A captain who would rather stay in port than go to sea does not engender trust


by Dan Busby


William, Duke of Normandy, dared to invade England in 1066. The English were a formidable opponent anywhere, but next to invincible in their own land.

But William had something the English did not. He had invented a device that gave his army a heavy advantage in battle. He had an edge: the stirrup.

Courage is the first
of human qualities,
because it is the quality
which guarantees all others.
Winston Churchill

Conventional wisdom of the day was that a horse was too unstable a platform from which to fight. As a result, soldiers would ride their horses to the battlefield and then dismount before engaging in combat. But the Norman army, standing secure in their stirrups, were able to ride down the English. They were faster, and they were stronger.

The stirrup led to the conquest of England. Without it, William might never have challenged such an enemy.[1]

They could courageously go into battle because they were standing on a firm foundation. Courage is rooted in the stable foundation of God.

Courage to stand in battle is essential for trusted ministries. The increasing pressures of our day suggest it is time for us to level up in terms of courage.

It is easy to use courageous words. But courage takes more than words—it requires action of leaders in the context of their beliefs. There is an increasing appreciation for words backed up by courageous action—because we are seeing far too many words that are not backed up by any action, let alone courageous action.

Esther is a shining example of courage. Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther about the conspiracy. She could either risk her life by telling the dangerous King Xerxes about Haman’s plot to destroy her family, or she could protect her position and walk away from the crisis at hand. “Esther put it all on the line—willing to lose status, position, perks, security, even her life, to do what God called her to do.”[2] In the end, the king hung Haman on the gallows that were built for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).

Courage comes from:

Courage is not simply
one of the virtues
but the form of every virtue
at the testing point,
which means tat the point
of highest reality.
C. S. Lewis
  • Being forgiven and being righteous. “The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions” (Prov. 28:1). “Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, ‘Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins’” (Matt. 9:2).
  • Placing your hope in Him. “Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon” (Ps. 31:24).
  • Being filled with the Spirit. “While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence” (Acts 4:31).
  • Trusting God’s promise to be with you. “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take” (Josh. 1:9).
  • Knowing He is greater than your adversary. “Be strong! Take courage! Don’t be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops—there are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!” (2 Chron. 32:7–8).
  • Being faithful in prayer. “The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength” (Ps. 138:3).

At least three things happen when courageous leaders stand in battle:

  1. Our salvation is assured. “Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
  2. The Kingdom expands. “The good news—the Message of the Kingdom will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country” (Matt. 24:14).
  3. God’s plan is fulfilled. “And then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Simply stated, courageous leaders go the distance. The Brazilians have a great phrase for this. In Portuguese, a person who has the ability to hang in and not give up has garra. Garra means “claws.” What imagery! A person with garra has claws which burrow in the side of the cliff and keep him from falling.[3]

Ten Traits of Courageous Leaders

   Courageous leaders find common ground because they

  1. Set the tone for trust at the top of the organization. Trust rarely starts at lower levels of an organization and works its way up.
  2. Are eager for the fray. Staff do not want to go to sea with a captain who would rather stay in port.
  3. Bravely pour oil on troubled waters. Directly communi­cate with those who may have been offended.
  4. Abhor the status quo—paving the way for change, and bringing continuous renewal to the organization.
  5. Discern consequences—not blind courage—looking through the lens of experience and failure and the lens of the future.
  6. Are vulnerable, obedient, and humble. “Jesus was so vulnerable that He was perceived to be weak, He was so obedient that He opened himself to the charge of insanity, and He was so humble that He became the object of contempt.”[4]
  7. Are dispensable, approachable, and touchable—follow Jesus’ model.
  8. Make bold moves. “You will never take big hills without making bold moves.The alternative is incrementalism. . . . Make a few bold moves, or you’ll breathe your last leadership breath far too soon.”
  9. Delegate authority. When Jesus delegated authority to His disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons, He never took it back.
  10. Know when their work is done. Jesus knew when His work was done and when it was time to leave. He let go at the peak of His power and counted on the Holy Spirit to fulfill His promises to us.[5]


Psalm 20:7–8 reminds us:

See those people polishing their chariots,
    and those others grooming their horses?
    But we’re making garlands for God our God.
The chariots will rust,
    those horses pull up lame—
    and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall.

It’s not the gifts we have cultivated, the lessons we have learned, or the goals we have achieved as leaders. It’s about the courage to rely on God (Zech. 4:6). And relying on God enhances trust of those who follow Him.


  Questions   for reflection

  1.  Are you courageously relying on God?
  2. What makes your courage wane while doing God’s work?
  3. In what ways should you be exhibiting stronger courage today?


[1] Max Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent: The Final Week of Jesus (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1992), 123-24.

[2] Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 206.

[3] Lucado, And The Angels Were Silent, 123.

[4] David L. McKenna, Christ-Centered Leadership: The Incarnational Difference (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2013), 46.

[5] Ibid., 47.


From TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, ECFAPress, 2015,

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.