Let’s talk about strength for a minute, shall we?
What is strength? STRENGTH means the quality or state of being physically strong or the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure. Mmmm…the capacity to withstand great force or pressure.
There are different kinds of strength and toughness in life aren’t there?
There’s physical strength. There’s mental strength. Emotional strength and spiritual strength. There’s obvious strength and there is hidden strength. There are times when strength is depleted and someone else steps in to help support you and be your strength.
Sometimes at first glance we only notice the physical or external representation of strength. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized and appreciated the internal strength that people possess far more. Sure the other is impressive, but the quieter internal strength I see far supersedes the external to me. And that strength, the ability to get up each day and look at what lies before you and say, “Okay, let’s go again, in spite of everything.” To keep moving forward regardless of the challenges you face…that my friends, is REAL strength.
In Joshua 1 the Lord commands and reminds the people of Israel to BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS. Four times. Not once; not twice. Not even three times – but four times!! He is reminding them (and us) to hold onto their courage and strength. He is telling them that what’s ahead may cause them to question, to waiver, to weaken, or to stop and freeze in their tracks. But He’s saying, regardless of what’s ahead, regardless of what your eyes see before you, regardless of what you come up against, remember – BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS!
Why would He say this?
I think he said it because he knew we would need a reminder, that we would need the pep-talk to stay the course and push forward. To not get thrown off track. He didn’t ask them. He didn’t request or suggest. He commanded them! This is the speech the general gives before sending his army into battle. The speech Maximus gave his men in Gladiator, the speech William Wallace gave his men in Braveheart, and the speech Joshua gave the Israelites on behalf of the Lord, prior to them crossing over the Jordan. “Men, have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And He is with us wherever we go, and friends, he is ALWAYS victorious. ALWAYS!
So did they charge into battle with warrior cries? Did they cross over the Jordan ready to claim the land the Lord had already told them they’d conquer? Nope. You know what they did? They stopped dead in their tracks. The Israelites were readying to cross over the Jordan river and had already been told from those who had been there and scouted it out first, that the other side was fruitful, lush, rich and fertile land – exactly what they hoped it would be – and it was theirs for the taking. Yet instead of running wildly towards it, they just gave up. I imagine God was like, “Wait…come again? What gives? What just happened? Why are you stopping?”
How often do we do this? How often do we freeze, dig our heels in and refuse to move? ALL THE TIME!! Or is that just me!? Paul David Tripp talks about this perfectly.
Man, have I felt this deeply. God knew we would be just like them. He knew we would be bogged down with the thought that something that fruitful and lush and wonderfully rich was just too great of an ask. An impossible pipe dream WAY too far out of reach. God couldn’t possibly have that in store for us, so why get our hopes up and imagine that He does, only to be disappointed and heart shattered? This is the bait and switch we oftentimes feel like we receive.
But if they had just believed. If WE could just believe and continue to surge ahead, keeping pace with those commanding words: BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS. If we could get it tattooed on our foreheads as remembrance, then we wouldn’t let fear stop us. We wouldn’t let heartbreak or disappointment stop us. We wouldn’t let broken dreams stop us. We wouldn’t let anxiety and worry and what if’s overwhelm us and overtake us. We would keep going. We would stay the course.
That’s what I heard the Lord say to me recently when I prayed and asked Him what I should be doing in life.
“Stay the course,” He said.
You see, over the past year and a half, I’ve felt frozen. I’ve felt overwhelmed. Panicked, apathetic, incredibly sad, full of fear and anxiety about the present and about the future, and full of heartbreak and confusion about the past. I’ve allowed myself to live in that place for far too long and I’ve just been wallowing without a roadmap or a destination in mind. Wallowing and (it feels like) not growing or healing. Just staying put. Digging my own heels in and sticking my head in the sand hoping things would go away or magically sort themselves out. But that’s not the way it works. No. We must continue on. Continue putting one foot in front of the other. Continue staying on course.
Stay the course. BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
So when you are feeling like all your strength is gone… When you are feeling like the least brave and courageous person on the planet… When you can’t see the end in sight and it’s difficult to trust others who have already been there…Keep going. With legs shaking. With a tear-stained face. With doubt and confusion trying to knock you off course. Keep going. Even though you are desperately wanting to turn back around with every step you take. Even though it’s hard and you’re scared. Even though you’re exhausted and wanna give up. Keep going.
For the Lord had a glorious future ahead for the Israelites and He has a glorious future ahead for you. If they kept going, if they listened and were obedient and trusted the God they served, this is what was in store for them:
“I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you—No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”They answered Joshua, “We will do whatever you command us, and we will go wherever you send us. We will obey you just as we obeyed Moses. And may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. Anyone who rebels against your orders and does not obey your words and everything you command will be put to death. So be strong and courageous!” – Joshua 1:3-7, 16-18
This too is in store for you! So friends, when you don’t know what to do and your strength is depleted, look at how the Lord commanded His people in the past, and look at how He was faithful to fulfill the promises that came with their faithfulness and trust.
- Command: Wherever you set your foot —>
- Promise: I will give you that land and no one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.
- Command: Wherever you go —>
- Promise: I will be with you. I will not fail you and I will not abandon you.
- Command: Be strong and courageous & be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you – do not deviate from them —>
- Promise: then you will be successful in everything you do.
- Command: Study this book of instruction – meditate on it day and night and be sure to obey everything written in it —>
- Promise: only then will you prosper and succeed in everything you do.
- Command: Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged —>
- Promise: for the Lord your God is with you whoever you go.
And remember to pray. Pray for the peace of the Lord to overwhelm you and to cover over you. Pray for the strength of the Lord to empower you to be successful as you move forward. And pray for the wisdom and discernment to walk where He leads you, as you continue to stay the course until you reach the other side. Because it’s fruitful and lush and rich and fertile and it’s yours for the taking!
BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS and stay the course, Bravehearts!