthen their fellows.
One of the most vivid parts of the Bible is the book of Proverbs.
"Would that our young men were saturated with its thought," Albert J.
Beveridge said of it, while he was a member of the United States Senate.
"It is rich in practical wisdom for the minute affairs of practical
life. It abounds in apt and pointed suggestions and pungent warnings
concerning our companionship, our personal habits, our employments, our
management of finance, our speech, the government of tongue and temper,
and many other such things, which daily perplex the earnest soul, and
daily occasion harm to the thoughtless and misguided."
Years earlier, another eminent American, Washington Irving, used what is
the keynote of the book in an earnest talk with George Bancroft, later
the historian of his country, then a student in Europe. The two were
taking a walking excursion, when the older man said something the
student remembered all his life. It was natural, then, that Bancroft's
biographer should give this in his subject's own words, in "Life and
Letters of George Bancroft:"
"At my time of life, he tells me, I ought to lay aside all care, and
only be bent on laying in a stock of knowledge for future application.
If I have not pecuniary resources enough to get at what I would wish
for, as calculated to be useful to my mind, I must still not give up the
pursuit. Still follow it; scramble to it; get at it as you can, but be
sure to get at it. If you need books, buy them; if you are in want of
instruction in anything take it. The time will soon come when it will be
too late for all these things."
More than a century ago an immigrant from Scotland landed in New York.
In the story of his life he later told how the book of Proverbs became
his rock. The first night he slept in an old frame building with a
shingle roof. During the night he was aroused by a storm of rain
accompanied by thunder and lightning such as he had never experienced in
Scotland. Homesick, terrified, unable to sleep, he rose and took from
his chest the Bible his father had carefully packed with his clothes. He
wrote later that as the book was opened, "My eyes fell on the words, 'My
Son.' I was thinking of my father. I read on with delight. Having
finished the last verse I found I had been reading the third chapter of
the Proverbs of Solomon. Get a Bible and read the chapter. Then suppose
yourself in my situation--sore in body, sick at heart, and commencing
life among a world of strangers, and see if words more suitable could be
put together to fit my case. I looked upon it as a chart from heaven,
directing my course among the rocks, shoals and storms of life.... I
went forth with a light heart to work my way through the world, resolved
to keep this chapter as a pilot by my side."
The importance for to-day of the message in Proverbs 30:8, "Remove far
from me vanity and lies," is illustrated by several incidents told by
Lucy Elliot Keeler, in "If I Were a Boy:"
"The son of a distinguished American recently entered business in New
York, beginning, at his father's request, at the foot of the ladder, and
receiving the princely salary of $20 a month. At a time when his
father's name was in everybody's mouth the editor of a yellow journal
sent for the son and invited him to join the staff. 'You need not write
any articles,' he said, with a smile, 'nor do any reporting. Just sign
your name to an article which I will furnish you each day, and I will
pay you $200 a month....' The young man's reply was too emphatic to be
accurately reported here, but it was to the effect that he would rather
starve than pick untold dollars out of the gutter.
"A few years ago an American commissioner occupying a house in the West
Indies hired a man to wash the windows and another to scrub the floors.
The bills submitted were for $12 and $7, respectively. 'What does this
mean?' was the astonished query. '$12 for a day's work? Man, you are
crazy!' 'Oh,' came the soft reply, 'of course, I only expect a dollar
and a half for myself, but that was the way we always made out bills for
the Spanish officers.' 'Take back your bills,' was the American's
emphatic reply, 'and make them out honestly.'"
The wisdom of the warning in Proverbs 27:2, "Let another man praise
thee, and not thine own mouth," has seldom been more strikingly
illustrated than at a large convention when several thousand people
listened attentively as a speaker of reputation was introduced to them.
He talked fluently for several minutes, then began to ramble. He made
several attempts to regain his lost hold on his hearers, then took his
"I can't imagine what was wrong to-day," he said to his neighbor on the
platform. "I had all ready what I felt sure would be a telling address,
but somehow I couldn't say what I wanted." A sympathetic answer was
given by the man to whom he had spoken, but if he had said all that was
in his heart this would have been his message: "I know you had a telling
argument to present, for I read your manuscript. But you spent the first
three minutes in talking about yourself. It was there you lost the
attention of the people; they did not come to hear about you, but to
learn of your Master. And when you had put yourself in the foreground,
it was impossible for you to present Him with power."
The speaker's mistake is repeated every day, not merely by men on the
platform, but by everyday people in the home, in the school, and at
work. It is fatal to usefulness to put ourselves in the foreground; but
those who forget self and remember others are welcome wherever they go.
GETTING CLOSE TO THE BIBLE
One of the blessings that came to the world out of the anguish of the
Great War was a new appreciation of God's Word on the part of many who
had never paid much attention to the inspired Book, and the formation of
the habit of Bible reading by tens of thousands of those who were once
heedless of God's Word.
