Be Strong and Courageous

When the nation of Israel first had the opportunity to enter the promised land of Canaan, their fear led to failure.  Moses had sent twelve spies to scout the land and people of Canaan, but the reports of the spies were divided.  Ten of the spies said the land was good, but they also said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us” (Num. 13:31-33).  However, the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it” (Num. 13:30).  The faithless sons of Israel believed the bad reports of the ten spies and grumbled against Moses and Aaron (Num. 14:1-5).  This provoked the wrath of God, who punished Israel by sending them into the wilderness for a forty year pilgrimage that would lead to the death of that unbelieving generation (Num. 14:20-35).  Of all the sons of Israel twenty years of age and older, only Joshua and Caleb would survive to enter the promised land.

The next time Israel had a chance to enter Canaan, they were led by the strong and courageous Joshua.  Moses had died, and God appointed Joshua to lead Israel (Josh. 1:1-5).  In the commission of Joshua, the Lord said to him,

"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:6-7)

These words echoed the words spoken by Joshua forty years earlier when he pleaded with Israel, saying,

"The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.  If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey.  Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Num . 14:7-9)

At last, it was time for Joshua and Israel to display the faithful courage that would lead them to victory in the promised land.

The strength and courage of Joshua stands as an inspiration for us today.  Like Joshua and Israel, we stand at the doorstep of God’s promised land, but our promised land is not of this world.  We "desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:15).  Also like Joshua and Israel, a monumental task stands between us and the promised land, which for us is the life of faith that we must live in this world.  Joshua had to courageously lead Israel into the hardships of war against superior foes with the faith that God would give them the victory in the end.  Likewise, we must courageously enter into the spiritual warfare against the forces of Satan with the faith that Christ will give us the victory in the end (1Cor. 15:54-58; Eph. 6:10-17; 1John 5:4-5).

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather it is the ability to act in spite of fear and to overcome it.  When we have courage, our fear becomes so small that it virtually disappears.  Courageous soldiers do not forget that they may die in battle, but they overcome the fear of death in order to do their duty.  In the case of Christians, the fear of death fades away in light of the fear of God.  In Matthew 10:28, Jesus commissioned His apostles and said, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Notice that Jesus did not promise that men would not kill them, but rather He commanded them not to be afraid of losing their physical lives at the hands of men.  In other words, He was telling them to be strong and courageous just as God had told Joshua.  To motivate their courage, Jesus invoked the fear of Almighty God, for it would be much worse to provoke the wrath of God by unfaithfulness than to provoke the wrath of men.

Christians should be strong and courageous not only because of their fear of God but also because of their love of God and faith in Him.  The fear of God is a righteous motivation for the courage to face men, but love and faith are even better motivations.  Notice 1John 4:18 – "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”  When we love God, there is no fear that He will punish us by destroying our souls and bodies in hell.  Instead, there is the courage to keep His commandments, "for this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome” (1John 5:3).  Not even the legitimate threat of death can prevent a lover of God from being faithful to His Lord (Rom. 8:31-39).  Jesus said, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Therefore, let us be strong and courageous in the fear of God, the love of God, and faith in Christ.  Just as God told Joshua, "I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you,” so also He has promised us (Heb. 13:5).  As a result, "we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:6).  Of course, men may kill us, but even so we are not to fear their intimidation or to be troubled, but we are to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and stand ready to give an answer for the hope within us (1Pet. 3:13-15).  In the end, our strength and courage in Christ will lead us home to the promised land.

Stacey E. Durham


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