be strong and courageous
By Andrew E. Courtis
The words “strong” and “courageous” take on various meanings in our culture. To voice your own opinion and shut down others is considered strength and courage. To promote or pursue a lifestyle that is against the teaching of Scripture is often labeled “brave” or “courageous”. The Bible gives us a very different view from the worldly standards.
In this message I want to talk about God’s commissioning of Joshua. Joshua was a military leader and was Moses assistant. He was given the task of leading the people of God out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land after Moses’ death. In this commission the Lord gave him the command and call to “be strong and courageous”. As Joshua stood there many things were behind him. The Exodus from Egypt. The Wilderness wanderings. The giving of the Ten Commandments. However, he not only saw the sovereignty of God, he also saw the sinfulness of man. The people behaved badly. He saw God’s serious and swift judgment. But as he stood there many things were also in front of him. It is his responsibility to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.
Now that by itself is a big job. But it goes beyond that. Once they enter the land they will need to take it. The inhabitants will not simply say, “Welcome to Canaan. We have been looking after the land, and now you’re here, it’s all yours!” That was not going to happen. Joshua was to lead a military campaign in which they would conquer the land and then divide the land. This is a huge task that will involve leadership, planning, strategy, and patience.
Three times in this passage Joshua is commanded by the Lord to be strong and courageous (1:6, 7, and 9). Now this was not the first time Joshua was told this and nor was it the last. The purpose of these commands is to help Joshua take his eyes off himself, his challenges, his enemies, his weaknesses, and to place his eyes on the source and resource of true strength and courage.
This call for Joshua to be strong and courageous is a call for him to willingly and boldly conduct his life in obedience to God. People talk about having strength and courage, but this is often in reference to them promoting themselves or puffing themselves up. Here we are talking about the strength and courage to do what honours God. Such strength and courage will be mocked and made fun of.
We need to understand that this call for Joshua to be strong and courageous came as the result of a series of preparations that God was doing in his life. A fascinating study is to look at all the passages Joshua is mentioned in prior to this call and commission. These passages provide us with insight into key events in which God was preparing Joshua for this very moment. By the sovereign will of God, He is doing a work in our lives that is a preparation for our calling to be strong and courageous in walking in His will. In the New Testament we are commanded to “be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10; and 2 Tim. 2:1).
If Joshua is going to be able to follow this command of God, it is necessary that he have the needed resources. What are the needed resources for him to obey this command? In this passage we learn about three essential truths that Joshua must know and remember if he is going to be strong and courageous. We must know and remember them too if we are going to be strong and courageous.
1. REMEMBER GOD’S PROMISES (1:6)
In this formal commission from the Lord, Joshua is told in verse 6, “Be strong and courageous”. This command is then followed with a reminder of God’s promise. He says, “for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them”. This reason is a resource for his strength and courage. God made a clear promise, and that was that His people would inherit the Promised Land. This promise was first made to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21), was confirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26:3) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13) and was reiterated to Moses (Deut. 34:4). The Lord promised the land to the people. Joshua was told,
“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites 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. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (1:3-5).
It is on the basis of this promise that Joshua is commanded to be strong and courageous. Why is it that the promises of God are to be viewed as certain? How is it that they become the basis for strength and courage? It is because God always keeps His promises. There is nothing more sure or certain than the promises of God. What makes them so sure and certain is because of who makes them. The Bible tells us plainly that there are three things that God cannot do: 1. “God cannot be temped with evil” (James 1:13), 2. “God cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13), and 3. “God cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). The promises of God are a blessing to our soul and are a means of helping us to be strong and courageous.
Joshua had heard many of the promises God had made to Moses. And Joshua saw many of them fulfilled with his own eyes. Now Joshua has been given promises from the same God. He is told to be strong and courageous, but if this is going to happen, he must remember what God has promised and then act on the basis of that. Do you know the promises of God? Go to the Scriptures and learn God’s promises and build your life and plans upon them.
2. REMEMBER GOD’S PRINCIPLES (1:7-8)
For the second time in this passage, God says to Joshua, “only be strong and very courageous”. Then the Lord gives Joshua careful instructions concerning His Word.
