Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
God has never command us to feel a certain way. He only commands us to do something that we are capable of doing. When He tells us to love our enemies, He intends for us to do something for them not just feel love for them. So, when Joshua is commanded to be courageous, God is commanding him to do something not just feel courageous.
So, what does that mean?
What do you think of when you hear the word courage?
Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Cowardly Lion from the movie The Wizard of Oz! When Dorothy first meets him, the Lion repeatedly fakes courage by being a bully. And just like Dorothy smacks him on the nose for being a bully, we too need a smack so that we will realize this is not what God intends for disciples to be.
I think we can safely ignore the popular opinions of today that teach courage to be macho or just be so big and mean that no one or nothing will mess with you. These opinions do not fit well with the idea that we are supposed to be meek at the same time we are courageous.
The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that, in the 17th century when the word was used by the KJV translators, it meant “what is in one’s mind or thoughts; purpose; inclination.” Further it explains “Courage is a quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear.”
The key to courage is not brute strength or rage. It is a state of mind. It is taking factual knowledge and applying it to the situation so that we can fully understand what God intends for us to do. Joshua was reminded that God was with him just like He was with Moses. This is the fact that Joshua was to hold strong in his mind and that would allow him to face the dangers of battle without fear. It wasn’t because he was a mighty warrior. He may have been. But at this point, Joshua was 80 years old! Human strength was not what he needed. He needed to know that God was with him and wasn’t going to abandon him in a time of need.
We too need to face our spiritual battles with a few facts. God chose His children before the world began. They are safe in His hand and no one can ever take them away from Him. He has also promised to be with us in our trials.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
He is the Almighty God. Sometimes He gives us the strength to fight on our own. Then there are times where He takes up arms with us and helps. Finally, there are some things that we just cannot do so He does them for us by the power of His right hand, Jesus Christ.
With this knowledge we can have the proper mindset to face the spiritual dangers from day to day. The promise is not that the dangers will go away, but that God is with us to fight!
Toward the end of the movie, The Lion gets a badge of courage but the wizard makes a very interesting statement that shows what courage really means.
“My fine friend, you’re a victim of disorganized thinking.”
While the rest of the Wizard’s reasoning may be a little off, he makes the point that courage is linked to knowledge and wisdom.
“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”
This encouraging charge from the Lord to Joshua has some very profound promises, but contextually it also contains an extremely mountainous weight for him.
We need encouragement just like Joshua. And we love to hear that no spiritual enemy will be able to stand against us because God is with us. The Lord cannot fail, and He will not leave us. But we must also realize that there is a reason we need this powerful encouragement. It is because we must sometimes face our battles and giants alone.
Joshua watched and assisted Moses for over forty years. But now, Moses is dead. Joshua is in charge, and he must have the wisdom and fortitude to lead Israel into the promised land. We too, as we grow up naturally and spiritually, have leaders and mentors to guide, protect, and help us as we learn and grow. But, there are times when the battle is our own. It is at these times that we need this pep talk from the Lord.
Joshua could not rely on Moses, nor could he blame Moses if things didn’t go well. It was Joshua’s time to lead the fight. When we each face our personal struggles we must first realize that the battle is ours to fight. There are times when others may be able to help but sometimes we must face the giant alone. Moreover, we must realize that it is our personal responsibility to fight, not someone else’s. If we do not trust in the Lord, there is no one to blame but ourselves.
After we see that the responsibility is our own, we can more clearly see that, although no other human is fighting this battle with us, God is fighting the battle with us and sometimes for us! We will sometimes fail, but God does not fail. We may forsake the Lord, but He will never forsake us.
God has always blessed His people in mighty ways. And He has never changed. Therefore, He can and does bless His people in mighty ways today!
Christ the Lord has already won the eternal battle and, in His resurrection, He gave us the strength to fight the daily battles during our lives.
Fight on Brothers and Sisters! Fight on!
Elder Bryce Lowrance, Pastor
Mount Paran Primitive Baptist Church