Our reading for Tuesday, May 7, 2019 is Deuteronomy 31:7-8.
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” NIV
Taking on a new challenge may demand from us more than we may want to face. This last weekend I was in New York City with a group of Scouts and their leaders to face a challenge they had never encountered or even expected to encounter. We were going to ride through all five boroughs of the city on Sunday in an organized ride involving thirty thousand bicyclists from all over the world. The purpose for the ride was to stretch their limits as they would be required to ride seventy plus miles. They knew and expected this but not the additional challenge of riding the distance in cold rain.
There are challenges we can expect to face in life and those we can never anticipate. Even those we do we cannot fully prepare for as the unexpected can always pop up and the experience of the expected can be more than we bargained for. Joshua was charged by Moses with bringing the people of Israel into the land God had promised to give them. The people had proven faithless even though God had proven his faithfulness to them as they encountered their exodus from slavery in Egypt. Because they forgot God’s provision and protection in the face of new challenges they mistrusted God and his promise and were forced to wander through the desert regions for forty years. They now had the chance to enter the land God had promised them.
Moses himself was not to enter the land with the people he had led due to his own faithlessness and the mantle of leadership was now passed onto Joshua who had witnessed the rebellion of the people and their years of wandering. Moses gives him good advice to “be string and courageous.” Any true leader needs this resolve, but this was particularly true for Joshua as Moses would warn him of the people’s future rebellion which would increase their struggle. How do you lead well when you know the limitations of the people you are leading and expect will fail God and you as a faithful leader?
The answer is repeated again later in the chapter as Moses encourages him to yet “be strong and courageous” in verse 23. This same instruction is given directly by God after Moses death three separate times, saying, “Be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1. 6, 9, and 18) Why be reminded so many times? It is because our courage is mustered up by intentional facing the truth of our need. Like the story of the Little Engine that Could we must tell ourselves “We can do it!” We often must talk ourselves into having courage.
I reminded and encouraged the Scouts as we worshipped and prayed together before our ride. I am proud to say they rose to the challenge of the ride which they expected but also what they did not expect in the cold wind and the rain. Never once did I hear them complain; they even confessed during the debriefing after the ride how they enjoyed the experience. As the contemporary Christian song states, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” That was the point behind this adventure – to stretch the limits and prepare young men to face the unexpected challenges they will inevitably face in life and to come out victorious.
We can build up the strength and courage without God, but God has given us resources we can tap into which come from prayer, his Word, and the fellowship of others sharing our journey. Moses and God reminded Joshua of a fact – that if we do not forget God he would never abandon us or forsake us. He is present in every struggle. We are reminded by the prophet Isaiah (40. 31) that “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and never faith” so precious Lord here we wait. God always proves faithful beyond whatever strength we could muster on our own.
I do not know what you may be facing or will face, but I do know who can provide you with strength for your battles. Sometimes we have to convince ourselves that God’s promises are true. Only as we stretch ourselves in being faithful during difficult challenges will we rediscover a new confidence derived from the confidence that all God promises is true.