After forty years of wandering in the desert, when it came time to go into the Promised Land, I can’t help but wonder if there were times when Joshua might have wished that God could have brought a terrible plague on the inhabitants of the land and in an act of divine wrath, blotted them out.
God could have done that, but he didn’t.
God gave the Israelites the land, but they had to fight ugly, bloody battles for every inch of it.
A pattern here for us to remember
We have a plaque in our home that says, “Faith makes all things possible, but not easy.” That is a sentiment Joshua would have understood.
On our own, we cannot conquer anything. For the children of Israel there were giants in the land; the cities were strong and fortified; there were armies that would not give up without a fight. In our lives we may have destructive habits, challenging relationships, and difficult life circumstances—situations that seem impossible to conquer.
We desperately need God’s help. At the same time, he expects us to participate in the fight.
How do we do that?
Though there are many passages in the Bible that tell us what to do in spiritual battles (Eph. 6: 10-20 on the armor of God is recommended reading), let’s look briefly at God’s specific advice to Joshua:
Josh. 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
There are three pieces of advice here that are helpful for us to remember:
Remember your calling
God reminded Joshua, “Have I not commanded you?” He was called for a specific reason, to lead Israel in conquering the land. As Christians today we are called to represent Jesus and to share him with our world. As he said to his disciples, and today to us in John 15:16 and Acts 1:8:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Cling to the source of power to fulfill your calling
God didn’t call Joshua without equipping him and God equipped him with his Word:
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Josh.1:8
We don’t know how to conquer the battles of life on our own, we desperately need the wisdom and guidance of God’s Word. Read it, memorize it, meditate on it. One of the things I have found extremely helpful in this area is that I listen to it on my phone when I’m driving or doing housework. Remember that for most of history, the majority of the people could not read the Bible, it was read to them. I’ve found hearing it gives me a new level of understanding and helps me remember it more.
Watch your attitude
Twice God reminds Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Perhaps those attitudes didn’t come any more easily to Joshua than they do to us today, and God had to repeat this command to him. No matter how many times we need to repeat to ourselves to be strong and courageous or in everything to give thanks or that the joy of the Lord is our strenght, it’s vital we do that because it’s in our attitudes, in our mental dialogues that many spiritual battles are won or lost.
I head a radio preacher (forgive me, I don’t remember which one) recently who was talking about the importance of a good attitude in our spiritual lives. He focused in particular on the attitudes of older Christians and he said he found that as life goes on it gets harder and harder to have a good attitude and a thankful, growing, servant heart. He talked about how the burdens of life can pile up and how if we aren’t careful the bitterness of them can rob our last years of productive spiritual growth.
I was particularly challenged by this as I remembered the last years of two people very dear to me. Both had many challenges in life and in their last years painful health challenges. Both were believers in Jesus. One person, as she became older and more frail become more and more gentle, kind, and joyful in the littlest things in life. I remember her delight when I found lemon meringue pudding (which had been her favorite pie) and brought it to her. She couldn’t wait to go home and be with Jesus, but none of us wanted to let her go.
In contrast, I remember another person, who had every physical and financial resource to make her last days comfortable, who was filled with complaining, arguing, and sharp words for everyone around her. Though she sometimes would read or listen to Christian material, her conversation was filled with anger, regrets, and frustration. Sadly, the people around her looked forward to her going home to Jesus.
I don’t know why each person ultimately responded in the way they did, but the pastor’s comments and the example of these two lives is a challenge to me. Because God so often commands us in his Word to have specific attitudes, “be strong and courageous,” “don’t be afraid,” “in everything give thanks,” “do all without griping and complaining” it seems that our attitude and what comes out of our mouths is, to large measure under our control.
Realizing that takes me back to God’s Word. Joshua was told to “meditate on it day and night” and if we make God’s Word such an integral part of our lives, that now, as we age, and for however long the Lord has us serve him on earth, we will have the inner resources to conquer the challenges he gives us with joyful, thankful, peaceful hearts and lives that are pleasing to Him.