At the start of each year, I ask the Lord for a Scripture to guide the organization I lead. That Scripture becomes the theme for the year, as we seek to honor the Lord and expand our influence in the community. It is a source of encouragement when we face challenges, as well as a source of inspiration as we see God’s faithfulness in light of His specific Word to us. This year the Lord spoke Joshua 1:9 to my heart.
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 (NLT).
Joshua was chosen to be the successor to Moses. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Moses was the revered leader of the nation of Israel for over forty years. This was the man who received God’s call to lead from the burning bush. He led a multitude of people out of slavery into freedom. This was the man who spent weeks with God on the mountain, whose face glowed so brightly that he had to cover it in public. Moses performed fabulous miracles, and brought the Chosen People to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua had some very big shoes to fill.
But the Lord promised Joshua that if he diligently followed and relied on Him, the Lord would be with Joshua (See Joshua 1:8). He could set aside fear of the unknown and discouragement of not being good enough. Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. His strength and courage were not dependent on his warrior abilities. They came from trust in and obedience to God.
There is another passage that is similar to the encouragement Joshua received. It is found in Deuteronomy 31:6.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (NIV).
In the first passage, the Lord spoke to Joshua. In this second passage, Moses spoke to all the people. The great leader was now 120 years old and ready to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses instructed the vast community to trust the Lord as they crossed over into the Promised Land. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would be stepping into enemy territory, but the Lord had told the Israelites to possess the land.
The ability to overcome the enemy came from the Lord’s presence. He was with His people and would never leave nor forsake them. They weren’t big enough, strong enough, or brave enough in their own strength to fulfill God’ plan. But the Lord was.
In the passage in Joshua, God’s strength and courage are available to the individual. In the Deuteronomy passage, they are available to the faith community.
The command to be strong and courageous is not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament gives Christ-followers the same encouragement.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 3:10-13 NIV).
There is a very real spiritual battle going on. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. Our enemies are not the people we can see. Your fight is not with the annoying person that perpetually rubs you the wrong way. It is not the group that opposes your beliefs and values. No, our true enemies are the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness. We fight the battle by praying, walking in God’s love, and representing His ways. This takes strength and courage, but again our source is Christ and His mighty power. He is already victorious. Our power to stand in the midst of the most troublesome situations is in Him.
What is the Lord calling you to do? Does it seem too big for you? Are you afraid, perhaps terrified? You’re in good company. Our God likes to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, because then we rely on Him.
No matter what 2018 may hold, we can be strong and courageous. We can stand victoriously against the devil’s schemes. We can advance God’s mission. We can thrive in the Lord’s mighty power individually and in the places we lead.
Heavenly Father, be my strength when I am weak. Be my courage when I am discouraged. As I trust You and follow Your Word, equip me to answer Your call and do Your will. Remind me that I am never alone. You are with me, providing all I need every moment. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.