Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-29
6a: So be strong and courageous!
7: Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous!
23a: Then the Lord commissioned Joshua son of Nun with these words: “Be strong and courageous…”
How disheartening must it have been for Moses to know that when he died, the Israelites would take to worshipping idols. Even with his lengthy leadership, his book of instructions, his song, and his words of encouragement, he knew they would still fall away from God.
Three separate times, we see the instruction to “be strong and courageous.” Once by Moses to the people of Israel, once by Moses to Joshua, and once by God to Joshua. These must be pretty important words.
Why do you think it was so important that the statement “be strong and courageous” was made three times, once by God himself? He knew, and Moses knew, that standing strong would be a difficult task. God knew the temptation the Israelites would face. They would be tempted by the ways of the land, worship idols, and become prosperous (and lazy and fat).
The very same is true today.
As much as I hate to admit it, we’re not much different from the Israelites. We are tempted daily by … oh, gosh … everything? We may not have giant golden calves in our town squares, but we have TV, smart phones, children… We have a culture that molds the truth to society instead of holding the Truth of scripture. We have the media in our faces and in our heads telling us what we should like, want, fear, choose, hate, love, and buy.
The leaders of the early church knew, just as Moses did, that we would also need the strength of the Lord to carry our faith. For most of us, the threat is psychological. It’s about our choices (and, consequently, our actions follow), but, let’s be clear, the line is very thin. Romans 12:2 (NLT) speaks to this psychological struggle:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
We are to both be aware of the behaviors and customs that tempt us, and we’re to listen to and learn God’s will for us. So when family or friends disapprove of your action (or lack thereof), and/or people speak against your faith or conviction in disagreement, your job is to stand firm in strength and courage!
For many in our world, the threat is very physical. In at least 50 countries in the world, Christians are being persecuted right now… harassed, abused, jailed, tortured, and/or executed. As believers, we need to be in prayer for these Christians. They need us to plead for their protection, steadfast faith, and strength.
Where does this courage and strength come from?
Philippians 4:13 – I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength.
Ephesians 6:10 – Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Might I encourage you to memorize these verses. Our strength comes from Jesus! Our courage is in the Mighty One who defeated death and resisted Satan. Be strong and courageous, my friends, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Father, help me to be courageous in my faith. Make my conviction so strong that I can boldly proclaim that You are my Lord. Keep my eyes on the path You created for me, and help me to see the behavior of the world that is displeasing to You. God, I pray for the weak, the powerless, and the persecuted. Give them Your strength, courage, and peace in the knowledge that You are their mighty Power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.