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Could You Use a Transfusion of Courage?

Could You Use a Transfusion of Courage?

By David Jeremiah

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There is an unknown aspect of life for every human being alive at this moment: the future. No one knows what it holds. For that reason, everyone is tempted to be fearful of it. Joshua faced an unknown future until God gave him six principles of success—and promised he would prosper.

The context of Joshua 1 is transition—the transition of leadership in Israel from Moses to Joshua. Moses is still revered today as one of the greatest figures in Jewish history. How would you like to have been Joshua, taking the reins of leadership from someone like Moses? Moses had led Israel out of bondage in Egypt, across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai where God gave him the Ten Commandments, and then across the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Exodus 33:11 says something about Moses that was not said about any other person in Scripture: He spoke to the Lord “face to face.” Moses was on intimate terms with God. He received instructions for Israel from God and then communicated them to the people. Though the people often grumbled against Moses, they knew he was God’s man. They chafed against his leadership and loved him all at the same time. When Moses died “the children of Israel wept for [him] in the plains of Moab thirty days” (Deuteronomy 34:8).

Moses’ death came at a perilous time. The generation that failed to believe God at Kadesh Barnea had died off during forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Now the new generation that replaced them was gathered on the east bank of the Jordan River, ready to cross over and inherit the Promised Land. The people of Canaan, who would have to be driven out of the land, were large in stature, well organized socially and militarily, and far advanced in civilization and technologies like metallurgy for making weapons (Joshua 17:16).

The Israelites were not prepared at all to conduct military campaigns. The generation about to go into the land had been living in the wilderness for forty years, being fed a day at a time by God. In the midst of this situation, God tells Joshua he is the new leader of the nation!

If you had been called in as a consultant to help Joshua prepare for his new role, what would you have told him?

If you had been called in as a consultant to help Joshua prepare for his new role, what would you have told him?

Fortunately, Joshua did have a consultant—a divine one: God himself. God delivered to Joshua one of the most powerful motivational speeches I have ever read. This speech has helped me many times in my life and I believe it will help you at a time when you are “stuck”—not sure that you can succeed in the task you are attempting.

In this lesson we will study God’s six-point plan for success in life, originally delivered on the plains of Moab to Joshua.

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PERSPECTIVE (Joshua 1:3, 5)

Notice that God mentions Moses twice: in verse three and verse 5. The purpose of these two references is to provide historical context for Joshua, to remind him of what he had experienced as Moses’ assistant and partner in ministry. It was as if God was saying to Joshua, “I was with Moses, and I will be with you!”

One of the most important things we can ever do as we face the uncertainties of the future in our life is to remember what God has done for us in the past. I read the biographies of great Christian leaders from the past for that very reason: “Lord, You did it for David Livingstone in Africa, so I know you can do it for David Jeremiah in America!”

It was time for Joshua to get over what someone has called the “second lieutenant mentality.”

It was time for Joshua to get over what someone has called the “second lieutenant mentality.” He was no longer the number two man in Israel; he was soon to become the leader. He had to realize that God was going to be with him just as He had been with Moses.

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PURPOSE (Joshua 1:2–4)

Once Joshua had a divine perspective on his task, he was given a divine purpose: to settle the Promised Land that God had promised to Abraham for his descendants. Joshua needed to stay focused. Many distractions would arise along the way—he needed never to forget the purpose of his appointment as leader of Israel.

The land was a gift to Israel, but they still had to appropriate it—to walk over all the land and claim it as their own. It was theirs, but they had to reach out and take it.

There is something very liberating and invigorating about knowing what you are supposed to do. You can get up every morning, make your to-do list, and go forward to accomplish your purpose. When you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, life gets foggy and confusing. Purpose gives direction and energy for life.

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PERSUASION (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9)

Even with all his experience with God and Moses, Joshua needed a little prodding. So the next thing he received was divine persuasion:

  • “Be strong and of good courage” (verse 6)
  • “Only be strong and very courageous” (verse 7)
  • “Be strong and of good courage” (verse 9)

If I had to guess, I would say God was trying to impress upon Joshua the need to be very strong and very courageous! That is the heart of God’s motivational message to Joshua.

Strong means resolute—not easily swayed from one’s purpose by the efforts of others. Courageous has a sense of daring in it; an element of risk-taking. (Think of the daring it would take to march around Jericho for a week!) Strength and courage mean the willingness to stay on point regardless of how hard the winds blow against you and be willing to obey God when the naysayers are opposing you.

Joshua displayed these traits when he and Caleb returned from scouting out the land with the other ten spies. They were the only spies who believed Israel could take the land by believing God’s promises. The other ten spies were afraid of the giants in the land—they were focused on the opposition. But Joshua and Caleb were focused on God. They were in the minority, but they held their ground—even though the rest of Israel voted with the pessimistic majority.

