Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6-9)
"Life is not for the faint of heart."
I have no clue who said that. I'm sure some of you will remind me and that your answers will be different! The truth is often repeated.
However, I am thankful that God has given us the Bible to speak truthfully to us about life's adventures. It doesn't pull any punches. It doesn't try to soft-pedal the truth. Life is hard. A simple reading of the Bible's story reminds of this. The beauty of this tough and true-to-life story of God is that it can speak to us today — right into the middle of our tough world with all its twists, turns, stops, and starts.
At many junctures in our journey through life, we find ourselves traveling into new territory. For my family, it is a move to a new town, a new church, and a new challenge. For others, it is the challenge of the new territory that graduation or a marriage brings — that's an exciting journey into new territory. For others, the new territory is a more terrifying terrain — life after a divorce, the death of a loved one, a horrible or debilitating illness, the loss of a job, the break up of an engagement .... and on and on we could go. (Of course this weekend, Memorial Day, is a great reminder of those who had to enter the harsh new territory by burying a loved one lost in battle! Some of these losses are fresh and new. For others, the memory of the loss makes it fresh and new again.)
God has a message for those of us on our journey in our new territory. It is an old message given many centuries ago to Joshua. It is also as fresh and new as our journeys into unknown territory. That message is so important the God repeats it several time in these few verses to Joshua: "Be strong and courageous!"
Why "be strong and courageous"? Is there a basis on which we can be strong and courageous or is this just wishful church talk?
First, the Lord has already given us his victory; we only have to have faith to go claim the new territory. Jesus' resurrection from the dead is the assurance of our resurrection. His victory is the assurance of our victory. Our lives will not be lived in vain because he validates them and we receive that validation by faith. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58)
Second, this victory is dependent upon being obedient to God ... to knowing and doing his will. This is crucial because we will face serious opposition in our new territory. There will be those who will try to deceive us and manipulate us and derail us from God's goal for our lives. (Colossians 1:21-23)
Third, we don't need to fear the road ahead. God will be with us every step of our journey. He will not abandon us or forsake us. He will lead us to his home to be with him. That doesn't mean the road ahead won't have challenges, it just means that we won't have to face those challenges alone. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Does all this sound too simple or naíve? Does it seem like church talk? Probably, except these words carried a bunch of nomads to possess a land that God had promised to them ... a land filled with giants and enemies and fortified cities ... a land that was their new territory ... a land that became their new home.