Unbelief at the Root
One of the great instances of cowardice in the Old Testament is Israel in the wilderness. We all remember the story. They’ve been brought out by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and now they’re wandering in the wilderness. They’re headed to the promised land. They send in twelve spies. They come back and say, It’s great! Land flowing with milk and honey, grapes the size of your head. But also giants. And the people’s hearts melt with fear. We can’t do it! We can’t make it!
This is cowardice. But what’s underneath cowardice? How does the Bible describe what’s underneath that cowardly demeanor? The answer is unbelief. We don’t believe that God can do it. We don’t believe that God will take us there. And so the Bible connects cowardice and unbelief.
This is why in the New Testament, reflecting on that story in the book of Hebrews, says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in you any evil unbelieving heart leading you to fall away from the living God.”
That falling away is cowardice—refusing to enter God’s rest, refusing to go where God is leading you.
We exhort one another. We seek God’s face. We ask for God’s help.
It continues, “But instead, exhort one another every day, as long as it’s called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
And so sin, deceitfulness, hardness of heart, an unbelieving heart—all of these are underneath our experience of cowardice.
So what do we do? Well, we exhort one another. We seek God’s face. We ask for God’s help. We ask him to strengthen our hearts to master our passions so that we can endure in the evil day.
Joe Rigney is the author of Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude.
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