“I hereby command you; Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. 1:9
My husband will fully vouch for the fact that I have an active imagination. Comes with the writer territory. Seriously, I can cook up insatiable neurotic excuses of what can go wrong in any given situation. Is that a blood clot headed to my heart? Did my rib puncture my pancreas? No, honey, it is just a bruise.
God, You want me to teach middle schoolers? Last time I checked, there are middle schoolers at middle school! Ahhhh! You do remember I am five foot three, right? Julie, be strong and courageous. But God. Strong. And. Courageous.
So, I write the following post out of the healed brokenness in my life as I reach into the Word for truth. I am a hypocrite. I make no claims to perfection, and there is no Christian superhero trading card with my name on it. I confess. I am a spiritual weenie. Who happens to be told by her loving Abba to be strong and courageous. It is an ongoing challenge God keeps teaching me in greater detail as I keep circling back. What a joy and responsibility to say Yes to an awesome God Who doesn’t want to leave us as we are.
Moses has died. The mantle of leadership has passed on to Joshua. The last time he looked over the Promised land, he had a younger body, a younger and fresher outlook on life. He was one of two people who spied on the promised land, filled with obstacles and warriors, and reported back that he was ready to go to battle. I wonder. How did God prepare Joshua spiritually and mentally for the promised land in the moments before the battle they would fight outright, and for the battles that would come later.
And when a person peels back the layers of Joshua 1, the phrase “strong and courageous” is repeated four times. Four. Like a huge highlighted lightning bolt drawing attention to what Joshua needed and what God wants us, years later, to grasp as we move from wilderness to promised land, even when it seems like what God’s best for us is a place teeming with obstacles. I don’t know about you, but I have wasted a lot of time trying to be strong and courageous the wrong way. So, in order to get a broader understanding, I unpacked each time it was used.
The first three times, God is speaking to Joshua at a crossroads. All eyes of Israel are on him.
1:6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”
1: Remember. You are a part of a plan that is much bigger than you are. You are not being strong and courageous for your benefit alone. You are continuing a plan set in motion before you took your first breath. Joshua was part of a promise made to Abraham. He was continuing to sculpt the nation of Israel that included David, Rahab, Isaiah, Anna, and a new temple not made of stone—the strength and courageous acts now would eventually lead to Jesus Christ coming on earth!
Be strong and courageous now, because it will ripple out into all eternity. You have a distinct role to play, an ordained service to contribute to God’s Kingdom. Be strong and courageous with a kingdom perspective tucked in your heart. When you connect what God is asking you to do with the bigger picture of God’s plan, you can move forward with strength and courage, even when it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
1:7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you may go.”
2: Be strong and courageous with an obedient heart. If you don’t, you will try to accomplish what God is calling you to do with your own strength. As I have learned by tripping and falling repeatedly, you will actually create more obstacles and roadblocks for yourself. There is a relationship between obedience to God’s best and courage.
The dialogue I usually have with God is “Oh, You want me to step outside my comfort zone? Really? Talk to her? Do that? Um, no. Can I just do it this way? God, they will think I’m a moron if I tell them You gave me this word to pray for them. God, I think I can handle it if I actually don’t tithe, if I don’t speak up for the powerless, if I just pray for a person instead of visiting them in the hospital, God if I keep judging that person who looks and acts differently than me instead of asking them for coffee or trying to understand them, then it will look like I’m doing Your will without really having to get dirty or uncomfortable.” What I’m really saying is God, I don’t surrender my whole heart to You. I know what’s best.
My own strength is limited. My courage tends to be governed by what I can control. God asks us to be obedient. And that requires submitting the complete heart to all of God’s strength and courage. Strength and courage is not about our own agendas or being fueled by anything other than the Spirit of God.
1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
3: It is not a suggestion. God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous. I. Command. You. He contrasts it with what you need not be, which is afraid and discouraged. The enemy sweeps in and reminds us of our limitations. Of our past mistakes and brokenness. Of the obstacles and giants which inhabit the destination to which we are called. We don’t have to believe it, though. We take all of the brokenness of our lives and hand it to God. Because, in the final analysis, it’s not about perfect people doing God’s work. It’s about a Perfect God working through us. In our weakness, His strength is made known to a hurting world.
God is not calling superheros to do His work. He is calling people who have screwed up. He is calling waitresses, inmates, and teachers. He is calling stay at home moms, carpenters, and doctors. He wants scientists and Wal Mart greeters. He commands you. With all of your flaws to go be strong and courageous. Because wherever you go, He promises to be with you. It is never our job to do this alone. If the God of all creation Who spoke and the world came into existence is with us, doesn’t that put all those obstacles into their proper perspective?
The fourth time this phrase is used in Joshua chapter one, it is not God speaking. Joshua has stepped up and taken God’s calling on him as the new leader. God’s awesome promise to Abraham is unfolding!
In verse 18, after the people say they will follow him as they followed Moses, they put God’s charge back on their new leader “…only be strong and courageous.”
4: Christians who are strong and courageous are also contagious. The people of God were organized and ready for battle and ready to inhabit the Promised Land. They saw that their leader was strong and courageous, and it made them that way, too. The obstacles from forty years prior had not left. There were still well adapted warriors to contend with. What changed was depth of faith.
That call is for anyone who takes up their cross and follows Jesus’ lead. And, just in case you are like me, and tend to default to fear and excuses instead of reflexively being strong, I encourage you to fight back with the truth that God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, wisdom, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7) God’s perfect love, not our limited abilities, casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
I guarantee that there is a hurting or disillusioned person somewhere within your world who needs you to be strong and courageous, to allow God’s Spirit to propel you to make a difference. Keep going!The God of all time, Who is in control, Who knows the hairs on your head, Who spoke and created llamas and quasars, who gifted an insecure spiritual weenie like me to cooperate with Him in the spiritual realms–that God goes with you.