“I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9 NIV).
What is it like to start a new job, to begin a new project, to begin an exciting challenge? There may be opportunities ahead but there can also be uncertainty: Will this work? Will we succeed? Can we do it? It is even more difficult when we are replacing someone who has been doing the work for a while. How will those I am working with accept me? Will they respect me? Will they try to sabotage what we are doing?
Maybe we can see a little bit of what Joshua seems to have been going through as he began to lead the nation of Israel. He had worked with Moses since they left Egypt. He was the one who had been chosen by God to be Moses’ successor (see Deuteronomy 31:14-23). But would the people follow him as they had followed Moses? And how would they be able to conquer the land of Canaan?
Joshua needed encouragement, so God told him over and over again, “Be strong and courageous.” He needed courage if he was to lead Israel to conquer the Promised Land so they could have a new home.
But notice what else God told him: he needed to obey God’s word. If he obeyed God’s word, not deviating from it at all, then he would be a successful leader of God’s people – God would give him success in all that he did!
God’s word had to always be on his lips – he had to know it for it to always be there. He needed to meditate on it day and night – he had to take time to read and think about what God had revealed. In this way he would know it so that he could do everything that God had commanded. It is only then that God would make him prosperous and successful. There was no reason for him to be afraid and become discouraged because God would be with him.
Isn’t it the same for Christians today? We need courage and strength if we are to successfully carry out the mission Jesus has given us of making disciples of all men (Matthew 28:19-20). But it isn’t always easy. We can become discouraged. How do we keep going?
The answer is the same as God gave to Joshua – we need to be careful to obey God and to have his word always on our lips, meditating on it each day. The only way we can do this is to spend time reading and studying the scriptures.
And don’t forget to pray! When the apostles ran into their first opposition they prayed to God – not to remove the opposition but to give them boldness to continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus (see Acts 4:23-31). We need to ask God for the boldness we need and have the courage to continue to tell others about Jesus.
Be strong and courageous!
Readings for next week:
22 May – Deuteronomy 33-34
23 May – Joshua 1
24 May – Joshua 2
25 May – Joshua 3
26 May – Joshua 4-5