Life is filled with challenges. It’s just the way it is. You can’t know victory unless you have faced the challenge of defeat. You won’t appreciate joy until you have endured heartache. How we face the challenges of life will determine whether we are overcome or become overcomers. As the book of Joshua begins, Moses had recently died and Joshua becomes Israel’s leader. This book records the ups and downs Joshua faces in bringing his people into the Promised Land.
“The Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 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’” (Joshua 1:1–5).
Don’t miss the power and maybe the intimidation of these words. Joshua had been Moses’ assistant for 40 years. In many ways he was more than trained for the task before him. On the other hand, this new responsibility may very well have been very overwhelming. The Promised Land was filled with inhabitants who would not give up that land without a fierce fight. It was a big job, and an enormous undertaking. Joshua had incredible confidence in the promise and power of God, but he may have felt somewhat small and inadequate.
Of course, God understood the hesitancy of Joshua. He encouraged Joshua with these words: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land … be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law … Be strong and courageous … for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6–9).
Three times God says, “Be strong and courageous.” Each time, God also gives Joshua a reason why he can have courage. God had already given the land to the people. It was theirs for the taking. God didn’t tell Joshua that it was going to be easy, but He told him that he would succeed by the strength of the Lord.
Please understand that God tells you the exact same thing! In the book of Hebrews this same promise of God’s presence is applied to believers: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). John reminded us that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Bible is filled with promises just like these.
As we face the challenges of life, God wants us to know that He has not left us to “fend for ourselves.” He is with us. We do not have to rely on our own strength, because God has given us His strength through the indwelling of His Spirit. We can face most anything if we can just remember that we are children of God. The strong arms of God hold us up. The matchless wisdom of God leads us forward. The unfailing promise of God makes victory sure.
“All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” (Joshua 1:16–17).
Joshua was ready to move forward in God’s strength, and the people say, “We’re with you Joshua!” As you read further into Joshua you will see that the people went into battle and were courageous. God fought for them in remarkable ways. But note something else. God had prepared to give them 300,000 square miles of land. History shows that the people claimed only 30,000 square miles. That’s only 10% of the blessing God had in store for them. These people started strong but lacked the endurance to obtain all God had for them.
Please heed the warning. We can start out fervently for the Lord but become impatient or even bored with the process. We lack perseverance. If we want to overcome the obstacles of life we must dig in and be ready to follow faithfully for the rest of our lives. Like Paul, we must “not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).
—Bruce Goettsche, condensed