Be Strong and Courageous

Pastor Terry Tatum 

This week at Lynn Haven UMC we’re starting a new sermon series where we will look at the books of Joshua and Judges. We are calling this series our Summer Book Club and to accompany the series we have a summer reading plan available if you’d like to read and study along with us — click here for more details! Today we’ll be looking at the first five books of Joshua.

To make the book of Joshua come alive for you I want to first go back to the book that precedes Joshua in the Old Testament, Exodus. I believe that the Bible is one long love story between God and humanity and this story helps illustrate that. To truly understand Joshua, you need to understand Exodus and the story of Moses and The Israelites.

Quick recap of that story: Moses was born a Hebrew. Pharaoh had ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be killed, so Moses’ mom floats him down a river to save his life. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and he was raised in Pharaoh’s home. When Moses had grown up, he killed an Egyptian then fled to Midian where he worked as a shepherd. There he encountered God in a burning bush and God told him that he had selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses gave God all kinds of reasons why he wasn’t the right man for the job, but he eventually accepted the calling. During a dramatic series of events he led the Israelites out of Egypt, after which they spent 40 years in the desert. During these 40 years God provided food, guidance, the Old Testament law and he led them to the promised land. On the edge of the promised land, 12 men were sent to scout the land. Ten of the men reported how it was all God said it would be but they did not want to enter due to fear of the land’s inhabitants. Two of the men said “No, let’s go forward.” Those two men were Caleb and Joshua. Moses passed away before the people entered the Promised Land and Joshua became their leader. 

Now that’s a great story. To me it has everything: good times, bad times, faithfulness, disobedience, and finally, reward. And it all wraps up with Joshua. Scripture tells us that Joshua was Moses’ aide; “Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.” (Exodus 24:13 NIV). 

Joshua was there for all the big stuff. He knew the troubles that Moses and his people had been through and he was obviously longing for the Promised Land along with them. But here’s the thing: Joshua wasn’t just entering the Promised Land with all the other Israelites. He was leading them. That’s a huge difference. 

Now Joshua was the one who had to make all the decisions. If he made the wrong decision, it would affect thousands of his people, not just right then but for generations to come. Also there was the fact that he was under a lot of pressure having to follow Moses as a leader. 

How could he possibly do it? Well, Joshua realized that God was on his side. Do you realize that no matter how impossible the situation you are facing seems, I want you to remember that God specifically tells you to be “strong and courageous”?  

God doesn’t want you to be scared of anything. He wants you to be strong and courageous in every situation. 

What are you afraid of? Is it debt, death, difficult people? How about dying alone? Becoming sick? 

If this last year has taught us anything it’s that we are all afraid of something. What if I told you that being afraid, or scared, or fearful was totally opposite of what the Bible tells us we should be? 

“Do not fear” is the most repeated phrase in the Bible. It is mentioned hundreds of times from different writers at different palaces at different times.  But it’s hard!

How do we as followers of Christ overcome that? The book of Joshua tells us we are to be strong and courageous. When Joshua was the leader of Israel, the Lord came and spoke to him. It’s recorded in Joshua 1. How do we overcome our fears? Be strong and Courageous just like God tells us to. 

How do we become “Strong and Courageous”? 

First, we must stay in God’s Word. When Joshua became the leader of Israel he entered into an impossible situation. He replaced Moses! How do you replace the man who wrote the first five books of the bible? How can you follow the man who led the captives out of captivity? I’m sure Joshua felt somewhat intimidated by that task. He was now going to lead his people into the promised land for which they had been searching for generations. 

We’ve all been in situations that seemed to be too much, where it seemed like we just couldn’t win or like there was no way out. But God tells Joshua something that I believe was intended for us as well, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9 ). 

God wanted us to understand so clearly what his intent was for us that he repeated it three times in the first chapter of Joshua. We can become strong and courageous by staying in God’s word and understanding his will for our lives.  No matter what your purpose is, no matter what task God has for you, no matter the circumstance, God’s will for us to be strong and courageous. 

The second way we become “Strong and Courageous” is by believing in the promises of God. God reassures us four times in this chapter that if we are strong and courageous certain things will happen. First, we can be sure of his faithfulness: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land, I swore to their forefathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6 NIV) 

When God makes a promise, he keeps it. He swore to the Israelites ancestors they would inherit the promised land and now they are on the cusp of that promise becoming a reality. 

A second way we can become “Strong and Courageous”  is to be sure of his power: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8) 

You know, it’s almost as if the Bible tells exactly what we should do. Stay in the word, do what it says, don’t depart from it, “then you will be prosperous and successful.” That is powerful. Stick with God and he will take care of you. It may not be how we want him to take care of us but He will always provide. 

Another way to become “Strong and Courageous” is to realize his presence: “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 NIV). 

God is not going to call one of us to lead his people into the promised land. However, we all face tremendous challenges in our lives. That’s not an “if” but a “when.” Have you ever had someone close to you get sick and you had no way to help them? Have you ever faced financial difficulty so great that it seemed like there was no way you could overcome it? Have you ever had a loved one fall into a pattern of addiction that was out of control? Sometimes there is nothing we can do but what Pastor Craig tells me all the time to do, “do the next right thing”, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

When He feels the furthest away, I promise you he is right there beside you. Just like he was for Joshua, he’ll be right there for you…… just reach out to him. 

The final way we can become “Strong and Courageous” is to remember God’s promise of victory: “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5 NIV)

You don’t hear courage being talked about much these days. I think a big reason is because we are all scared of something and we spend more time being scared than we do staying in God’s Word, or remembering his promises of faithfulness, power, and presence. We forget God’s promise of victory. 

No matter what happens to us here on Earth, we have the promise of eternity with the King of kings. And that promise comes in the form of Jesus Christ. Are you still fighting a fight that’s already been won?

Stop fighting. Be strong and courageous by staying in God’s word and remembering his promises of faithfulness, power, presence and victory — promises God made to Joshua, and also to you!