An all-time favorite Scripture passage for many purposeful people is Joshua 1:6-9:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
The words “be strong and courageous” are emphatic, not a suggestion. To say this phrase three times in such a short amount of space in Scripture is enough for me to know the Lord was really speaking forcefully to Joshua (and to me). Be strong and courageous!
Because human nature has not changed all that much since the time of Joshua, I’m certain there were days when the Israelites made about the 11th trip around Jericho and a few people went to their tents and probably said things they would never say in public.
Surely, some of the words from “armchair quarterbacks” leaked out to Joshua. “These people are weary of the walk. They want to do something—when is that gonna happen? What’s with Joshua, does he have what it takes? Is he just stalling?” Yet, it is God who ordered Joshua to have courage and strength no matter the circumstances, not the voice of a complainer. You know the rest of the story. The people followed Joshua and pressed on through lap 13. Then the walls came down.
Today, men and women of God must obey the command of God to have strength and courage no matter the pressing issue. And there are plenty of issues in these times that are pressing down on people who choose to do right. What causes God’s people to choose to stop short? What would stop a Christ follower from pressing on toward fulfilling his or her call to be noted as a convictional, courageous Christian?
In a word: fear. Not so much the fear in a life and death circumstance. That is quite normal. But how about fear to address the significant issues of our day? What keeps us from speaking out before someone delivers a racist or a sexist punchline? What restrains us from boldly coming beside the immigrant with a significant help? What stops us from praying on the sidewalk for the pregnant mom who is about to walk into an abortorium? What inhibits the truth from our lips when a little falsehood carefully placed would deflect personal shame?
Fear is a motivation of a heart that is clamoring for acceptance. I was at a meeting outside the heartland the other day and the question was asked to the group, “Do the pastors in your faith community struggle with gaining approval so much that they fear rejection?” A unanimous affirmative was voiced. My response to the group was that “effective pastors cannot fear men, money or their momma or someone else’s momma.” Truth is, many of us have yet to let grace deeply penetrate into our heart of hearts to make God’s acceptance more valuable than the opinions of people.
What can I do to deal with fear? Judy Dabler of Creative Conciliation offers the following counsel:
“Fear is attacked through:
- Remembering the gospel—fear is tackled by your belief system. What do you believe about who you are in Christ?
- Trusting God for His protection (Isa. 54:9-17; Matt. 6:25-34, Ps. 56:3) Will we believe what God says or will we believe our circumstances?
- Experiencing God’s love through human love (1 John 4:18) and encouragement (Heb. 3:12-13). You experience the love of God through others by being part of an authentic community—the church. Do you have the kinds of personal relationships around you to attack fear—to face the fear?”
The Lord our God created, redeemed, and calls His people to be bodacious illustrations of faith, authentic love, and an ocean of encouragement. But fear freezes people into a small cube of insignificant intimidation. We must let the Lord have His way with us—Be strong and courageous.
“The guarantee that God’s people can do what God commands is the promise of God’s presence.”***
“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
(***Tisby, The Color of Compromise, page 215.)