Day 4 of Courage When – When Enemies Appear Everywhere: Joshua
Joshua 1:1-9; 21:43-45; Deuteronomy 31:1-8; 32:1-47
Joshua was one of Israel’s greatest and most courageous leaders, but it is important for us to remember that he did not start out as a leader. True leaders never do. In the first part of Joshua’s story, he was a servant, a spy, and a soldier. However, in each of these roles, he relied on the strength of the Lord and served Moses and the people faithfully. When God then commissioned him to succeed Moses as leader over Israel, Joshua led by example spiritually by devoting himself to the Lord, and physically by serving and fighting alongside God’s people. It is no wonder the Lord chose to accomplish His victory through that kind of leadership.
The many accounts of Joshua’s battles and conquests make for exciting reading, but perhaps the greatest lesson for us from the life of Joshua is that true courage is rooted in God’s omnipresence. As Joshua and the Israelites set out to take possession of the promised land of Canaan, there were enemies on every side. Thousands of people in various directions wanted nothing more than to destroy them and keep them out of what God had promised them. However, God had a plan to give Israel their promised land and victory over their enemies. All Joshua had to do was remember that God would be with him at all times everywhere he went.
“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses…. 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. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them…. 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.” (Joshua 1:3,5-6,9)
Note that the Lord did not tell Joshua that there was nothing fear-worthy up ahead. God would repeat “Be strong and courageous” many times, knowing that Joshua desperately needed to hear that command. He knows that when enemies appear to be all around us, we cannot help but put up our guard and imagine disaster around every corner. So God does not pretend that we will never be faced with fearful circumstances—He simply reminds us that we can have power over our fears because He is our God.
Practically, then, what can we do when we are afraid? In our own natural strength we are simply not prepared to battle with enemies 24/7. We are not born equipped to fight off temptation on a constant basis, or to deal with interpersonal conflict over and over again, or to endure persecution indefinitely. But with the Spirit of God within us and the power of God at our side in every moment, we can have victory.
When we are fighting temptation, we remember that God is beside us, giving us a way of escape. When we are involved in conflict, we remember that God is beside us, giving us ears to listen and grace to respond and wisdom to resolve problems. When we are faced with persecution or hostility, we remember that God is with us, that He offers us His comfort and love, and that He is our strength when we are weak.
The great victories that Israel won in Canaan under Joshua’s leadership were not a result of his superior military strength or his careful planning. Joshua led his people to victory because he sought, obeyed, and trusted God. He fought, but only God’s presence gave him the power to conquer. Just like Joshua, we must intentionally remind ourselves, over and over again, that our faithful God is with us and is everywhere. This truth gives us courage!
I often go back to what the Lord Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20; “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Yes, we go and make disciples. We baptize and teach. We share the Gospel with the world around us. But ultimately, we can do all this only because our Savior promises to be with us always, to the very end of time.
Joshua’s story is merely another reminder that God keeps His promises and He always has. Even when opponents surround us, we can keep fighting to advance the kingdom of God because He will give the victory. Even Joshua’s name tells us this—“Jehovah is salvation.” Our own strength may be outmatched by our adversaries, but the Lord with us is stronger than all.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10,13, ESV)