As we start a New Year, there is one particular figure in the Scriptures who can provide us with inspiration for the challenges and opportunities we will face. And his name is Joshua.
Joshua was a young man and protégé of Moses. But despite his youth, he stood out from the crowd. He was the general of the army in the battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17); he was one of the spies who encouraged the people to enter the Promised Land, even when many others disagreed (Numbers 13); he was known for his devotion to God, staying long to worship when others had departed (Exodus 33). And when it was time for Moses to hand over leadership, Joshua was the obvious choice of successor (Numbers 25; Deuteronomy 31).
Moses’ shoes were undoubtedly tough ones to fill. He had led the people out of slavery in Egypt and protected them as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. But now Joshua takes the reins and prepares the people to finally enter the land that God had promised them hundreds of years before…
We think that the story of Joshua has a lot to teach us at this stage of our own story. In particular, we need the courage of Joshua.
This story is a deeply encouraging one, in the truest sense. It’s easy to think of encouragement as something a little twee: Just saying some positive words to cheer up an individual. But actually, encouragement is a powerful concept. It literally means “to have courage put into you.” As Dr Henry Cloud expresses it, when we are en-couraged:
‘Courage is put “into” you from outside. Our character and abilities grow through internalizing from others what we do not possess in ourselves.’
At the beginning of the book of Joshua, God gives this instruction: ‘Be strong and very courageous.’ It’s an instruction God considers so important that He repeats it four times in the first chapter.
Joshua needed to have courage put into him, to strengthen his resolve and prepare him for change. He needs to be, literally, “en-couraged”. And if Joshua needed that, I suspect all of us do.
To be strong and courageous involves belief; a deep conviction that allows us to trust in what we have been called to do, even when others doubt or criticise. It involves taking initiative and proactively making things happen, rather than waiting for others to forge a way ahead of us. It takes endurance. When progress is slow or plans don’t pan out quite how we expected, it requires strength and courage to persevere. It takes faith, trusting that ultimately our success rests on our God, who is the object of our faith and the source of our courage.
The thought of being part of a church that takes this charge to heart is thrilling. A strong and courageous church would be a place in which our weaknesses is turned to strength. A church where people fearlessly invite others to explore faith. A church that fights for justice and stands up for those in greatest need. A church known for attempting great things even when it is costly and challenging.
This term we will preach through the story of Joshua. And my prayer, at the start of this series and this New Year, is that we would be deeply en-couraged. That God would put His courage in our hearts and enable us to serve Him effectively in all that lies ahead.
To find out more about what the series will cover, check out the preaching calendar.