Be Strong and Very Courageous!

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Before we really dig into verse 9, I want us to take a look at the verses leading up to it. I’ve found that in the past I have often quick-claimed inspiring verses like this one, but failed to acknowledge the context proceeding it. The context helps us understand who said the verse, why it was said and to whom. It adds a depth and a power that would otherwise be lost to us.

In these verses, the Lord is talking directly to Joshua. Here’s what he said…

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
Joshua 1:5-9

Joshua was among the twelve Israelites that went into the land of Canaan to explore and bring back a report before the entire population Israel was to enter1. Of those twelve, only he and Caleb returned full of faith that God would be with them and fulfill his promises. The other ten were so terrified by the obstacles and opposition they saw that they caused the entire nation to rebel against God.

Though God punished them and set them to wonder in the wilderness for forty years, Joshua’s faith remained firm and did not go unnoticed. At the end of their wilderness punishment, Joshua was appointed to take over and lead the people into the Promised Land.

As we consider God’s powerful promise in verse 9, we need to make note of its caveat in verse 7. It says, “Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

After reading these passages, I find myself thinking of two different belief systems.

The first is that God created all, including us. And including the rules. That the only way to succeed is by following his instructions. That he is the way, the truth and the life. Our hearts are always yearning for more of God and are being refined by him.

The second is that we’re smarter than God, who is out of date, old fashioned, and behind the times. We have full understanding of the world and can, and will, be just fine, if not better, on our own. God will ultimately only slow us down and hold us back from all that life has to offer. Our hearts are growing ever more hard and stubborn.

The world I live in loves this second system and is doing everything it can to eliminate consequences to bad, sinful decisions. It wants good things, prosperous things, but it doesn’t want rules on how to get it. It prefers an anything goes mentality. Satan cleared the way for this, and he paved it to make it easy. He lit it up, made it public, and made it socially acceptable. The stops along the way are irresistible, even predictable, so that we do not have to wonder, second guess or fear.

But Satan doesn’t love, he hates. And he’s cunning and will keep those who follow this path moving further and further from God and closer to eternal separation from Him.

In direct contrast the first is, at its core, submission. It’s admitting that we’re human and not deity. That we see only in part. That we can’t create our own peace or joy. That we don’t know it all. That, when we truly look at our own actions and thoughts and motivations, we’re not better than anyone else – we’re actually far worse that we thought. That we don’t actually know what’s going to happen.

It’s admitting that we’re mere sheep and we desperately need a good shepherd to provide for us, protect us, guide us, heal our broken bones, find us when we’re lost, and redirect us when we’re wandering off.

When we follow the first, when we are careful to obey God and not deviate from him, turning either to the right or to the left, this is where his promise comes into play. This is where he says “…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This is when we can go boldly, knowing that the Lord is on our side and is mighty to save, strong in battle!

God knows what’s best for us, and his way is our base case scenario. Whatever you’re facing today, submit it to God. Then go forward with courage. Be strong. Be very courageous! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

1 Numbers 13-14

A Lesson in Keeping Calm

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
Matthew 6:25-27

This post took me a long time to write, because in this passage Jesus is telling his disciples to do something that seems humanly impossible. He’s telling them not to worry. And not just in a general feel-good off handed way, but literally. He is saying that even clothes and food and water – the very primitive foundations of life – are not worth fussing about because the Father knows of these needs and he will provide them.

This message is intended for you and I to take literally as well.

Looking it up in the dictionary, I found that worry means to give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. This is a perfect definition, because when are we the most anxious? When we are focusing all our attention and energy on what’s wrong.

But what does Jesus say? In verse 33 he tells us what to do when our thoughts are weighing us down and causing us to be overwhelmed with worry:

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

This is our hope. This is what he tells us to do. He tells us to pick our eyes up off our troubles and consider the Kingdom of God.

Instead of letting our hearts grow sick with worry, let’s seek the Kingdom of God by asking ourselves the following questions:

How does God want me to respond to this?

What does obedience look like here?

Instead of dwelling on this, how can I trust God?

These questions will help us start to take a step back and give us space to think about what God sees that we don’t. There is life on the other side of this practice of seeking first the Kingdom of God.

I’ve learned that if Jesus says it, there is freedom on the other side of it. We can be certain that a calmer, more peaceful mind awaits us on the other side of our obedience.

I Will Be Found By You

“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

In Jeremiah 29:1-23 God is telling his people, who have been exiled to Babylon, to settle in. He told them to build homes, plant gardens, marry and have children, and to work for the peace and prosperity of their very place of exile – even telling them to pray for that city – for their welfare would be determined by its welfare.

The Lord had spoken through Jeremiah. Yet in their midst, false prophets began giving instructions that were contrary to what God was had said. They claimed that they were hearing from God when in fact they were lying and telling the people that they were having dreams from the Lord.

Not all prophets are truth tellers.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Jeremiah 29:8-14

This emphasizes how important it is to seek the Lord. We cannot forget that while there are true prophets and words from the Lord, there are also those who would would claim God for their own fame and agenda.

There have been many times this year that I’ve been fearful because of a dream or a word someone has had. People are trying desperately to make sense of what’s going on and why the entire world has been turned upside down. But I had to keep reminding myself that God cares for his children. God brings provision when we thought non could exist. Even if the world is crumbling, he is still there. He is still my refuge. He is my foundation, and that foundation is not shaken. And he reminds us in verses 13 and 14 that if we look for him wholeheartedly, we will find him. He will be found by us.

Yes, listen to those who hear from God and have a proven track record. But use discernment. God has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. May we ask God for the discernment to know when a message is from the Lord, and when it’s merely human thought or desire.

God is for us, so who can be against us? Let’s be bold in our faith and trust that he’s got us and will lead us.