Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
In the above verse we have God not only commanding Joshua to go into the Promised Land and defeat the nations there, but to do so with strength and courage. How was he going to be able to accomplish this? The key is in the last part of the verse: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” So often when we read a command of God for us in the Bible, we may say to ourselves “I don’t think I can do this!” Well, that may well identify the problem we have in trying to serve the Lord. God is not asking us to rely on our abilities or to draw from our own strength, He is asking us to rely entirely on Him to fulfill His work. We trust and obey, but we draw strength and courage from Him! Far too many of us are trying to be “good Christians”, but we are falling woefully short of what God would have us to be because we are working from our own strength and not His. We rely on our own wits, abilities, personality, charisma and power rather than on the Holy Spirit in us. It is a subtle distinction that we can easily miss and not realize until it is too late. Our only hope in drawing from the Lord is found in walking closely with the Him each day. If we fail to seek Him and surrender to Him on a daily basis, we may find ourselves in a situation like Samson when he had his hair cut off and all his power removed, but he had been living so far from the Lord that he wasn’t even aware that God had left him! To further understand this verse, let’s be sure we properly identify what we mean by strength and courage. There are two types of strength: endurance strength and brute force strength. Most people, when they think they must be strong in the Lord, think more in terms of a muscular person quickly moving a huge obstacle or challenge in their life. In real life, a person with large muscles usually soon tires and loses power when an obstacle is not moved quickly and the struggle continues on over a protracted period of time. In the Bible, the strength we are to have is “perseverance power”, much more like a long distance runner who is leaner and built to “go the distance.” People seem to be more easily impressed by great feats of strength, but life is more about the “long haul” and being able to weather challenges over extended periods of time and finish well. The conquest of the Promised Land for Joshua and the nation of Israel was going to take years to accomplish, not a matter of weeks. What am I saying? If you spend your life trying to “get things done quickly” and impress people, you are very likely going to go about spiritual things like a power lifter; you may throw a lot of things around, but you will tire quickly and soon be spent. I have seen this by many a pastor or ministry leader; they come in all guns a blazing and causing a lot of commotion and change, but soon they are exhausted and frustrated and quickly move on to some other thing. I believe this is most often caused by a self reliance rather than getting their strength from God. The courage aspect of this verse does not mean we cannot have any concerns or even fears, but rather that our faith overcomes any thoughts of fear as we look unto our Lord. The courage is not a trust in ourselves, but a confidence that our hope and power will come from the Almighty One who can do all things! We must be careful to not limit ourselves to doing only what we think we can do, or what we have done successfully in the past, when following the Lord. When we attempt to obey God in a matter, we need to be sure we are keeping our focus on what His Spirit and His Word, the Bible, are revealing to us. My friends, if we have put all our hope and trust in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross, we are His! If we are His, we have the Holy Spirit in us to give us both courage and strength to live righteously for Him. The question is, “will we draw from Him or from ourselves?” He alone will make us a strong and courageous people. Keep your eyes on Jesus!
Love in Christ,
Pastor Gary Houdek