If you are going to be strong and courageous you need to go to the Word of God. You need to read it, obey it, sing it, love it, and live by it. We can try to be strong and courageous by relying on our abilities, appearance, and even accomplishments, but the problem is that they are all sinking sand. Instead, we are to build our lives on the solid and sure ground of Scripture. The Scriptures are the authoritative Word of God, sufficient for salvation and sanctification.
As the people of God, we can be strong and courageous as we build our lives on the Word of God, and as we speak and live according to the Word of God. As the Word of God fills our minds it transforms the way we think and in turn shapes the way we live. Scripture commands us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Notice that Joshua was not to implement a casual commitment to the Word of God. He was called to implement a careful commitment to the Word of God. The Lord said,
“being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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” (1:7-8).
This is talking about a serious approach to the Word of God. We will only do this if we actually know how precious and powerful God’s Word is. The Bible is more precious than pure gold (Psalm 12:6) and it powerful enough to break our sinful pride and expose our sinfulness.
We need to make sure that we are in the Word of God and soaking it up. It is not about how many chapters we can read in a day. There are many different ways we can make practical steps to be blessed by the Word of God. The key is, that we approach it with a holy hunger and eat until we are full. When we build our lives upon it, we are able to be strong and courageous and Scripture promises us prosperity and good success (1:8). The prosperity and good success in not what is promoted by many in churches today. There is this false teaching out there that claims that God wants all His people to be healthy and wealthy. This is completely unbiblical. What verse 8 is talking about is a life lived in accordance to the Word of God and the spiritual blessings that flow from it.
Building and standing on the Word of God gives us strength and courage. When Martin Luther was asked to recant his teachings, he said in his famous speech, “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other”.
3. REMEMBER GOD’S PRESENCE (1:9)
We now come to the third and final resource for strength and courage in this passage. Joshua is now told for the third time, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous” (1:9). We need to remember that for the last forty years prior to this command, Israel was being led by Moses. But now Moses is gone. Early in this chapter the Lord said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel” (1:2). Joshua no doubt felt very alone in this task. Often, we experience the same feeling. There will be different reasons for this kind of feeling and it will be experienced at varying levels. After telling him to be strong and courageous, the Lord says, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed”. In His earthly ministry, Jesus issued many commands. But do you know what His most repeated command was? It is “fear not”. Here the Lord tells Joshua to not fear and the reason is “for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”. As a child I would be most frightened when I was alone. To go outside in the dark by myself was a scary experience. But if I had my Dad with me it was different altogether. Joshua has a taunting task in front of him, and God wants him to know that he is not alone. The promise here is that you can be strong and courageous because I am always with you!
The same is true for us. There are many challenges that some of you are facing now, and there will be many ahead. You are to be strong and courageous in your obedience to God. In doing so you are not alone! When Jesus was preparing to ascend to Heaven, He wanted His disciples to know that though he was going He wasn’t going. He said to them as He commissioned them to their kingdom work,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of lall nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20)
No matter what your situation is or how alone you may feel. There is good news for you dear child of God. You are not alone! Our Lord Jesus Christ is with you. The name Joshua means “The Lord saves”. The Greek from of this name is Jesus. Just as the leader Joshua led the people of God out of the wilderness into the Promised Land defeating their enemies, the Lord Jesus is leading His people out of this world into the Promised Land while defeated our enemies. But the difference is the deliverance that Christ provides for us is one that includes the deliverance from sin and God’s judgment.
Joshua was called by God to be strong and courageous. It was his responsibility to devote himself to being obedient and devoted to God in all that is in front of him. Though Joshua was a limited individual like all of us, he will be able to carry out this task with confidence because of the gracious resources God has given Him. Joshua has the promises of God to build on. He has the principles of God to be guided by. And he has the presence of God to be comforted by. As the people of God we have the same resources. In all our tasks, the small and the large. The public and private. The fun and the frustrating. We are called to be strong and courageous in being obedient to God in them. If we are going to prosper and have success, we must be shaped by these resources. May God help us to be strong and courageous.
Questions and Points for Prayer:
1. How can God’s promises, principles, and presence help you be strong and courageous in your tasks?
2. What practical steps can we take to be reminded of these things?
3. Pray for another that we build our lives upon the importance of God’s promises, principles, and presence.