Be Strong & Courageous
In the Bible, the Book of Joshua describes the Israelite's battles and victories conquering the promised land given by God from their initial crossing over the Jordan River to the final division of the land amongst the twelve tribes. The vastness of the territories conquered in the Book of Joshua is a testament to God's ability to conquer great kings and massive lands. Through God's direction, power, and faithfulness the Israelites triumphed over the pagans living in the land and the rulers of the cities.
It's interesting to me to note the number of times the Lord commanded Joshua and the Israelites to "Be Strong and Courageous." The first appearance of this phrase is found in Deuteronomy 31 and from Deuteronomy 31 to Joshua 1 this phrase is mentioned 7 times! Wow. The timing of this phrase is all prior to any battles or conquering of land. I would relate it to receiving a pep talk! A pep talk from God! Think about what happens before a football game, in the locker room where the coach is delivering his pep talk to the team. I wonder how many times a phrase or slogan is repeated to the team or even by the team to get them pumped before the big game. Usually, when you hear something 3 times you tend to stand straighter and ready yourself for action, but hearing the same phrase 7 times, wow that's something big. There's intention behind the phrase.
So, why did God command and repeat "Be Strong and Courageous" to Joshua and the Israelites before they even stepped foot on the battle field? I believe it's a testament to remind us not to be discouraged by obstacles or walls standing in our way, keeping us from taking that next step forward. Strength and courage are not naturally found within ourselves. We tend to retreat when we should push forward. We tend to get discouraged instead of being encouraged. The world and the sin in it renders people broken, shameful and fearful. We tend to get caught up in the mindset of what we cannot do which then leads us to doing nothing. Our perception can become our distorted reality and move us into making up stories of our own version of what is happening around us and thus inhibit us from moving forward.
The story of Joshua and the constant reminder of "Be Strong and Courageous" is God showing the Israelites and reminding us He is faithful in the plans and purposes for our lives. When we walk faithfully with God, His spirit lives in us and we can have the boldness, courage and strength to do what he's called us to do. Joshua heard this phrase 7 times prior to any battle. Can you imagine the fear or anxiety he may have felt wondering why he was being cautioned so many times and not knowing what was about to occur? The key to this story is he still stepped forward. He took the step of courage and trusted God. Courage looks like showing up when you don't know what the outcome is going to be. The outcome may not turn out like we might have written it but the victory comes in the successful completion of the task or vision God has given us. I'm not saying this step of courage is easy. Be Brave and Trust God.
"FOR I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU," DECLARES THE LORD, "PLANS TO PROSPER YOU AND NOT HARM YOU, PLANS TO GIVE YOU HOPE AND A FUTURE."
- JEREMIAH 29:11