Strength is not just measured by muscle, but also by character and faith. What does it take to be strong in those areas of life?
When I think of strong, I think of many of you soldiers. Some of you work very hard at being strong. But there are many people who are strong people, just not physically. I think of survivors of horrific situations like prison camps and think of how strong they are. I think of people who have battled physical pain and cancer multiple times and think of how strong they are.
Strength is not just physical. I can be emotional, moral, psychological and of course, spiritual.
Last week we talked about making a commitment to be leaders like Joshua. This morning we continue that theme and the story of God.
Joshua 1:1–9 || 1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. 3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will be from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great river, the Euphrates River—all the land of the Hittites—and west to the Mediterranean Sea. 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” [CSB]
Be Strong & Courageous appears 3 times in the first 9 verses. Why? And in what ways?
I mean, is God actually asking Joshua to lift weights and be muscular?
We know that Joshua was a warrior. We know he was not afraid to select men and fight. We know that Joshua trusted God and would not turn from a fight – when he reported that the land was good and God would give them victory.
If Joshua was already a strong warrior in battle, then what strength might he need here?
Joshua 1:6 || 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. [CSB]
The first time God tells Joshua this, it is because he will need to face some physical battles and some leadership challenges to lead the people into the promised land.
He gives him a future promise, “you will”… but he also gives him more:
When talking about the promised land, God seems to be repeating himself, but in the end, He is really showing us the way He works:
God is reminding Joshua that it will happen, it is happening now, and it has already happened as far as God is concerned. So, in regard to entering the Promised Land, of taking hold of the possession that God promised them:
It has taken place (a done deal in God’s economy), it is taking place (as we work out the day to day stuff) and it will take place until we receive the fullness of the promise.
THIS is the way God works in so many things, but especially in our salvation. We are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. We have been accepted by God, we are being accepted by God and we will be accepted by God.
“I am today, giving you what I already set aside for you so that you can experience it soon.”
We can be strong in leadership when we are following God, even if we do not have all the answers because God already knows the end results. This is true for our relationships, marriages, job plans, deployments, health and our service to God and others.
The second time we read “be strong:, it changes a bit:
Joshua 1:7–8 || 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. [CSB]
Joshua needed to be strong, resolute, growing and determined to study, obey and not stray from God’s commands. The call to be strong and courageous was in the area od obedience.
While it is great to be physically strong, that is not what really matters.
1 Timothy 4:8 || 8 For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [CSB]
So, sandwiched between this triple decker of the command to be strong and courageous is the other command to think about, study, speak about and obey all of God’s commands and to do it without swerving.
There is not just a shift in the focus on the command, but in the intensity of it as well. Did you notice a few added words? “Above all, be strong and very courageous to obey God’s commands.”
Joshua’s greatest leadership objective was a spiritual one.
When the word of God becomes the foundation for the way you think, respond, speak and act you are being the image of God to the world around you. By obeying God’s Word your reflect the God who spoke them.
Romans 12:1–2 || 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. [NLT]
How do we change the way we think? Change what we spend our time thinking about is a good start.
Philippians 4:8 || 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [NLT]
It is not mystical, it is not mysterious, it is simple logic:
I do not become God. I am not God. I do not place myself above God. I follow God so I can reflect God to the world around me.
To reflect God I need to have the same qualities as God, uch as being steadfast and unwavering, not changing.
But reading and thinking is not enough. We must have the strength and courage to obey it. That was the command to Joshua. In the New Testament we are remined that this is still important today:
James 1:22–25 || 22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does. [CSB]
Unwavering, or without veering to the left or the right. This is a great phrase and one we are very familiar with. Have you guys experienced the lane departure warning system in the new cars? Some even have the ability to move us back into the lane without us doing anything.
God’s spirit is like the warning system (you are veering away from God!) and god’s Word is what steers us back onto the right lane.
We must be VERY strong in our commitment to obey God no matter what. Full obedience without swerving.
The third time we read, “be strong and courageous”, God frames it in light of the opposites: “do not be afraid or discouraged”.
The opposite of courage is fear and the opposite of strength would be discouragement in this passage.
I think this last one is kinda like the warning light on the dashboard. You know, the check engine light? When that light comes on it tells you that something is out of whack and you need to check to see what is wrong so it can be fixed.
When you and I are afraid and discouraged, it should be an indicator to us that we need to check some things out.
When I am afraid, I am believing that my circumstances, situation or adversaries are bigger than God is. I know they can be bigger than me, but I only fear when I lose sight of the fact that God is with me and he is bigger than all those things.
When I am discouraged, I am believing that God is not in control and that my situation is not part of his plan.
I had this happen in a very real way this past week. I was having an unusually tough week. I kinda felt like Job… every time I turned around someone was bringing me more bad news. Ever have those weeks? I was trying to be very careful not to complain because God recently was convicting me of that. I was, however, getting discouraged.
Finally, on Wednesday, some good news. I finally sold one of my motorcycles. At least I thought I had sold it… until 3 hours later when the new owner showed up at my house, a little upset that the bike I just sold him died. David went with me to look at the bike (yeah, I was a bit afraid), and I was stumped. I promised the new owner I would help him fix it or give him a refund.
On the ride home, David started asking me some questions like “Why?” and “What might God want me to learn?”. At that moment God’s spirit started speaking to me. I was getting discouraged, but what was I believing? Did I believe that God was just wanting to make my life challenging? Was I that self-focused?
If I truly believed that God wanted me to join him on his mission, and this situation came up, I should rather believe that God might need me to reflect him to the guy who bought my bike.
Sure enough, the next night I showed up at his house and he said, “So, I understand you are pretty involved in the church. I want to talk to you about a few things”. We talked, I prayed for him, and I left. The bike? Oh, that was fixed too, but that was not the important thing, was it? It was just the vehicle God used to do his work (pun).
When we check our gauges, when we see the warning lights of fear and discouragement go off, we need to remember the rest of the admonition God gave Joshua: “for Yahweh, your Elohim, is with you wherever you go”. For me, it is more like, “For God, your Daddy, is always with you.”
There is a lot of emphasis on the promised land. It is actually “promised” after all. But the land is not the real gift. The reason Joshua was encouraged about his spiritual strength and not his physical strength is because the real prize, the real possession God had given, was giving and would continue to give was his presence with them.
“for Yahweh is with you wherever you go”
In all 3 of these charges to Joshua, God reminds him of the most important thing: God is with him. That is the point of the story of God. God has wanted to be with mankind, it’s why he created us. God wants to lead and direct us, to bless us and make us a success in doing what really matters: reflecting Him. But that means we need to follow, obey and trust Him.
Israel’s greatest inheritance was not the land, it was their relationship with Yahweh. Yet, when we have land, we take time to build on it, cultivate it, maintain it and even have fun on it.
Brothers and sisters, the real gift we have is not the stuff God gives us, but the relationship we have with him. And real joy comes from trusting Him, obeying Him and joining him on his mission.