(Joshua 1:5-9) It happened at Valley Forge and again a Bastogne. A hand full of men stood against the odds and the tide of their wars turned. In October of 1918 nine companies of the 77th Division (American troops) staged a frontal attack into the Argonne Forest. They thought others were advancing with them protecting their flanks. Little did they now the others were stalled and the battalion found themselves cut-off and surrounded by German troops. Of the 554 men who advanced into the forest nearly 350 were killed, wounded, or went missing in action. The remaining men held their position which delayed the German army to the point that the Germans finally retreated. The 77th’s action hastened the end of WWI. These men were strong and courageous and many lives were saved as a result of their heroism.
Joshua is preparing to lead God’s people into the conquest of the Promised Land. He will often be outnumbered and face well trained and well equipped armies. But he knew he had to advance. The Lord commissioned him to do so, to the lead the Israelites home.
This newly appointed leader must have been a bit uncertain about his new role. As a matter of fact, he might have been terrified at the prospect of what lay ahead for him and his people. Might the text indicate this? Listen to God’s conversation with Joshua: “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 forsake 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 carefully observe 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 recite 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.” (1:5-9)
Did you hear the words that reveal the heart of the leader? Three times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Could it be that Joshua needed those words for his heart was leaning away from strength and courage? Was God speaking to the greatest need in his spirit at that moment in time? This writer believes so. By repeating the phrase three times, the Lord is giving Joshua the strongest of exhortations. It was more than a desire it was a command. If Joshua was going to do God’s work leading the people into Canaan, he must do so with great strength and courage.
Strength and courage are two essentials when God calls a person into His work. What was God saying when He spoke of these two characteristics? Strength comes from a word that describes standing and not being moved, to hold fast. It is what the men of the 77th did in the Argonne that October in 1918. But God was not telling Joshua to just stand his ground. On the contrary, the Lord also called on His man to be courageous. This also means to stand vigorously so as to prevail in the battle. It was not enough for Joshua to stand firm, he was move forward as well.
How was Joshua going to have the fortitude to obey and the tenacity to move ahead? God gave the man two essentials by which to accomplish his task. First in verse five the Lord says, “I will be with you…I will not leave you or forsake you.” What a promise. “Be with you” is plain enough but understand that God is also promising that He will not turn His back on His chosen leader or His people – that comes from never leave or forsake. That is God’s promise.
But He also gives Joshua two essential tasks through which he will be able to be strong and courageous. He must be careful to see and do all God commands and not be distracted in the midst of the call. How will he know what God expects? Joshua must keep his eyes on the Lord and not on the circumstances around him (v.7) and stay in God’s Word (v.8).
The preceding essentials for following God into the unknown are powerful tools for successfully serving Jesus Christ. With the use of the tools comes a promise, “you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.” (v.9) Please don’t take this as a blank check. First the word from which “prosper” is gleaned also means to go over or pass through, to finish well. Succeed points to succeeding due to wisdom. Both suggest Joshua will accomplish what God has called him to accomplish; in this is true prosperity or as Jesus called it, “laying up treasures in Heaven that can never be lost.”
All of God’s people are called to move forward, following Christ into unknown and uncertain days. As well, all are called to lead others to do the same. This is the Christian’s mandate whether that person is a preacher or simply a Christian parent, friend, or neighbor.
So to be successful remember the essentials – strength and courage that come from remembering that God is always with you and you are to stay with Him. Don’t be distracted and study the Bible. Place deep within your heart these three sets of two: Strong and Courageous. God is with you and will always be with you, which by the way Jesus said just before He ascended. Don’t be distracted and do be a student of the Bible. Now, journey on.