Absence from home in hours of danger, privation and suffering, opened
the way for testing Him who reveals his power to give infinite blessing
by saying tenderly, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I
comfort you." The sense of absolute powerlessness in the face of
barbarism led to dependence upon God who holds the worlds in His hands.
Realization of the uncertainty of life and familiarity with death made
easy and natural the approach to the Lord of life and death.
Probably there were soldiers who laughed at the words of Field Marshal
Lord Roberts, spoken when the first British troops were crossing the
"You will find in this little Book (the Bible) guidance when you are in
health, comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in
adversity," but the day came when one of the soldiers themselves, Arthur
Guy Empey, wrote:
"How about the poor boy lying wounded, perhaps dying, in a shell hole,
his mother far away? Perhaps to him even God seems to have forgotten; he
feels for his first-aid packet, binds up his wounds, and then
waits--years, it seems to him--for the stretcher-bearers. Then he gets
out his Testament; the feel of it gives him comfort and hope. He reads.
That boy gets religion, even though when he enlisted he was an atheist."
A Young Men's Christian Association secretary told of an incident when
the soldiers were just leaving for the trenches. "He saw a young lad
nervously making his way up to the counter. He knew the boy wanted
something, and was afraid to ask or was timid about it. He said, 'Want
something, lad?' 'Yes, sir, I have got a Bible and I don't know much
about it. I'd like you to mark some passages in it. I am going out to
the trenches to-night.' 'Sure!' said the secretary. 'Mark some good
ones, now,' said the lad.
"While he was marking the first lad's book half a dozen other boys came
up and said, 'Mark mine, too, sir!' And for half an hour this secretary
was busy marking verses in the Bibles of those boys. An interested
observer asked him what he marked, and he said, 'Matthew 10:23; 11:28;
6:19, 20; John 3:16; Romans 8:35-39.'"
"Fighting" Pat O'Brian, of the Royal Fighting Corps, whose marvelous
escape from his German captors thrilled multitudes, said:
"I haven't been given to talking much about religion, but when, after
two months of flight through an enemy country as an escaped prisoner,
going without food except such as I could pick up in the fields and eat
raw, and time and again coming within a hair's breadth of being caught,
I finally got through the lines on to the neutral soil of Holland, I was
mighty glad to get down on my knees and thank God that He had got me
through. A lot of men who have never thought much about religion are
thinking about it now. I believe they will read those little khaki
Testaments, and I am sure they will get help from them."
That "those little khaki Testaments" were going into the hands of the
soldiers pleased General Pershing, who said, "Its teachings will fortify
us for our great task." And Secretary of the Navy Daniels rejoiced that
the books were going to the sailors, for he said, "The Bible is the one
book from which men can find help and inspiration and encouragement for
whatever conditions may arise."
THE BIBLE AND ONE MAN
In June, 1862, John E. Clough was graduated from an Iowa college. He had
been eager to make a name for himself. Many promising avenues of secular
work had opened to him, and he had tried to take one or another of them.
But always he knew that it was not right for him to plan for anything
but the ministry. The impression was deepened when the president of the
college took for the text of his baccalaureate sermon, "For none of us
liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." So the young graduate
left the college feeling that he was no longer free to go out and use
his education for the career he had dreamed of.
But he did decide to teach for a year. With Mrs. Clough, he made an
engagement to teach a public school one year. But he did not dare stay
for a second year, because the people were so good to the new teacher,
and there was so much evidence of this popularity, that the Bible words
kept ringing in his ears, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of
you." He knew he was not in the right place. In later life, when
opposition came to him because he was doing faithful Christian work, he
was strengthened by the memory of this text that had once been anything
but a comfort to him.
At last came the beginning of the work in India that made the name of
John E. Clough famous. His success was due, in large measure, to the
fact that he emphasized God's Word. One of his first acts was to prepare
a tract in Scripture language, telling the things necessary for
salvation, and this proved useful throughout his services.
Everywhere he went he quoted Scripture to the people. He felt that
whatever else he might say to them, this would be most effective. One
text was used more than any other, in private conversation and in
sermons, the invitation of Jesus, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This, he said, was always
new, and the people received his explanations gladly. Once, during a
time of grievous famine, when about them millions of the natives died of
want and disease, these words proved especially effective.
As a measure of famine relief the missionary took the contract for a
section of the great Buckingham Canal. Under his leadership the natives
were set to work on this. Native evangelists as well as white
missionaries toiled day after day, and this gave a splendid chance for
preaching the gospel. "The name of Jesus was spoken all day long from
one end of our line to the other," Mr. Clough wrote in his
autobiography. "The preachers carried a New Testament in their pockets.
