“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 very 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.”
What God’s asking Joshua to do here, isn’t all about moral support for a leader, it’s about asking Joshua to trust Him . To let go of fear, and let Him take it’s place. Fear comes when we don’t trust God. That’s how perfect love casts out all fear. Where there’s perfect love, there’s perfect trust. I wonder if Joshua was scared. He’s painted as a strong leader, unafraid, ready to do anything God would ask; like Moses. But he must have had his doubts. With Moses dead, he must have been wondering what God was up to. When God said, “Moses died, you’re taking over”, and I don’t imagine there was a lot of gusto on his part. He probably felt like a deflated party balloon. Going to see the promise land one minute and the next being told the leader of the whole mission had died and he was in charge. Everything is different when you have a whole lot more people looking up to you. He saw what these people were capable of. What if they didn’t like him? What if he failed? What about the enemies? The danger? What about war? They can’t just waltz in there an expect them to give up their land without a fight? So now he’s an army general? Even better. A new leader, responsible for land, lives, lunch, and large groups of snickering people.
And God says: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
God is telling him that he’s gonna be with him, just like Moses. His role-model. Who was so close to the glory of God his face shone so no one could look upon it. This guy was legend. His faith and leadership were legend, because of his trust in God. And God’s giving him the same thing? Wow. Ultimate confidence boost. Now Joshua may have been a fearless person who was so tight with God he just trusted him without hesitation. But I believe these words by God were said to him for a specific reason. Maybe because he had begun to take responsibility on himself for the people’s well-being or because he felt so inadequate to carry out such a task.
God replies: “Only be strong and very 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. “
But maybe we still worry about messing something up and in response to that God answers: “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.”
He said something similar to that before. Before, he said “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” He reminds us that he is with us now, and will be with us in the future. There is nowhere we can go where he will not be there with us. Looking over these encouraging words I was inspired to write a prayer I feel Joshua would say in the face of his circumstances. This prayer is something I desire to say in my own life, an act of surrender and recognition of how powerful God is. Maybe you need to remind yourself of these things as well. I think it should go something like this :
“Lord, I can’t be strong or courageous on my own. I can’t help but be frightened or dismayed by all that has happened recently. But you’ve promised you would be with me before. And you promised that you are with me now, and will still be with me no matter where I go or how old I get. Knowing that is the only way I could ever be strong and courageous when faced with what’s before me. Lord, I can’t lead these people. But you can, because their your people. I can’t take care of the land; but you can, because you’ve made it and chosen to give it to your people. I can’t give these people food, but you can, because you’re the great Provider. You’ve done it in the past and you’re just a capable now. I can’t win a war, but you can, because you’ll fight for your people. Lord, I can’t be strong, but you are. I can’t be courageous, but you can. Whatever you want to do with what I have to offer, take it. You’ve reminded me that I can’t do anything without you. I can’t be strong. I can’t be courageous. I can’t lead people. I can’t provide. But you can. And not through anything that I have done, but all because of what you have done and will continue to do. Trust casts out all fear. Where there is perfect love, there is perfect trust. So lead on Lord. Take everything I have and use it for your glory. Let them see your power and your might. Let everyone be utterly astounded by how great you are.”
If we would only take action instead of questioning God and letting our minds fill with doubts about our own abilities. They are justified doubts if we were required to do everything on our own; but we’re not. God will never call you to do or face something that you are improperly equipped for. He knows you better than you know yourself; and he also knows himself. He is stronger than we are, but so often we try to carry our burdens alone. He is wiser than we are, but we so often use feeble logic and reasoning to solve our problems. He is more courageous than we are, but, again, we look at our own small ounce of courage and maybe try to take a leap of faith. But we find our courage depleting fast, to the point where we have nearly none at all, and the leap is more like a wobble from one foot to the other in the wrong direction. Leadership isn’t about us being strong and courageous in the face of trouble. It’s about trusting him with our whole heart and letting him do the rest. And sometimes, the strength and courage come in when we take a leap of faith, not trusting our on footing, but expecting a free-fall before being caught in the arms of the Almighty God. “Be strong and courageous” is all about trusting him and letting him do the rest. And leadership requires much more of that than any skills we have we have to offer.