When you gaze across the days of the year ahead, what do you see as the biggest challenge you face? How would you look at it if you weren’t afraid? What if you knew without a doubt that God was with you, helping you face it and tackle it?
A challenge by definition means it will take courage, strength, and extra effort on your part. A challenge is never easy, but it is what causes us to grow, believe, improve, and enjoy life in a deeper level. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride when we’re done. It makes us realize we are stronger, smarter, and have more endurance than we thought.
God spoke these words directly to Joshua to encourage him for his next challenge:
“Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous?
Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Then I thought about some of my friends and family and the challenges coming at them this year. I reflected about my biggest challenge and how I would feel if God said these words to me.
Now you’d think that if God spoke directly to you, the fear would dissipate. But I think Joshua was still afraid. His size 10 feet wouldn’t fit into the previous leaders size 12 feet. He wasn’t admired by the people, had never been tested or led a nation before. Who did he think he was?
We sometimes think that if God would just spell out in the sky exactly what He wants us to do, we’d have the courage to do it. But I’m thinking it might be just the opposite. When God spoke directly to people in the Bible, it was usually a really hard task they were being asked to do. For example, lead a group into battle, speak prophetic words against a king or nation, lead a people out of slavery, give birth to the Savior of the world. So I stopped hoping that God would someday speak to me in a loud booming voice so I’d have absolute clarity. I’m pretty sure if He does that, there is a big assignment ahead and I just might not want to do it. I still listen for his voice, but I’m content with God’s whispers. (Click here to read Capturing Sparks).
I think Joshua was terrified about the mission ahead. He wasn’t Moses’ assistant anymore. His time of standing by learning, listening to the criticism, watching the decisions being made was over. He was the leader now. Joshua needed to know without a doubt that God was with him. In fact, God repeats His message to Joshua four times (Deuteronomy 31:23, Joshua 1:6,7,9). God wanted Joshua to know with absolute certainty He had spoken to him so when times got really difficult, he wouldn’t doubt.
Your challenge may not be to lead a nation, but it may still be rockin’ your world. A stressful new job, a move, a health issue, relationship problems, a big project. All of these make us feel inadequate and afraid, but the words God said to Joshua are words we can take to heart too.
Here’s what it might sound like . . .
“Don’t be afraid of your move to _______________. Don’t be discouraged that you’re leaving friends, family, familiar circumstances and starting over again. Why? Because “I am with you!”
“Don’t be afraid of the overwhelming stress you feel in your current job. I want you to learn that I am your strength. I am with you!
“Don’t be discouraged about the doctor’s diagnosis and all the treatments ahead of you this year. Be strong and courageous because I am never going to leave your side through each test, procedure, needle or nausea.”
God words weren’t a suggestion for Joshua. They were a commandment. He told him what to do – be strong and courageous, and what not to do – be afraid or discouraged. Then God told him how to do it: by remembering that God was with him, wherever he went, whatever he did.
If you think those words are just for Joshua, God repeats many times in scripture that we are not alone and encourages us not to be afraid. (See just a few below)*
So try it for yourself by filling in the blanks using God’s words to Joshua, because I think He might just be saying them to you too.
“Don’t be afraid of ________________ or be discouraged about _________________. I want you to be strong and courageous because I’m not leaving your side. We’re in this together.”
The question isn’t just “What is the challenge ahead of you this year?’ but also “Are you remembering that God is with you? He’s your best friend, encourager, leader, counselor, and helper. How might you face your challenges differently this year if you truly believed that simple truth – God is with us. Or as Yoda would say “with us is God” (which is the actual Hebrew interpretation).
* Hebrews 13:5, Isaiah 54:10, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 41:10, Revelation 21:3, Psalm 121:4,5