It comforted the people to see the holy book of the Christians amid all
their distress. They said, when they sat down for a short rest, 'Read us
again out of your holy book about the weary and heavy laden.' That
verse, 'Come unto me all ye that labor,' was often all I had to give the
people by way of comfort. The preachers were saying it all day long. It
carried us through the famine. We all needed it, for even the strongest
among us sometimes felt our courage sinking."
All through Dr. Clough's missionary career there was one verse in
particular that carried him far. When he was out on tour among the
people, often many miles distant from home, Mrs. Clough was accustomed
to send after him a messenger who would take to him, for his
encouragement, the message she felt he needed. Knowing his fondness for
the text, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the
heathen," she sent the words to him on more than one occasion. In the
story of his life he told of a day when the text came to him with
"I was tempted to shake the dust off my feet and go. My helpers and I
had camped in a new place, and had been trying hard to get the people to
come and listen to the gospel, but they would not. I concluded that it
was a hard place, and told my staff of workers that we were justified in
leaving it alone and moving on elsewhere. Toward noon I went into my
tent, closed down the sides, let the little tent flap swing over my
head, and rested, preparatory to starting off for the next place. Just
then a basket of supplies was brought to my feet by a coolie, who had
walked seventy miles with the basket on his head. In the accompanying
letter Mrs. Clough quoted my favorite verse to me. While reading this,
some of the preachers put their heads into the tent and said, 'Sir,
there is a big crowd out here; the grove is full; all are waiting for
you. Please come out.'"
Once the two verses that were the keynote of the missionary's life were
especially prominent. For a long time he had been discouraged because
results seemed slow and difficulties were great. But the day came when
he stood before thousands and preached to them the Word, strong in the
assurance of the presence of Him who said, "Be still, and know that I am
God: I will be exalted among the heathen." The text that day, as so
often before, was "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden."
For an hour the people listened to his words. Then they began to plead
for baptism, and would not be denied. At length, after rigid
examination, baptism was administered to 3,536 within three days. And he
had not baptized one soul in fifteen months before this time!
God's Word gave courage to Clough; it enabled him to give courage to
others; and it will give courage to you.
OUT OF THE DEPTHS
During the year 1538 an Italian spent long weeks in a noisome
underground prison cell, where he was kept on account of religious
differences. For a precious hour and a half of each day, when the light
struggled in through a tiny window, he read the Bible, especially the
Psalms. Among the Psalms that meant most to him was the one hundred and
thirtieth, whose beginning "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O
Lord," expressed the longings of his heart for companionship and
Exactly two hundred years later, on May 24, 1738, John Wesley, then in
the midst of the greatest anxiety and longing for God, heard the choir
at St. Paul's Cathedral sing, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee,
O Lord." The words brought joy to him. From the depths in which he found
himself that afternoon he cried unto God, and that evening there came to
him the knowledge of God's presence that gave him strength to begin the
wonderful work that built up the great Methodist Church.
These same words meant much to Josiah Royce, the American teacher of
philosophy, who died in 1916. In one of his later books, he wrote:
"We come to such deep places that we can only cry. We are astonished
that we can cry. And then we become aware that our cry is heard. And he
who hears is God. And so God is often defined for the plain man as 'He
who hears man's cry from the depths.'"
One who knew Professor Royce well wondered if he did not enter the
depths from which he cried to God and received such satisfying response,
after the death of his only son. In the same way those who delight in
the message of Psalm 130 wonder what could have been the experience of
depression that opened the way for his reception of God's blessing.
We can only speculate about these things. But there is one thing of
which we can be absolutely sure: there is no depth so low that the cry
of one of God's children will not reach from it to the heart of the
Father; no sorrow so crushing, no anxiety so overwhelming, no pain so
intense, no difficulty seemingly so unsolvable, no sin so awful, that
eager, earnest prayer will not bring God to the relief of the sufferer.
"If out of the depths we cry, we shall cry ourselves out of the depths,"
one has said who has written of the words that Professor Royce found so
helpful. Then he asks: "What can a man do who finds himself at the foot
of a beetling cliff, the sea in front, the wall of rock at his back,
without foothold for a mouse, between the tide at the bottom and the
grass at the top? He can do but one thing, he can shout, and, perhaps,
may be heard, and a rope may come dangling down that he can spring at
and catch. For sinful men in the miry pit the rope is already let down,
and their grasping it is the same as the psalmist's cry. God has let
down His forgiving love in Christ, and we need but the faith which
accepts it while it asks, and then we are swung up into the light, and
our feet set on a rock."
Each one has depths peculiarly his own, and longs to be out of them.
Then why not call to Him who hears men's cry from the depths, with the
quiet confidence of quaint old Herbert, who wrote:
Of what an easie quick accesse,
My blessed Lord, art Thou! how suddenly
May our requests thine ears invade!
If I but lift mine eyes my suit is made;
Thou canst no more not heare than Thou canst die.