Dateline: Garissa, Kenya – April 2, 2015
Early in the morning, a female university student was herded with other students from her worship time to a central place on the school campus. One question was asked. “Are you a Christian?”
Her honest answer welled up within her. A response not merely memorized or one given casually as if to a classmate. Clearly, her life was at stake. Almost precisely fifteen years earlier, the same fundamental question was asked of another female student at Columbine High School in Colorado.
I arrived in Kenya two days after the tragic attack. The whole country buzzed and mourned with the pain of the 149 senseless deaths at the university. For many, it created a resolve to battle against the evil which caused such a catastrophic loss of young lives.
What makes a person, no matter their age, respond to such a question in a way that they know may cost them their lives? Surely not because they think they will survive. It isn’t a matter of wanting to be popular with the in-crowd. It isn’t because they believe they may be able to sell their story and become rich and famous. No. Something greater gives them the courage to face life and death and stand true to the character that has been built within them.
Do you remember that time in your life – perhaps you were about twelve years old – when something terrible happened? You saw it or heard of it. You wished you could do something to stop it. You wanted to act, but how? You were just a kid. But there was a spark of valor in you even then. You wanted to overcome injustice. That’s the way valor begins.
VALOR IN ACTION
What is a mighty man or woman of valor? Is it important? The Hebrew word in the Bible for valor is chayil. In most cases, people who are mighty warriors are the ones labeled as men of valor. There are other meanings. This is my partial definition.
Valor that is exhibited is the result of a person with a history of intentional decisions to be surrendered to the highest moral power. This individual is willing to act against strong odds for the benefit of others, even at a potential extreme expense – physically, socially, financially – or other real loss to one’s self. Often, it is recognized through the courage to stand and to act in the face of extreme danger.
To see valor in action means an intimate relationship has been developed between the valiant person and God. It has been growing unseen and can, but does not always include self-sacrifice for the benefit of others to the glory of God. Such a person may be called a martyr. However, death is not necessary to be a person of valor.
STAGES OF VALOR
There are stages of valor. Early phases may not have been intentional on your part. They could have been activated by the actions or intentions of others against you or another person. These moments resulted in the decision to evaluate, learn, and grow from it. You may have done nothing.
This begins to form a series of individual victories over the actions and intentions of others. It develops a refusal to accept the personal role of ‘victim’ in the situation and in life. You may be growing to be valiant and find yourself in a situation that calls you to valor on the part of someone else.
Have you developed to that stage of action? This kind of situation can play a significant role in preparing you for your own valiant behavior in the future. There is no stigma in not being fully developed in valor. God matures us in all ways as we are ready to accept Him to do so.
Growing in valor is a process, but you can’t build valor in yourself. When you make the decision to allow God to renew His perfect character (Image of God) in you, you make a conscious choice to change. Perhaps developing valor is the same thing. That means even though you decide to allow Him to create it in you, it’s God’s work in you. But you must make the decision.
Valor recognizes the previous sacrifice of others. An inclination to valor may come from a recognition of what someone did for us. Or from seeing or recognizing something done by someone else. Therefore, valor gives rise to valor. Our example in valor is Jesus. He died on the cross for you and me.1 Now, He has the right to build us to be like Him if we accept.
VALOR NEEDED NOW
Now, as never before, God is working to build more men and women of valor. We need to understand not just what valor is, but what it isn’t. That’s the next topic in our discussion. Then, what about women? What about the two women at the beginning of this article. Does the Bible say anything about women of valor? Absolutely. Stand by for more on that.