If someone advised you, “Take courage!” how would you respond? “Why?” might be my immediate response.
In Joshua 1:6-9, we see the Lord commanding Joshua to be “strong and courageous” three times. But if we take a closer look, we also see the Lord commanding Joshua to obey the Law three times as well. The Lord only exhorts for bravery on account of the battles he would fight once (verse 6). The next two verses (7-8) speak entirely about Joshua being courageous regarding loving and keeping the Law. Verse 9 provides a kind of final, hand-on-the-shoulder, “be strong and courageous”. Why would Joshua need such clear encouragement?
The battle for our hearts is perhaps the hardest battle for leaders and followers alike.
Deuteronomy 31-34 gives us the answer: once in the Promised Land, the people would all “turn to foreign gods…” (Dt. 31:16, 20). This is more than a military battle. Perhaps what we commonly interpret as an encouragement for bravery in battle, is actually an encouragement for Joshua to be brave in loving and obeying God. The battle for our hearts is perhaps the hardest battle for leaders and followers alike.
You Need More Than Courage
Tackling “giants” is nothing to God; overcoming the hearts of men, now that’s another issue all in itself. Joshua had seen giants and had hoped for the chance to overcome them 40 years earlier during the spies’ first foray into Canaan (Numbers 13). However, Joshua had also witnessed the effects of unbelief and rebellion. Joshua needed a love for God and His Law even more than strength, courage, and determination in battle. It would take all these things to complete the mission God had given him.
It takes courage to obey God, yet even more courage to lead unwilling people to do the same. Giants are one thing; tackling the hearts of rebellious (or doubting) people is another.
A Leader Must Seek God’s Approval
Joshua’s story also offers another valuable truth: we don’t get our [ultimate] validation from people. This is especially important for those in leadership. Affirmation is wonderful, but man’s approval (or lack thereof) does not determine one’s identity in Christ. I realize that affirmation is important and valid, but is it vitally important? …important enough to tempt us to rebel?
As you go out into the next chapter of your life, don’t forget the things God has told you, shown you, and promised you. The giants you may be facing are one thing, and God can take care of those. Sickness, pride, divorce, poverty, child-trafficking… these are giants God wants to (and can) slay. It’s the giant of our heart—our devotion to Him—that God won’t force (cf Matt 15:8, 16:24, Rev. 3:20).
The validation that counts to those who follow the master comes from the master.
Give Him access to this “giant,” and there is nothing God can’t do through you.The point is this: don’t try to be a super leader. Instead, love God’s Word and remain faithful. In our world today, it takes more courage to be obedient and pursue holiness than it does to simply be “relevant”. Obedience in the life of a disciple is the natural overflow of a life impacted by the Gospel. The validation that counts to those who follow the master comes from the master. Joshua needed to understand this truth, and it’s this truth that would ultimately make him a better servant and leader for the people.
Open the door to Him daily. Be faithful with His Word—spoken and written. Be strong and courageous! Have courage for the battle!
Consider These Questions Today:
- Are you “in the Word”? Is the Bible a primary part of your life? Do you “love the Law and God’s commandments” as Joshua was exhorted to?
- Are you trying too hard to be relevant, or do you simply need more courage to be obedient?
- In your leadership (or followership) are you more concerned with disappointing people, or pleasing God?
- What safeguards (good habits and relationships) do you have in your life which help you to see clearly in every decision?