"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."
Many times when God calls us to do something, it will appear to be a great challenge to us. This would have been the case with Joshua. Moses, the leader he had always looked up to, had just died. He had hundreds of thousands of men to look after – homeless men, who needed to fight in order to get their new homes! He had to cross the Jordan river in flood time. How was God going to provide for all this? How would they defeat the giants Joshua knew were living there? Would the people respect his leadership? Joshua may have been assailed with many thoughts and doubts. We don't know, because it doesn't say so. But many times when God tells a person to be strong and courageous, He does so because at that time the person will be FEELING very weak and possibly discouraged.
Be Strong and Courageous No Matter what your past may have been
In Christian counselling and teaching, there has been a lot of emphasis in recent times on "the hurts of the past". Many of our failures we are told are due to "unresolved issues" from the past.
Joshua spent the first 40 years of his life as a slave in Egypt. He would have been treated like dirt there. He spent the next 40 years following Moses closely in the wilderness, in the hot dry deserts of Arabia. He would have been eating manna – a kind of honey flavored snack food – every day! In spite of his faith, he had missed out on entering the Promised Land 40 years before, because of the unbelief of OTHERS. He had seen plenty of defeats and negative things happening to the disobedient Israelites over the years. You might say that Joshua had grounds for fear of failure, or for being handicapped by "past issues". But in spite of all this, God speaks to Him.
Yes, now and only now, God speaks to Joshua, telling him to be strong and very courageous. Joshua, by the way, is no longer a young man. He is eighty years of age. Somehow, he kept his health by drinking pure water and eating manna from God, and hearing the Words of the Law on a daily basis. But he is an older man, and he has a big task ahead of him.
You may have had many difficult and trying circumstances in the past. You may have experienced failure because others let you down. You may have been treated badly. Nevertheless, God's call to you and to me is this: "Be strong and courageous". Don't be weak. Don't be discouraged. Allowing ourselves to be weak and discouraged is not the will of God for our lives.
I believe the choice to be strong in the Lord is just that – a choice. God is the one who tells us in the New Testament "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10). We are not called to be strong in ourselves – taking that path might eventually lead us to a nervous breakdown or worse. We are called to be strong in the Lord. As we wait on the Lord, and allow Him to speak, He replaces our weakness with His strength, our doubts with his confidence, and he gives us more than enough grace or divine enabling to fulfil our calls.
As Christians, we need to learn to depend on God. When we do this, God gives us strength to stay in the Word, and do all things He commands us to do. We are going to need this attitude of being strong to be victorious in God in the difficult days ahead.