The majority is not always right! Sometimes the minority report is the one that reflects God’s will. Think about Jesus Himself—was He, and were His followers, in the majority or the minority? To be a leader requires standing strong for what you know is right and not wavering.

The majority is not always right! Sometimes the minority report is the one that reflects God’s will.

Leadership can be lonely, but it should not be abandoned just because it is. Paul Lawrence Dunbar has reminded us in poetic form that:

Minorities, since time began,
Have shown the better side of man;
And often in the lists of time
One man has made a cause sublime.1

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PRIORITY (Joshua 1:7–8)

Now we come to the heart of the matter: It is not possible to find success in our purposes in life unless we walk according to God’s Word.

God didn’t tell Joshua that his priority needed to be military strategy, financial backing, or bilateral relations with neighboring countries. Those things have a place, but they are not the priority. Here was Joshua’s priority: Meditate day and night upon the principles of the Word of God.

Just before Joshua died, in his final address to the people, he admonished them to do exactly what God had admonished him to do: Be courageous and obey all of God’s law (Joshua 23:6). He passed on to the next generation what God had given him. The instruction God gave for kings in Israel is along the same line: Make a personal copy of the laws of God, read it all your life, and obey all of it (Deuteronomy 17:18–19). When David was near the end of his life, he gave the same instructions to his son Solomon:  Be strong and keep God’s commandments as written in the law of Moses (1 Kings 2:2–3).

I’ve read enough biographies of the people who have changed the world for Christ to know that they fed themselves on the Bible. It is said that George Mueller read through the Bible two hundred times. David Livingstone read it through four times in succession while in prison in Africa. Charles Spurgeon said, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who is not.” If Christians today would just read through the Bible once in a year, it would revolutionize the Church. God promises that His Word will never return to Him void without accomplishing the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:10–11).

If we are going to make the Word of God the priority in our life it should be, we will have to start including it in our conversation, meditating on it, reading it with a view toward obeying what we read, following it exclusively, and accepting all of it—from cover to cover.

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PRESENCE (Joshua 1:5, 9)

The fifth principle for Joshua’s success in the Promised Land was the principle of God’s divine presence with him. We are familiar with the verse from Hebrews that says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and here is one of its Old Testament roots (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8).

God tells Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). And in verse 9 we have God’s words, “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God had done everything necessary for Joshua’s success. First, He gave him perspective—a context for success. Next, He reminded him of the importance of purpose—his task in settling the land of Canaan for Israel. Third, God persuaded Joshua to be strong and courageous—to stay resolute and be daring. Fourth, He reminded him to make the Word of God his priority. And now, God tells Joshua the one thing Joshua probably most wanted to hear: He wasn’t going into Canaan alone! God was going to be beside Joshua from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, from Dan to Beersheba.

If you are involved in a ministry for the Lord, never think you are doing it alone. As God promised to be with Joshua, so He promises to be with you.

If you are involved in a ministry for the Lord, never think you are doing it alone. As God promised to be with Joshua, so He promises to be with you.

THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE PROSPERITY (Joshua 1:5, 8)

Finally, God gives Joshua an overwhelming promise: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.”

“Wow!” Joshua must have thought. “No one, for the rest of my life, will defeat me in any of my undertakings? How could this be possible?”

“It is possible,” God would reply, “because you are a man of my Word. You are a man of courage and strength. You are a man who walks obediently in all my statutes and commands. And ultimately, Joshua, you will prosper because I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you in all things to ensure your success. You will never be defeated if you continue in my ways.”

Here is God’s promise to Joshua that if he lived his life according to God’s law: “You will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (verse 8). Success meant, in the Hebrew language, to be prudent or to act circumspectly. So, in a religious and ethical sense, it means someone who lets himself and his life be guided by God. Joshua had this kind of success and prosperity. He experienced hardship, and sometimes he failed. But his way was prudent and wise and therefore successful.

Now, picture this with me: Joshua finds out he has this new job assignment to be the leader of Israel. He goes into the divine Consultant’s office and gets the five principles of success we’ve reviewed in this lesson. God then reads them out to Joshua just like you’ve read them here. I think when he went into the office, he might have been a bit overwhelmed, even depressed at the thought of what lay before him. But when he walked out, I believe he was standing straight and tall and there was a spring in his step. He had gotten a transfusion of courage as a result of his meeting with the divine Counselor.

These principles have transformed my life on many occasions, given me the shot of courage I needed to push on and find the success God intended. And I believe they will do the same for you.

1Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “Right’s Security,” Lyrics of Lowly Life (Carol Publishing Group, 1984).

This article is an excerpt from David Jeremiah’s Courage to Conquer study guide.

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