This section provides Bible stories with the theme of courage, along with questions that can be used as a guide for family discussions. Choose one story that is appropriate for your children. Before reading aloud, take a few minutes to review the story. If the Bible passage is too complex for your children, paraphrase the story yourself or use the summary provided under “key concepts.”
Read 2 Chronicles 16 and Psalm 146:3-6.
Asa was king of Judah and Baasha was King of Israel. They were fighting with each other. Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, was helping the Israelites. Asa talked with Ben Hadad and offered him money to “change teams” and start helping Judah instead of Israel. Ben Hadad agreed to do so. Once Ben Hadad started helping Judah take over Israelite towns, the Israelites gave up working on their building project. (We can guess they needed to quit building and start protecting their towns.)
At this time a seer named Hanani (“seer” is another name for a prophet) came and talked to King Asa and told him that he had done a foolish thing, trusting in armies instead of trusting in God. Hanani pointed out that God had helped Asa fight against two other mighty armies called the Cushites and the Libyans. The seer said, “Yet when you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (2 Chronicles 16:8-9). Asa became very ill, but stubbornly, he refused to go to God for help – he only went to doctors. Two years later, Asa died.
It is easy to be tempted to trust in people (who we can see) rather than in God who we cannot see, but the Bible makes it clear that those who trust God will be blessed.
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”
“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord who remains faithful forever.”
Read 1 Samuel 17.
This is a familiar story, so if your children have heard it many times, retell it in modern circumstances. For example, Goliath could be a bully who shows up at the park every day and frightens the other children by saying unkind things. David could be a child who has the courage to approach the child’s mother and let her know what is going on.
Israel was at war with their enemies, the Philistines. Instead of both armies fighting, the Philistines suggested the battle be won or lost based on the outcome of one Israelite soldier fighting Goliath. Goliath was a massive Philistine soldier. Day after day the Philistine army sent Goliath out to taunt the Israelites, asking if anyone was willing to fight him. But all of the Israelites were afraid to fight him.
Then one day a younger brother of some of the Israelite soldiers came to the battleground to bring food for his big brothers. When this shepherd boy named David heard Goliath mocking the Israelite army, he began asking questions about what was going on. David was then brought to see the Israelite king, Saul. David told Saul that he was willing to fight Goliath. Saul questioned whether or not David could fight Goliath, but David explained that he had fought and killed a bear and a lion while he worked as a shepherd. “If God took care of me while I fought the wild animals, He can help me fight Goliath” (1 Samuel 17:37).
Saul offered David his armour (which did not fit) so David took just his slingshot and some stones and headed out to fight the giant. As David approached Goliath the big soldier mocked David. David replied, “You come against me with a sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will help me defeat you” (1 Samuel 17:45-46). David put a stone in his sling and fired it at Goliath, striking him in the forehead. The mighty giant fell to the ground. When the Philistines saw their hero was dead, they all ran away. David trusted in God and God gave him victory.
Every day we have our own battles to fight against temptation. Examples of ways that children can be tempted include disobeying their parents, whining when they don’t get their own way, refusing to share or teasing a sibling. Just as Goliath was the enemy of the Israelite army, Satan is our enemy. The Bible says that Satan is like a lion on the prowl, looking for someone to defeat. If we ask God to help us say, “No!” to temptation, He can give us the same kind of victory He gave David. But if we trust in our own strength, it will be much harder to have the courage to do right instead of wrong.
1 Peter 5:8
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Read Matthew 14:22-33.
Jesus’ disciples were out in a boat during the night when a storm came up. The big waves were hitting the boat and the strong winds were pushing it farther from shore. The disciples were scared because of the dreadful storm, but then something scared them even more: they saw someone coming to them, walking on the water. They did not know who or what it was so they cried out in fear.
Jesus called back, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Peter then called out to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus told him to come. At first Peter could walk on the water, but then he looked around and saw the wild wind and the waves and got scared and started to sink.
Jesus didn’t let Peter drown; instead He reached out and caught Peter. Then Jesus looked at Peter and asked him why he had doubted. When Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat together, the wind and the waves died down and the disciples worshipped Jesus saying, “You are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:32).
Peter was able to walk on water until he stopped trusting Jesus and became afraid. In our own lives there are times when we are tempted to do the same thing. When we forget that God is always with us and we become frightened by the situation we are in (dark rooms, unknown situations) or something we see (dogs or bees), we are like Peter. When we see or hear things that scare us, we need to remember to pray and to trust God.
Read Acts 27:13-26.
Paul was being held prisoner because he was telling people about Jesus. It was decided that Paul would take a journey on a ship, from Caesarea to Rome where he was to be put on trial. Paul was to take the trip on a big ship, along with other prisoners and the sailors. After they had gone a short distance, the weather did not seem good for travelling and Paul advised the ship’s crew to spend the winter in a town called Crete. They did not listen to Paul, but sailed on.
