Our lives are constant transition, or so it seems. We are constantly seeing the “circle of life” lived out. One thing starts with blazing fury and seems to faze out with equal vigor. When products fail, when leaders step away, when marriages end, when things don’t go as planned, when it feels like everything is exploding (or imploding) right before our eyes, what do we do? We often ask ourselves, “what’s next?”
The great news is God is not a God of confusion, but clarity. And what’s more, God is not accustomed to change. He’s dealt with more change than anyone else. He’s had to initiate a plethora of plans in order to accomplish His purposes. One example of God’s ability to execute His purposes regardless of the situation is that of Joshua. Here’s how God commissions Joshua to accomplish His purposes after a huge transition (the death of Moses, the leadership staple of Israel for nearly a century).
Joshua 1:1-9 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success[a] wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
One thing is clear: God’s plan is Joshua. He wants to partner with Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land, a place replete with blessings. But how does Joshua get there? What’s next?
A Culture Worth Remembering
The first step is actually a look: a look into history. In the first few verses, God recounts the current situation and what He’s already promised to Joshua and subsequently Israel. God recounts that Moses is dead, but God still has active promises waiting to be fulfilled. God already promised Moses (v. 3) and will still go good on His promises. The first thing Joshua had to do was remember where he came from, both physically and spiritually. Joshua was born in Egypt. He knows what it’s like to be in slavery and that God’s freedom is better than slavery any day. Joshua’s also been one of the few who’s always stood for God’s truth. He was one only two of the 12 spies who gave a good report in Numbers 13. Spiritually, Joshua learned from some of the best. In Exodus 33:11, we see that even after Moses departed from His times with God in the tent, Joshua still kept hanging around. Joshua was bred in a culture of honoring God’s Presence in His life. He’s heard the stories. He’s lived the stories.
What stories have you heard? What’s your culture? