Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
In family worship this morning, we considered this verse: The Divine Prohibition of negativity. Evidently, this is a word we are all prone to forget; God repeats it three times. We are to be strong, not weak. We are to be courageous, not timid. Whatever life throws at us, we are to conduct our selves with poise. We are not to panic, fall apart at the seams, become demoralized, or otherwise crack under pressure. This is the literal meaning of the term "dismayed" - "To be broken or cracked. (The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)." No crackpots, then, in Israel.
Ever the rational logician that He is, God gives us reasons for such an unflinching refusal to flap. Quite simply, you will be glad to hear, we have no reason to fear because we will never face frightening situations, we will always be in calm and safe surroundings, with no battles to fight, enemies to face, problems to solve, storms to weather, or burdens to carry. Our resources will always feel more than enough to face each and every circumstance presenting itself for our attention. No reason to fear cracking, then, because we will never be under pressure.
Yes, I am kidding you. A trouble free life? Really, is that what God promises? These are the words God gave to the people who were about to enter the land: They were farmers, their enemies were seasoned Spartan-like warriors. They were few, their enemies were many. They were tiny, their enemies were giants. Outside of God, they had every reason to fear and no reason for confidence. But that's precisely the point, isn't it? God is telling His soon to be embattled people: You will never face your enemies OUTSIDE of ME. At times, it might feel that way, look that way, but it will never be that way! I will always be with you.
This is always our only reason to be strong, always our only source of untrembling courage, always our only support to shore up our naturally eggshell-strong coping mechanisms. Forget this lesson and the bravest Regal Eagle in the Church will soon be flapping about with all the undaunted grace of a decapitated Chicken Lickin.
Let me conclude this article by outlining a 5 Step Chicken Licken recovery program. Don't lose your head....
- Remember always the presence of God:
Every day we need to cultivate a life gripping sense of God in our hearts. In Christ, His eye is always upon me. His presence always around me. His hand always beneath me. His providence always controlling me. His word always before me as the path of duty. "The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord. He watches all His paths. (Proverbs 5)." "Lo," Jesus says, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
- Remember always the Providence of God
"Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but He who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround Him. (Psalm 32:10)." What a comforting verse. There is no back door to God's mercy. His people are surrounded by His all-embracing, all-enclosing favor and mercy. Nothing can penetrate into your life without first coming through and facing this ever watchful sentry. Not even the devil can touch you, without first coming through the favorable omnipotence of the Most High!
- Remember to Walk by faith not by feelings:
Too often, I walk by feelings not by faith. I examine myself, my circumstances, and my fears, not my Savior. I ask myself despair-promoting questions: Do I feel strong? Do I feel God is with me? Do I feel I can cope? Do I feel my resources are sufficient? But feelings are by definition fair weather friends. Instead, we need to send the taproot of our souls down deeper than feelings, down, down, down into the steadfast love of God - His stubborn commitment to be true to His covenant and Kind to His people, no matter what it cost Him, no matter how long it takes Him, and no matter what we deserve. Here is a foundation for courage secure enough to stay the soul come what may.
- Remember: God has one Son without sin, but no Sons without suffering (Manton)
Too often, we mistake the presence of trouble as a sign of divine displeasure? We become self-appointed Job's counsellors: "Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to good people. Therefore, we conclude, trouble means I've done something wrong, and God is cross with me!" Using this kind of logic, every difficulty becomes a portent of Divine judgment for some unknown sin? Really, is this the way a Father deals with His child? Would God punish us for an unknown sin? In may experience, when trials come as messengers of divine chastisement, I am in no doubt. My conscience is already alarming. I've already been resisting the Spirit for quite some time, harding my heart against His more gentle whisperings. By the time catastrophe clamors for my attention, there are already red warning flags all over the place. The calamity merely confirms what I have already known for quite some time: My life is dislocated from God. I need to return to Him and sue for mercy in Christ.
- Remember: Courage is a submissive grace - you will not find it by walking away from God into the darkness of rebellion.
Observe and maintain the close connection between Bible reading, spiritual meditation, obedience, and a sense of God's favor.
““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.“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:6–8, NASB95)
Notice the connection: The reason God's law must never depart from your mouth, is so that your life will never depart from God's law. The healthy oak tree grows best in the sanctuary (Psalm 92). It's roots need the water of life - the Life giving presence of the living God. The desert plant is the chaff. Without this water it is inherently rootless, lifeless, weightless, and worthless.
"Oh," Jesus says, "If you want to be strong, heed my voice, if any man thirsts, let Him come to me and drink!" "The water that I will give Him will become in Him a well of courage, strength, and confidence." "Without me you can do nothing." "But you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!"