Courage Needed as a Leader
While the majority of humans live life without making it into history books, there are plenty of examples of leaders who are remembered for all time. The greatest of these leaders all possess an attribute which inspires us, motivates their followers and often is the source of defeat for their enemies. This attribute is courage. In my opinion, courage is needed as a leader. We find many accounts of courageous leaders throughout history. These leaders who rely on their courage show up in many different areas. They are found among famous sports leaders, in the trials of war, in biblical accounts and as martyrs.
Don Haskins was the basketball coach who was recently made famous from the movie based on the story of his life called Glory Road. Coaching basketball in the west Texas in the 1960’s, Don had the courage to recruit and play the first all-black starting players ever in this region. Due to extreme racism, he was met with venomous reactions from hate letters to actual violence aimed at him and his team. Coach Haskins had what great leaders need to follow through with great ideas even when they are received with such hatred. He had the courage to follow through and to do the right thing. He was an exceptional man with the determination to teach an entire region to accept others, regardless of their color, as equals just as God created them. It was a struggle, but eventually his team did so well while enduring many outside problems, they were the 1966 NCAA men’s basketball champions. In 2007, the entire 1966 team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for their amazing season led by Coach Haskins.
Another great sports leader of our recent time who displayed great courage was Herman Boone. During the same time and racial climate, Coach Boone, an African American, was given the job as head coach at T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Virginia). A controversy surrounded this due to the recent court-ordered desegregation and the well-loved coach, Bill Yoast lost his job to Boone. Children from an “all black” school were bussed to school to join the previously “all white” school with violent reception from the white community. Imagine the danger Herman Boone and his family found themselves entering when he took this new job.
The friction between the two varying cultures among the players was just as tense. At first there was no acceptance given or received on either side of the opposing pigments, but Coach Boone was too courageous to allow this to persist. Even with the physical danger involved, this coach stood against the odds, made an ally in Coach Yoast and led his team to victory. That year, his team won the 1971 Virginia State High School Football Championship. They won more than that, though. They followed their courageous leader and found love and respect for each other regardless of skin color!
Another great leader, Eric Liddell, shows great courage as a runner and later leads others in missionary efforts in China. His public story begins in the year 1921. Eric was an athlete who excelled in track and rugby. He was also a strong follower of Christ and was asked to speak to large groups. His popularity continued when in 1924 he qualified for the Olympics and he took a stand, according to his conscience, to abstain from running in events on a Sunday. Eric missed the races he was favored in. Yet he won the 400 meter race he was not expected to win and did it in world record time.
Instead of continuing to pursue his running career, he chose to join his brother in China in the mission field. Again, this took tremendous courage on his part. China was communistic and dangerous for Christians. He brought his family and in 1937 he went to a very dangerous area of China which was filled with civil violence. In 1943, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all foreigners were put on house arrest. During a two year period they were all in a small compound. Eric Liddell died in 1945 from cancer, just six months before he would have been released. This amazing leader gave his life as an example to all who were watching.
The next leader who exhibited great courage was a Dutch woman named Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was raised in a family of tremendous faith. When the German troops invaded Holland in 1940, Corrie felt she should help and risked her life by joining the underground movement. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells of how she eventually lead the largest faction of this underground community in Holland which housed and smuggled Jewish people to safety from the deadly German army. She knew at any moment she could be caught and either sent to a concentration camp or killed on the spot. She also knew as a Christian, she needed to do anything she could to protect the helpless.
Eventually, Corrie and her entire family, who were as dedicated as she was, were caught and sent to concentration camps. All of her family, except her brother, eventually died in camp. She was beaten, starved, and humiliated. Yet, she and her sister still had the courage to read the Bible and teach the other women in the camp about Christ. They knew they would be killed if anyone found out, but their courage based on the belief they were doing what must be done, kept them teaching.
Miss ten Boom was eventually released towards the end of the terrible war. Instead of retiring as a tired elderly lady, she began to speak about what happened during the war and about forgiveness. She continued to lead and serve by gathering support to open rehabilitation centers for those who were abused, as well as the abusers, who all needed a loving place to heal, forgive, or find forgiveness.
What gives these leaders their courage? For some, they are simply good people with good hearts. Their desire is to do what is right when fighting for their individual cause. Most of these courageous leaders have a common thread. Most of them have a faith in Jesus Christ and attempt to live out that faith. They believe the promises of the Lord that He will never leave or forsake those who love Him. Deuteronomy 31:8 is one such promise, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Also, Joshua 1:9 reaffirms this promise, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” These promises where given to Joshua. Joshua is certainly an example of a leader who was courageous.
Perhaps my favorite example of courage was Stephen. Beginning in Acts 6 we read about Stephen. Stephen was chosen as a servant by the apostles and they laid their hands on him. He did great wonders and signs and taught the gospel. His courage to speak the truth eventually brings him before the Jewish council. Even though he has been accused of blasphemy because of what he teaches, with great courage he preaches to the council. He compares them to those who persecuted the great prophets in Acts 7:52-53, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
The council becomes furious and begins to stone Stephen. Instead of running in fear or even hiding his head with his arms, his courage founded in his faith in Christ was so great, he looks up towards his reward with joy. Acts 7:55-56 says, “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:59-60 continues to record this event, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep”.
Christians might wonder how they can find the kind of courage to be the leaders of today. By simply putting all their faith in Christ and His promises to always be with them, and to be their strength, will give them the courage needed for any situation God allows in their paths. Leaning on scripture like 1 Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In conclusion, God gives the formula of strength that can equip leaders with courage in Eph 6:10-17, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”