A storm the strength of a hurricane came along. The wind was so powerful that the sailors passed ropes around the ship to keep it from breaking apart. The raging water and winds continued for so long that many men on the ship gave up hope of ever being rescued or surviving. Despite the fact that the storm kept up, Paul told the people on the ship to keep up their courage and have faith that God would rescue them. Paul said this because an angel had visited Paul during the night and told him that he would stand trial in Rome. On the fourteenth night of the storm, (two weeks after it began!), the sailors finally sensed the ship was approaching land. They had come upon an island. Although the ship was wrecked, all the people remained safe. God had rescued them, just as the angel had foretold.
The word courage is part of the word “encourage.” The word courage is also part of the word “discourage.” We can encourage others by telling them that God cares for us. We can get discouraged ourselves when we stop trusting God and think about how frightening the situation we are in seems. We can discourage others by talking about the things they fear or teasing them, instead of encouraging them to trust God and reminding them of His love for us. The Bible tells us that we can be confident that God cares for us.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Read 2 Chronicles 32:1-22.
Hezekiah was a king of Judah who was faithful to God because he did what was right and did his best to obey God. God gave him much success and life was going well for Hezekiah, until another king named Sennacherib decided to make war against Hezekiah and his people. Hezekiah encouraged his people by saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).
The Bible says that the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah said (2 Chronicles 32:8). The king of Assyria did not give up. He tried to discourage Hezekiah and his people by saying that he had defeated other nations. Sennacherib also made fun of God by saying, “Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue His people from my hand” (2 Chronicles 32:17).
Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah cried out to God in prayer, asking for help. God sent an angel to destroy the Assyrian army. The Bible tells us that God cared for them on every side (2 Chronicles 32:22). Instead of giving up, Hezekiah trusted God and God came to his rescue.
In our own lives we fight a different kind of battle. It’s a battle against evil and temptation to do wrong. Examples include being tempted to disobey parents, to be unkind to friends or siblings, or to be selfish, wanting things our own way. If we try to “win” against sin without God’s help, it will be much harder to resist sin. We can fight effectively against sin when we pray like Hezekiah did and ask God to give us victory.
Read 2 Chronicles 26:1-6, 16-21.
Uzziah was king of Judah. This meant that he was the big boss of the entire country! The king made all the rules and everyone had to obey him. At first Uzziah followed God and did what was right, but after he became powerful, Uzziah became proud. He decided that he didn’t have to obey God’s rules and chose to go into God’s holy temple to burn incense. (This was a job God had given to the priests and only priests were to do it.)
Azariah the priest, along with 80 other priests, went to tell King Uzziah that what he was doing was wrong. It took courage for them to do this because the king had the power to order anyone who angered him to be put to death. King Uzziah did get very angry. As he was raging at the priest, leprosy (a horrible skin disease) broke out on his skin. God had sent the leprosy. King Uzziah had to live alone for the rest of his life because he had leprosy; he could no longer be around other people or go into any part of the temple to worship God.
It’s important to remember that it is God’s job to judge (Romans 14:9-11, 1 Corinthians 4:5), while it is our job to encourage others to do right (1 Thessalonians 5:10-15). Galatians 6:1 explains that when we correct another person, we are to do it in a gentle way. This means that if we are confronting wrongdoing, we need to speak quietly and politely. For example, if your friend suggests that you not allow your little brother to play with you, you could say, “Let’s remember to be kind. The Bible says we are to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.” That would be much better than yelling, “You’re being mean!”
Confronting wrong can also be easier if we support each other in standing up for what is right, like the priests did. If another child points out that someone is doing something wrong, you can support them by simply saying, “I agree with you; it’s important to follow God’s rules.”
At times, there may be other children who make fun of you for choosing to follow Jesus and doing what is right. These are the times that you can remember that Jesus had people hurt Him too. He helps us feel joyful when things are hard by giving us His Holy Spirit.
“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Read Psalm 91 and Romans 8:28.
As you read Psalm 91, have your children raise a hand each time they hear how God protects His people. Challenge them to count the ways.
We need to make sure that we are not foolish, and that we never put ourselves in a dangerous situation. Even when we are careful, however, there are some things that are outside our control. In Psalm 91 we find more than six things God protects us from. Today we don’t have wild animals roaming the streets, but there are other ways we can be harmed. We can thank God that He will care for us on icy roads, during storms and when we are sick. When we love God and ask Him to be our Protector, He promises that He will always be with us. God also promises that, no matter how bad things may seem to us, He is always working “behind the scenes” to bring good out of every situation.