Have you ever been forced to leave your comfort zone? Have you had to do something new that you just didn’t feel equipped to do? It could be something minor or major. Both can be terrifying.
Many years ago, I was in a Sunday school class led by the pastor of a large church. At the end of the class, the pastor asked me to stand up and close that time in prayer. I had never done anything like that before and I’m sure my eyes almost popped out of my head.
On the more serious side, I remember what it was like when we got the new that first one and then our second child were diagnosed with autism. I didn’t feel mature enough to parent a typical child, much less a special needs child. What has been your experience?
I’m thankful that the Bible contains story after story of similar experiences. The details are different but the principles are the same. Imagine what it was like for Joshua. Moses had been in charge for so long. He had practically defined what it meant to be the people of Israel. Moses brought the people out of slavery. Moses mediated between the people and God at the giving of the Law. Moses led the people for forty years in the wilderness. Now that it is finally time for the Israelites to enter into the Promised Land, it is Joshua and not Moses who is to lead them.
This would have been a tremendously anxious time for Joshua. He would have felt the full weight of his responsibility. How could he accomplish this task?
God was aware of this and spoke to Joshua, telling him exactly what he needed to hear before beginning his mission. We find in this passage three things that Joshua needed to hold onto. While the exact details of what Joshua had to accomplish are much different than us, we need to hold to the same three things.
Remember God’s Faithfulness
God was speaking to Joshua, encouraging him in his ministry. God had done the same thing about forty years before with a Moses who didn’t feel up for his task. This is the key to the first thing that Joshua had to hold onto. Joshua needed to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. What was about to happen was not on a blank slate. God had guided and provided for Moses and he would guide and provide for Joshua. The God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt would bring the Israelites into Canaan. God had a long reputation of being faithful to his people and Joshua needed to remember that.
The same principle is true for us. You may feel like you are going through something like you never have before. And those details may be new but this is not the first time you have been in need. Think back to how God had come through for you in the past. Is there any reason to believe he will abandon you now? When I sit with people on their deathbed, I encourage them to remember what God has done before for them.
However, this takes some work. When you are in the middle of the crisis, it is difficult to recall those past blessings. We need to make a habit of remembering God’s faithfulness. Write out your testimony, not just how you became a Christian, but your life as a Christian relying on God. Write down when God answers prayers and go back to those notes when life gets hard.
God asks Joshua to look to the past but he also asks Joshua to think of the present. Joshua needs more than Moses’ past courage, he needs courage for today. Sometimes to get through a challenge, you just need to grit your teeth and get through it. I remember talking to a WW2 vet. He landed at Juno Beach on D-Day. His landing craft opened in deep water and when he was pushed out, with the weight of all his equipment, he sank right to the bottom. He had to make a decision at that moment. He chose to jump off the channel bottom and get one more breath of air. He continued that process, bullets whizzing by, until he made it to the beach and onto land. Ed wasn’t any more talented of a soldier than others, he just had the courage to not give up.
I have never been in any such situation. The one experience that comes to mind was the opportunity to go rappelling as part of a leadership program I was part of. The problem was that I am terrified of heights. The thought of rappelling down a cliff was like being punched in the stomach. There was no way I could do it. They convinced me to get the equipment on and stand at the edge, just so they could get a photo of me. I did that and once I got in position, I decided to go the whole way and rappel down the cliff. My fear of heights didn’t disappear but I decided to not be controlled by fear.
That is pretty much what courage is. It is not the lack of fear but the refusal to be controlled by fear. You may be in a situation in which you are experiencing fear. That is okay. Sometimes fear is healthy. But when it is unhealthy fear, we need not be controlled by it. There are certain things that we can just decide to do.
What do you need courage for? What is it that you need to push through?
The thing about courage is it gives you the strength to do something but not the direction of what to do. God commanded Joshua to hold onto more than just courage. God called Joshua to hold onto the Book of the Law. What is the Book of the Law? It is that part of the Bible that was revealed to Moses and written by him. Notice that it is supposed to be on his lips. That is a reference to reading as the ancients always read out loud. Also Joshua is to meditate on the Word. That is not an emptying of the mind as many think of meditation. It is about holding on to a passage, reflecting deeply on it and finding God in it. I compare it to eating a juicy steak. You don’t just cut a piece and gulp it down. You carefully chew it, savouring the flavours, enjoying the experience. That is what meditating on the Word is. Not seeking quantity but quality.
The same principle applies to us. Joshua only had a portion of the Old Testament, we have the full Old Testament plus the New Testament. It is not enough to just have a beautifully bound edition of the Bible. We need to read it. We need to study it. We need to meditate on it.
Why is this important? In a world of shifting values and confusing morals, we need something solid.
Many years ago I went tobogganing. My first run down the hill, I went off track and ended up on a frozen creek. My foot broke through the ice into the knee high water. I stepped on another piece of ice and it broke. That kept happening until I got to the dry ground. That solid ground is like the Word of God. It is secure and safe. Keeping to the Word of God is how we navigate our confusing times.
I don’t know what you are going through but I know what I’m going through. I also know what Joshua went through and what he held onto to make through some challenging times. Joshua held onto the memories of what God had done in the past. Joshua held onto courage, the choice not to be controlled by fear. Joshua held onto the Word of God. What do you hold onto? Challenging times will come. It is up to us as to how we will respond.