Monday, September 19, 2016

Strong and Courageous

"Have I not commanded you? 
Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
 for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

How many times in life are we in a position that we are called to be strong and courageous? Starting a new job, moving to a new city, becoming a parent for the first time, competing in our favorite sport, or trying a new activity like sky diving or zip lining!

Trusting the Lord with our children, holding our heads high even while struggling through a difficult diagnosis, or learning to put one foot in front of the other after losing someone we loved dearly. There are ample times and opportunities to share our strength and courage in different situations.


I am currently in one such situation myself and God has brought me to the book of Joshua for this season of my life. So when I have a heart for a certain story in the Bible I start from the beginning- Joshua chapter 1. God tells Joshua " I will give you every place where you set your foot...No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life." (verses 3, 5)

Wow! Pretty powerful stuff! Re-imagine that situation you are in with the promise that God has already got it covered, you will come out the other side not only fine but victorious, and any opposition will melt before you! Can you even imagine? So he goes on to instruct Joshua the battle plans for war and who he needs to conquer, the time he needs to conquer them, and how to do it, so as to claim the promised land for Israel. 

Sounds amazing right? You would feel like you're on top of the world and can conquer just about anything! But... I notice something throughout the book of Joshua that catches my attention. God tells Joshua repeatedly " Be strong and courageous" or "Be very strong and very courageous". Why in the world would Joshua need so many reminders when God has already promised success and prosperity to Joshua and the Israelite's? The enemy was going to be delivered into Joshua's hands! So why all the reminders? You would think the promise of God's deliverance would be enough to power Joshua through all those battles. But the real enemy was not all the "-ites" that were inhabiting the promised land (Amorites, Gibeonites, Geshurites, etc...) The real enemy Joshua would need to face was his own fear.

Wow! This realization struck me and it's something that I have been going over and over again in my head, praying about and experiencing firsthand myself. Despite the victories that Joshua saw along the way, there were many times when the enemy looked very intimidating and their numbers seemed to not be in their favor. But in these moments that Joshua could have very well doubted his ability to win, He needed to remember who was on His side and the promise the Lord gave Him from the very beginning. God's promise didn't waver in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The thing Joshua needed to be careful of was that his faith in God didn't waver and that his doubt didn't take control.

I speak to the power fear can have over our lives in my book "Arm Yourself: Equipping Ourselves with the Armor of God." There is a whole section on fear and how it has the power to strip away our faith and lead to anxiety and anxiety can paralyze us. We can keep from moving forward and our unbelief leads to doubting God's ability to truly intervene in our situation, ultimately telling God that our problem is bigger than Him. 

We can't walk in victory with that kind of attitude. Neither could Joshua, so that is why Joshua needed those reminders from the Lord to be strong and courageous! 

Let me break this down just a bit more. Let's look at strength for a moment. According to Google, strength is defined as "the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult." So what are these mental and emotional qualities needed? Well the  verse that comes to mind is when Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 8:10, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength". How many times do we trade our joy for sorrow or despair when times are tough? A lot! Well, don't do that! Allowing joy which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives to shine through even in hard times is a gift to you in difficult situations. I am not talking about the feeling of happiness, but the decision you need to make everyday to operate in this joy despite what your feelings tell you the moment your feet hit the floor. 

Courage is a quality we tap into when fear is knocking at our door, but we choose to trust in God's promises and His timing, purposes and plans for whatever situation we are currently facing. We may feel afraid, but we don't need to give into fear or let it control our lives. We need to speak to that fear-God's Word and His promises over our lives and situations that threaten to steal our victory! 

Jesus has already won the victory over our lives! We need to walk in it. The same promise He gave Joshua, He has given to us. Don't live your life afraid of failure or rejection. Live boldly with strength and courage exuding from your soul and spirit. There were times when Joshua and the Israelites did stumble and offer treaties to tribes they should not have and allowed certain tribes to stay within the Promised Land that should not have stayed. Because of that, they were not able to fully conquer some parts for Israel's victory. 

Don't make treaties with worry or stress. Don't allow things that strip away your victory to take places in your heart that God wants to fill with courage and boldness. 

In Joshua chapter 21: 43-45, the promise becomes fulfilled. The Israelite's take possession of the land God promised and settled there. God gave them rest from war on every side and it ends with a verse I love (v.45) "Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."
I don't know about you, but that makes me excited! So let me encourage you with this today, be strong and courageous! There are lots of things out there that threaten you, but remember it's not the people in our lives we need to fear or the situations seemingly out of our control: 

 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6: 12

And over that, you can be sure we have already won the victory!!!

What courageous thing is God asking you to do? Write this verse down and carry it with you. 

"So do not be afraid. I am with you.Do not be terrified. I am your God.
I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands.
    I always do what is right.
11 “All those who are angry with you will be put to shame.
    And they will be dishonored.
Those who oppose you will be destroyed. And they will vanish.
12 You might search for your enemies. But you will not find them.
Those who go to war against you will completely disappear.
13 I am the Lord your God. I take hold of your right hand.
I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I will help you.’
 
Isaiah 41: 10-13 
 

 

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