As You Approach the Challenges of Your Life Be Strong and of Good Courage
O Lord God, my dear Heavenly Father, my life is in Your hands, and my future is dependent upon Your grace. As I enter into Your presence this day for worship, cause me to be filled with humble awe of Your power and merciful kindness. May I sing Your praises in joy, confess Your truths with conviction, and grow in my understanding of Your will, so that my every word and action might glorify Your saving name. Amen.
We live in a world filled with challenges. Paul urges us to live life soberly, in faith with love, and ready for our salvation.
Text: Joshua 1:6-9
Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
In Christ Jesus, whose power and promises sustain us in our lives, dear fellow redeemed:
Do you have big shoes to fill at home, in the workplace, or here at church? Do you have overwhelming tasks to accomplish—tasks that seem at times just too big for you? Do you have people with whom to work who are less than cooperative at times and upon whom you are not sure you can always depend? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then welcome to Joshua’s world! Have there ever been any bigger shoes to fill than those of Moses? The Scriptures say regarding him: “Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt,…and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-11a, 12). The task that lay before Joshua was the conquest of the Promised Land—no small thing given the number of people they had to displace and the size and the strength of the walled cities they would have to overcome. And the people with whom he had to work…they did not have a history of exemplary faithfulness to God or cooperation with their leaders. Joshua had watched Moses deal with these people for forty years, and it had not always been easy nor had it always gone well.
Yet, Joshua had been chosen by the LORD to be Israel’s new leader. He had been commissioned to conquer and divide the land, and these were God’s chosen people of that generation. Joshua no doubt wondered at times how everything was going to get done, but as the Book of Joshua opens we are told that the LORD came to Joshua and told him directly: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Josh. 1:2-5). The LORD then went on to address Joshua with the words of our text…words we will consider today and words we can aptly apply to our own lives, for AS YOU APPROACH THE CHALLENGES OF YOUR LIFE BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE! Draw your strength from God’s Word, and draw your courage from God’s presence!
Yes, draw your strength from God’s Word! The LORD told Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Notice that the strength Joshua needed even as the strength that we need to accomplish our God-given tasks is tied to God’s Word. God’s Word is strong and powerful. The writer to the Hebrews states: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
The world’s immediate response is to deny that power of God's Word. They reject the Bible and do not want the teachings of the Bible to hold sway anywhere. Powerful secular organizations sue cities, counties, and school districts in our country in order to force them to remove monuments and displays of the Ten Commandments from their public lawns and hallways. The Bible itself and the principles it espouses are denigrated by atheists in the public media. Christians are told their views are personal, religious views and should be kept to themselves. These Christian views are thought to be inappropriate when brought up in the public square because of a false application of the principle of separation of church and state. It would appear outwardly that the forces of evil are winning this battle—that they are indeed more powerful than the Word of God, but that simply is not true. The very fact that the atheists seem so preoccupied with their struggle against the Bible testifies to the Bible’s power. The writer to the Hebrews, after all, emphasized that the Word of God is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Removing a monument from a lawn does not dilute the power of the Word, because the intense hatred that arises within the hearts and minds of atheists, which moves them to demand a monument’s removal, testifies to the powerful impact the Word has upon them. It may not be a positive impact, but it is a powerful impact nonetheless. Paul explains this when he says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (cf. Rom. 1:18). To state it plainly, the devotion the atheist shows in trying to suppress God’s Word and keep it out of the public sphere is a testimony to its very power, just as much as our devotion to upholding that Word is a testimony to its actual power.
It is that power and strength, which we need to meet the challenges we face in our lives! The LORD told Joshua to do three things with the Word of God, which would strengthen him and guarantee his success as he led Israel into the Promised Land. He was to meditate upon it, to talk about it, and to act upon it. His thoughts, words, and deeds were all to be guided by the Law of Moses, or in our cases the entire Word of God.
If we are to succeed in meeting the challenges that face us, we first have to focus our thoughts on the truths of God’s Word. The Psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man, who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). The apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). When our thoughts are guided by the truths of God’s Word then we will be in a position to make clear and positive decisions.
If we are to succeed in meeting the challenges that face us, we also need to talk about God’s truths. We need to share them with each other and sharpen our thinking based upon our discussions with each other. The Bible tells us that Joshua and the elders of Israel made a serious mistake in making a treaty with the Gibeonites, because they “did not ask counsel of the LORD” (cf. Josh. 9:14). In other words, they did not talk to God or discuss their options as outlined in His Word. No one has all the answers right away, but as we talk about the will of God and share the truths of God with each other, we become more aware of how to apply them appropriately and with success in our lives. It is as we share those truths and become convinced of how those truths are to be applied that we reach the strong convictions we need to carry out all that must be done to meet our challenges.
If we are to succeed, finally, we must act upon the truths of God’s Word. Thinking and talking will not get the job done! Those truths of God that we think about and discuss will ultimately point us back to our relationship with God, which is based upon His forgiveness in Jesus. By leading us to Jesus we can confess with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phi. 4:13) AS YOU APPROACH THE CHALLENGES OF YOUR LIFE BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE! Draw your strength from God’s Word!
Draw your courage from God’s presence! The LORD told Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua had spent forty years as Moses’ assistant. During that time he had accompanied Moses up Mount Sinai. He had entered with Moses into the Tabernacle. He had led Israel into battle under Moses’ watchful eye. In all of those situations Joshua had seen how important the presence of God was for Moses, his mentor. It was absolutely vital to the success of any endeavor. Joshua knew that and because of that, he took great courage in God’s promise to go with him wherever he might go!
It was God who was present when the waters of the Jordan were cut off and Israel was able to enter Canaan on dry land during the flooding season. It was God who was present and made the walls of Jericho fall down. It was God who was present in all of the major battles to win control of and then divide the Promised Land. Time and time again the LORD would come to Joshua and tell him, “Do not be afraid because of them (any of his enemies), for…I will deliver all of them (into your hands)” (Josh. 11:6).
It is that promise of God to be with us—a promise given to God’s people throughout history more often than any other promise of God—that instills courage within our hearts. More often than not, those promises in Scripture are accompanied with an admonition not to be afraid. Fear is a dark and deadly weapon of Satan intended to frustrate God’s people and to prevent God’s kingdom from coming among them. But God is more powerful than Satan! There is, in fact, no comparison, for Satan and all of his evil hosts are but created beings of God. They possess powers apportioned by God and are ultimately subject to God.
Jesus, on the other hand, can and has assured us that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him (Mt. 28:18). He is the One who commissions us in life to accomplish the tasks set before us. We have been commissioned to take His Word into the world to make disciples. We often receive divine calls to carry out the work of our Christian congregation. We are called upon by God in general ways to fulfill the tasks assigned us in our homes and workplaces. Consequently, as we go forward in our lives to approach any challenge given us by our Lord, we do not do so on our own. Jesus assured us before ascending into heaven, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). How can we not draw courage by the fact that Jesus, who has overcome sin, death, Satan, and hell on our behalf, is beside us as we approach everything that confronts us on a daily basis? Let us never fear, but rather entrust ourselves and our every endeavor to our Savior God!
AS YOU APPROACH THE CHALLENGES OF YOUR LIFE BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE! Draw your strength from God’s Word, and draw your courage from God’s presence! Amen.