Trying to lead within your church, trying to bring help to a broken situation, interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, moving your family from everything familiar to a new and unknown place, financial hardship, chronic mental, emotional, or physical health issues — these are just some of the seemingly impossible tasks God might have called you to. Any one of these experiences can feel overwhelming. Combine one or more together and it feels utterly impossible to hang on, let alone thrive.
I love the story of Joshua, as it speaks to being called to the impossible. In Joshua 1:1-9, God calls Joshua to assume leadership of the Israelites and take them into the promised land. Keep in mind that Joshua worked very closely with Moses. I am certain Joshua was well aware of the ways Israel treated Moses. Moses could never do enough for the people; there was always something they were complaining about. They questioned Moses’ character and integrity, sometimes spreading slander about him. How would you feel if you were Joshua and God was now calling you to lead Israel? Concerned? Worried? Fearful?
There must have been some measure of fear in Joshua when God was calling him. Otherwise, why would God have commanded Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous” (vs. 6, 7, 9), the third time in verse 9 being accompanied with the command to not be afraid? It is natural to experience anxiety when God calls us to what seems impossible. Anxiety is a precursor to fear. Anxiety alerts us that something might be wrong. Anxiety alerts our brain and body to prepare to respond. Anxiety turns into fear when we are not careful to manage our anxiety, discerning what is true and real despite what our current situations seem to indicate. When our anxiety turns into fear, we tend to start thinking irrationally and responding from the emotional center of our brain in reactionary rather than Spirit-led ways. Hence God’s command to Joshua to be strong and courageous and not to succumb to fear.
Joshua 1:9 – The promise of God’s presence is why Joshua (and You) need not be afraid.
Do not fear!
Easier said than done, right? Perhaps as you think about your current situation, you are thinking, “Do not fear? Are you kidding? I am more afraid right now than I ever have been before! How am I supposed to not be afraid?” I love how God provides confirmation and assurance that should leave Joshua full of courage. God says to Joshua, “…for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (vs. 9, see also vs. 5). The promise of God’s presence is why Joshua need not be afraid.
I am a proud father of four children, now tweens and teens. Both my wife and I are adrenaline junkies. We are really only ever afraid when the risk and consequence of injury are both extremely high. We love the rush and the courage and strength that overcoming hard and scary things produces in us and our kids. We also love living to share the stories about how crazy the adventure was. When our kids were young, we were always pointing out objects to our kids to try climbing and then jumping down into our arms from. Even now, we are constantly challenging our kids to do something bold and sometimes a little dangerous. Every time we end up saying to one or more of them as they are starting to freak out, “You’re okay! Don’t freak out! I am right here to help you. I am here to spot you. I will catch you if you fall.” And often either my wife or I will make the first run at the challenge to show them it can be done. Along with our command to not freak out, we confirm the provision of our presence with them and protection for them.
When God commanded Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid,” God accompanied His command with the assurance of His presence with Joshua: “…for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” The word “for” is a very important connecting word. It says that what follows is the reason why what was said before can, should, or will happen. The reason why Joshua can be strong, courageous, and unafraid is because God is always with him. God did not expect Joshua to be all this on his own. Rather, God assured Joshua that he can be a strong, courageous, and fearless leader when he remembers that the LORD – the one true and all-powerful God – is with him.
God did not expect Joshua to be fearless on his own.
God did not expect Joshua to be fearless on his own. Rather, God assured Joshua that he can be a strong, courageous leader when he remembers that the LORD is with him.
God called Joshua to lead. Though the calling seemed impossible, God commanded Joshua to lead with strength, courage, and fearlessness. To help Joshua be the leader God was calling him to be, God provided confirmation of His very presence with Joshua as he led. In the same way, God has assured each and every follower of Jesus with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us a calling to “make disciples” and confirmed both His authority to commission us and His unending presence with us (Matthew 28:18-20). In John 14 and 16, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit’s presence and leading in our lives. In Acts 2 we see Jesus’ promise fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled believers for the first time. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:13, that “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
All strength, courage, and fearlessness is available to us if we will live in surrender and submission to the Holy Spirit.
As followers of Christ, we have the same Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The very presence of God is with us always. All strength, courage, and fearlessness is available to us if we will live in surrender and submission to the Holy Spirit, trusting and obeying Him as we listen to Him speak to us through the Word of God.
As you ponder your calling today, will you receive God’s reminder of His presence with you? Will you trust that His presence is all you need to fulfill your calling with strength, courage, and fearlessness? Like Joshua, we must decide daily to trust that God is with us and that, therefore, nothing is impossible.
Copyright © 2020 Jeremiah Porter. All rights reserved.