Have you ever asked yourself, “How can I be strong? How can I have courage?”

Did you know God told Joshua to be strong and of good courage three times in one chapter? Let’s take a look at why, and see how we can be strong and have courage.

I have always been fond of the book of Joshua, as it tells the story of how the Israelites enter into the promised land. It is a book of battles and struggles, a book of victories and defeats. But most of all it is a book about a man who obeyed the Lord, regardless of what others did or thought.

Joshua was a man of war. He was known as the first commander of the Israelite army. Many believe that he was trained by the Egyptian army. Joshua was also Moses’ servant. He was Moses’s second in command. Joshua was obedient and faithful to Moses. But at the point of Joshua 1:1, Moses has passed away and now Joshua is the leader of not only the army,

but of the entire nation of Israel. 

The Lord gives Joshua some very specific instructions. Three times in four verses God tells Joshua to “be strong and of good courage.” So let’s take a look.

In Joshua 1:1-5, God reassures Joshua that he is called to be the leader, by referencing Moses. Notice what the Lord calls Moses, “The Servant of the Lord”. What a title! One that is only used 26 times in the Old Testament, over 16 of those times just for Moses. 

Joshua is not replacing just anyone, he is replacing the Servant of the Lord; therefore, it is understandable that he might have been nervous, or uncertain. But remember, the Lord did not want another Moses, he wanted Joshua. 

“No man is indispensable in God’s work. When Moses died, God did not need another Moses, but a man with other gifts and abilities… because it is God’s work and not ours.” 

It is important to remember that the Lord still has a plan. The plan was to bring the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. That goes all the way back to Genesis 12. This is why God says in Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

That word “forsake” means to leave or abandon. So the Lord is saying He will never leave nor abandon Joshua in this new venture of faith. In Joshua 1:6, we come to the first time the phrase be strong and of good courage is mentioned. The word “strong” means to be strong or harden. It is the same word that is used when Pharaoh hardened his heart toward God in Exodus 7:13. The phrase “good courage” means victory,  or conquer. The idea is being immovable. To be strong in faith or obedient in what has been asked.

The first time this phrase “Be Strong and of Good courage” is used, it is in reference to Joshua’s calling. As mentioned, the Lord is telling Joshua what he is called to. Before we move on, we need to see what Joshua is not called to, as this will paint a better picture. Joshua is not called to fight, he is not called to lead them into war, he was not called to judge.

So what was he called to do, you ask? He was called to lead the Israelites into the Land of Canaan, he was called to divide the promised land amongst the 12 Tribes; essentially he was a real estate agent. Now please do not misunderstand me. Battles, war and leading were all a part of this calling, but look at what God says in Joshua 1:6. That is where the Lord tells Joshua what he is supposed to do. God is encouraging Joshua to lead and be strong in something that was different. It was not something he had done before, hence the extra encouragement from the Lord.

The second time Joshua is told to be strong and courageous is in Joshua 1:7 and following this he is encouraged to remember, or know, God’s word in Joshua 1:8. Joshua is told: “observe the law; do not allow the Book of the law to depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, and observe all that is written in it”. 

These four things serve as a reminder that Joshua had the potential to be distracted in what he was doing. In this new venture, Joshua needed to be reminded about keeping his focus on the Word of the Lord. The Third time Joshua is told to be strong and of good courage is in Joshua 1:9. Here, the Lord is really encouraging Joshua not to allow other feelings to overwhelm him as he leads. 

Notice the Lord says, “be strong and of good courage”; these are positive things. Do these. But then they are followed up with two negative things, do not do these things. Do not be afraid or dismayed. “Afraid” means distressed or anxious over future events. “Dismayed” means shattered, broken, terrified. Now you all might be thinking “that is great, be strong don’t be afraid. But how does one go from being afraid to being strong?”

Notice what God says in Joshua 1:9, “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.”

It would seem the ability to be strong is right there for Joshua to take hold of, so what is it? Obedience. As mentioned before, this is a book of obedience. Someone once said “A long obedience in the same direction will produce results.” 

All we have to do is look at the life of Joshua and see a fulfilment of that. So my encouragement to us today is to be obedient to the Lord. That is how we will be able to be strong and of good courage.

Obedience is simply following. It is following what the Lord has asked us to do. It might be difficult, it might be uncomfortable and it might even look weird, but it is what the Lord has asked us to do. Imagine Joshua, he goes from being the commander of the army, to real estate agent; that had to be an unusual transition.

 I am sure there were times when all he wanted to do was chop someone’s head with the sword, or solve some dispute with a fight. I am sure there were even times when Joshua was glad they were in battle. That was probably where he felt most comfortable, on the battlefield. But Joshua always came back and led the people, and distributed the land as the Lord called him to.

What is the Lord calling you to do today? Is it something you are uncomfortable with, something that is not easy, something you may not have even imagined yourself ever doing? 

“Be strong and of good courage!” The Lord is with you. Be obedient and He will continue to guide you in this venture of faith. Remember Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him…”. So, as you take that step of faith, the Lord is not only with you but He is pleased by your step of faith.

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By Jake Wilmoth

About the author

Jake Wilmoth was a teacher at Calvary Chapel Bible Institute for 11 years. He has always had a heart for the church. He and his wife Tecla love helping people in the community – either through food or building projects

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