Be strong and courageous! These are words that Joshua heard again and again as he stood on the edge of God’s calling to lead the people into all that God had for them. First he heard them from his mentor, Moses.
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV
Several times he received this encouragement directly from the Lord.
The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23 NIV
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; 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
The people he was called to lead spoke words of encouragement to him as they pledged their cooperation and loyalty.
Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!” Joshua 1:16-18 NIV
Those serving under him confirmed his success.
They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24 NIV
One more time, as Joshua the gave the command for the priests to pick up the ark and walk toward the river, believing God would part the waters so they could cross over into the promised land, God again spoke words of affirmation to assure Joshua that He would be with him every step of the way.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Joshua 3:7 NIV
Why did Joshua need so much encouragement? Was he new to the faith? Not at all; in fact Joshua had served alongside Moses since his youth and had been privileged to experience many, if not all, of the miraculous moments God had shared with Moses. He was there when Moses raised his staff and God parted the Red Sea so the people could walk through safely on dry ground. He was on the mountain with Moses when God gave him the ten commandments, and he was in the tent of meeting each time God spoke to Moses face to face. In fact, Moses would leave the tent to speak with the people but the Bible tells us Joshua remained in the tent even after Moses left.
Perhaps one of the reasons Joshua need so much affirmation was simply because his own faith was so intricately interwoven with the faith of Moses. His spiritual experience, and success, to a large degree, had always been connected to Moses. That’s so clearly demonstrated in this passage of scripture:
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” Exodus 17:8-14 NIV
God’s plan for the growth of our faith, always includes relationships with other believers. Sometimes, we are the mentor, sometimes we are the aide, and sometimes we are simply growing together; but it’s safe to say that all of us benefit spiritually from the faith and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. But at this point in Joshua’s journey, he was transitioning from aide to mentor. It was time for him to personalize his faith and relate to God without Moses in the picture, and the task before him was a big one!
The story of Joshua teaches me two important lessons.
1.) God loves each one of us personally and wants us to realize that He is always with us, even if our Christian experience has primarily included others. We can rejoice in the relationships He has given us to enjoy, and be grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ, but at the end of the day, each of us, as individuals, are privileged with a personal walk with our Savior. He does not just love us as a group, He loves each one of us individually! He will be with you each step of the way on your own personal journey!
2.) God never minds giving us encouragement and affirmation. If you are anxious about your current situation, whatever it entails, listen for the voice of God to say, “Be strong and courageous! I am with you, there’s no need to be afraid!” He may speak through your mentor. He may speak through other believers. Or He may speak directly to your heart, again and again, as often as you need to hear it.
Whatever situation you are facing today, don’t beat yourself up if you are anxious about it. As strong as Joshua’s faith was, he too must have been afraid or God would not have reminded him so many times that he need not be. Fear is a natural human emotion, just don’t let it cripple you and hinder your faith or your ability to follow God’s call. Instead, bring every fear to the Lord in prayer!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
Be strong and courageous, God is with you!