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Finding Courage

When Joshua stood at the edge of the Promised Land, trying to prepare his heart for the hostility and uncertainty he would meet, God exhorted him to “Be strong and courageous.” God leads Joshua, and us, into a sure shelter from our fears, into an arsenal stronger than the opposition, and into a well deep enough to satisfy our souls—even in trials. He prepares us for the battles of faith, the everyday and the extraordinary, by training us to read His word well. We will not find strength and courage for suffering without learning to read, really read, the Bible.

Read with Your Mind

The courage we need in our hearts begins with learning to focus our minds. If we have read the Bible for any amount of time, we have realized just how much “reading” we can do without really reading anything. Our eyes can roll over words, and paragraphs, and even pages, while our minds run off somewhere else. Some of us are persistently afraid or stressed because we have forgotten how to fix our minds on God long enough to hear from Him.

God says to Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 1:7). We must be careful to discern traps and errors on the left and the right. This kind of reading requires more patience, attention, and thinking than many of us are used to giving the Bible.

Read with Your Heart

The words of God were never meant to stay in the mind. The mind can become a kind of cul-de-sac for what we know, cutting our theology off from our struggles and fears. We read and read and read, and never feel. God wants the roots of truth to drive themselves into all our feelings—about Him, about the world, about ourselves and our troubles.

Again, He says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). So we work to massage what we read into our hearts until we feel its reality. Analysis and understanding will not be enough for God’s truth to impact our life; we need to read, and pray, and think until we feel the Bible, and delight in what we read (Psalm 1:2).

Read with Your Hands

Thinking without meditating will undermine our Bible reading, and so will thinking and even feeling without doing (James 2:17). Some of us feel loved, inspired, or even convicted when we read, but then we do nothing. We read and read and read, and never change.

Two words are massively important and often missed in the Lord’s charge to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law” (Joshua 1:7). Obedience is critical to courage. We will find what we need for unusually challenging times ahead by committing to do whatever God says at all times. Full courage may not come that moment, or for some time, but we won’t find real courage in the Lord without taking real steps toward Him.

Read with Your Mouth

The Lord says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (Joshua 1:8). Part of finding fresh courage, and persevering in courage, is reminding someone else to be courageous. Some years earlier, Moses gave the people a similar command: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).

Teaching the children was not just about making sure the next generation knew what to believe, but also about the present generation remembering what to believe. Jesus weaves this same dynamic into the Christian life (Matthew 28:19–20). Go tell someone what God in Christ has done for you, and then keep telling them and anyone else who will listen. Who might need to hear something you read in the Bible this week that stabilized your hope, deepened your joy, and strengthened you to persevere in obedience to Christ?

Read with Your God

Finally, and most importantly, read the Bible with your God. All our reading, and feeling, and speaking, and even obeying will be in vain if He is not with us.

The Lord says to Joshua, “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 1:9). The ultimate source of any real strength is not in words, phrases, pages, or spiritual disciplines, but in God. Every day when we sit down to read, He is the goal, the barometer, the prize. Have we tasted and seen His goodness again?

—Marshall Segal, adapted