By WALTER ALBRITTON
Christ followers love Old Testament scriptures. One of the most beloved verses is Joshua 1:9 where the Lord said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
We can imagine those words meant everything to Joshua. Having been chosen to fill the shoes of mighty Moses, Joshua surely felt the same way most of us would have felt — scared to death. But somehow Joshua overcame his fear and embraced his mission with strength and courage. And that raises a good question: how did he do it? What did Joshua do to become “strong and courageous”?
This is an important question because we believe God wants all His people to face the challenges of life with strength and courage. For example, as I read the Biblical story of Joshua, I hear the same God who spoke to Joshua speaking to me, saying “Walter, I know you have many fears, just as all people do, but if you will face your fears, and trust me like Joshua did, I will give you the confidence to be strong and courageous. You can refuse to be terrified and discouraged because I will be with you, just like I was with Joshua and Moses.”
To be strong, then, means to rely on the Lord, to trust Him as my true source of strength. Solomon reminds us that to trust the Lord “in all things,” means that I refuse to “lean on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6). For Joshua, trusting God meant to “obey” God’s directions and to “meditate” on them “day and night.” And if “successful” living required obedience and meditation from Joshua, the same disciplines are expected of us today.
To be courageous is to be resolute, steadfast, not weak and spineless in the face of difficult situations. God did not tell Joshua, nor does He tell us, that by trusting the Lord he would have an easy life. He simply promised to be “with” Joshua when he faced great adversity. And Joshua learned what we have learned, that the strengthening presence of the Lord makes all the difference when we are confronting life’s hardships. It is His presence, and our confidence in His power to help us, that puts steel instead of Jell-0 in our backbones. Our fears are real but more real is the Lord’s power to help us bravely face our troubles.
Courage is needed in daily living. It takes courage to admit you were wrong and ask for forgiveness. It takes courage to be accountable and take responsibility for your mistakes. It takes courage to overcome your fear of failure and begin a new project. It takes courage to listen more and talk less. It takes courage to offer kindness to others, especially those whose behavior has irritated you. It takes courage to say No to some things in order to be able to say Yes to more important things. It takes courage to keep your commitments to your family and your colleagues at work. It takes courage to remain positive in a negative environment.
To live in this broken world with strength and courage, we must believe that God is ready to help those who obey His directions for living. Joshua believed God would help him in his hour of need. We see Joshua’s courage at the Jordan River. Crossing seemed impossible with the river at flood stage. It took courage for Joshua to believe that the Lord would part the water when the priests “set foot in the Jordan.” But when they did, obeying the Lord, the waters parted so the Israelites could cross over on dry ground. The Lord made a way.
When we, in everyday life, obey God, believe God, trust God and face our problems with strength and courage, we can expect God to “make a way where there is no way” for us in our day. If you will listen carefully, you may hear the Lord calling your name and saying to you,
“I know what you are going through and I am ready to help you overcome your fears and face your problems with courage. Trust me, obey me, be strong and courageous, and I will be with you everywhere you go.”