What mountains are you facing? This past year, I started doctoral studies, and the thought of researching, writing and defending a dissertation feels like a vast, unconquerable mountain. If I’m honest, sometimes being a pastor of church feels that way too. As does parenting or living out the way of Jesus in our complex world. How about you? Got any difficult situations in your life? Anything that seems impossible? Are you scared? Nervous? Struggling with anxiety or fear?
If so, please know that you’re not alone. In this series of posts we have been studying Deuteronomy chapters 31-34, which describes the final days and last words of Moses, the great leader of Israel. After hearing God and Moses’s songs to Israel, we read that Moses passed on, but not before turning leadership of the nation over to Joshua. With that in mind, let’s return to God’s command to Joshua Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and 23. “Be strong and courageous… Do not be afraid or terrified… I will never leave you or forsake you.” Then connect those statements with Moses’ words in chapter 32 where over and over again he refers to God as the Rock of Israel. For example in verse 4 he says, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
With this wonderful message of assurance, and all the blessings in chapter 33, the very next book of the Bible, Joshua, begins nearly identically to how Deuteronomy concludes. Turn to Joshua 1:6-9, and what do we see? “Be strong and courageous”!
Though this was a message for Joshua and the entire nation of Israel, there is a principle embedded in this for us too, when we face what seems impossible. How does this relate to us? Turn to Hebrews 13:1-6, and perhaps we’ll see the connection.
In the first few verses, the writer of Hebrews mentions numerous actions, life choices that Christians are to follow. Then look at the surprising quote that the writer uses to sustain why we should follow God’s way. He quotes Deuteronomy 31:6, the very thing God said to Joshua! When a Christian is attempting to apply an Old Testament passage to their lives, it is always helpful when that very OT passage is quoted in the New Testament.
What the writer of Hebrews accomplishes through his quote of Deuteronomy 31:6 is a powerful reminder to us that though there are many times in our lives that we Christians can be afraid, fearful or ashamed to follow the way of Christ, when we know God is faithful to us, we can have confidence that we can be faithful to him.
We can be courageously obedient as disciples of Jesus, trusting in him, living out his way of living, because he has our back.
Ours is a society that is changing, and it could be that living in obedience to Jesus will mean that we will look different from the people around us. We might even look strange. And yet, what is the promise we have from God? That he will never leave us or forsake us.
Additionally, there is the principle that in God we have everything we need, which is a direct connection to our struggle with fear, anxiety, and worry. In Matthew 6:24-35 Jesus teaches us not to worry. In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul teaches us to not be anxious, and in 1 Peter 5:7, we read “Cast your anxiety on him.”
We can be afraid or anxious or worrisome in life because there are so many difficult situations we encounter. But this principle reminds of us the rock we have in Jesus.
What is the insurmountable situation that you face? Joshua was facing a huge task. He was to take over leadership from Moses, leading people who didn’t have a good track record of being followers. More than that, he was to lead them in a massive invasion of a land filled with people who were more powerful than Israel. I can see why God says over and over and over to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. I am with you.”
While you and I might not be leading massive amounts of people to do huge world-shaping historical events, we each have important roles that God has called us to. We each face situations that might seem like they are too much.
Digging out of a financial hole.
Passing a test, graduating from high school.
Healing a broken relationship.
Facing a medical health emergency.
Being a mom, being a dad.
Life is fraught with so many difficulties.
And to each one of them God says, “Do not fear, I am with you!”