By: Staci Stallings
Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord
Those Pesky Hard Decisions
Remember our discussion from the previous chapter about the two reasons a decision becomes difficult.
1) You know the right decision but it’s just too hard. Maybe someone will not be happy if you make the decision you know is right, or maybe making the right decision will lead to a complete overhaul you’re not sure you want to make.
2) You don’t know the right decision and all possibilities seem wrong.
We have dealt with the second by saying that when all the options seem wrong, God usually has a third option that you are not seeing.
But what about that first reason you might have a hard time making a decision? What about when you know the right decision, but doing what you know is right is just really hard?
Say for example that you know you should tell the truth, but telling a lie seems so much easier in the short term. After all, the truth made lead to you being punished or ridiculed. The truth might anger someone you want to impress, maybe even someone who holds some power over you.
“Take courage. It is I.”
Do you know how many times God tells someone in the Bible to “take courage” or “do not be afraid”? Not once. Not twice but 366 times!
Think about that. God said over and over to His people, “Don’t be afraid. Have courage. Take courage.”
Why? Why would He have to say that to so many people in so many different situations over the course of so many years—even people who knew Him? Might it be that having courage is not an easy thing to come by? Might God have to reassure His people because it’s difficult to be bold in the face of the missions God sends them on?
In a word: YES!
The Next Building Block: Fortitude
Remember how we discussed that each Gift of the Holy Spirit builds on the ones before it? This concept is critical at this phase of our discussion because right now, you need ALL of the Gifts you’ve been learning to be working together.
The scary truth is someone with courage (another word for fortitude) can be really brave but charge off making the wrong decisions with no wisdom, no understanding, and very little knowledge. A great example of this in the Bible was Saul (later St. Paul).
Now Saul had a lot of book learning. He had made a study of God. He had a high position at birth, and he was one who made the most of that position. Was Saul brave? Well, he took it upon himself to eliminate the early Christians. It’s not like he was lacking for audacity if not outright bravery.
The problem was that Saul was going on faulty knowledge, no understanding, a bad replica of wisdom, and some really, really bad judgment. He set out to honor God by killing those he judged to be counter to the God he understood. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any understanding that what he was doing was against God’s commands. It was that his faulty understanding so colored his judgment that he justified breaking God’s laws to honor God.
So bravery, courage, and fortitude must be built on right knowledge, true understanding, real wisdom, and right judgment, or you will be left with some very big mistakes.
Fortitude must be built on the previous Gifts, but once it is, fortitude is absolutely essential.
It’s So Hard
There are times in this life when you’ve made a decision you know is right. You feel God leading you that direction, but oh, is it hard to do! You see it would be the best, but others don’t agree. Some may actively work against you if you try it. Some may ridicule you. Some may even stop being your friend. Some may become outright enemies.
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of fortitude is needed to keep you from making a bad decision because it’s the easy way out. Fortitude picks you up, puts confidence (faith in God) in your soul, and makes you brave enough to do what you know is right.
Gideon is a great example of fortitude built on the first four gifts. You may recall the story of Gideon. He was a man called to be a soldier for God, to deliver the nation of Israel from the Midianites, and he had a strange problem. The problem? He was facing a BIG army of thousands, and God told him to send most of his men away, to keep only 300. Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re about to do battle against thousands of men.
Like I would certainly be, Gideon was skeptical to the point of being outright critical of God’s plan, a plan that he could not see or appreciate. Oh, Gideon was going to do what God wanted, but he was scared. Terrified really.
And what did God tell him? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Look at that admonition and encouragement. “Be strong.” “Be courageous.” “Do not be afraid.” “Do not be terrified.”
It is clear that Gideon needed all the encouragement he could get. He doubted he could do what God was calling him to do, so God sent a direct message of encouragement to him. In fact, look at that word: encouragement. To give courage to another.
The Holy Spirit gives us fortitude so that we can not only know what is right, but so we have the courage to do what we know. With fortitude, the right decision becomes the right action rather than just a nice idea we wish we had the courage to actually do.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2010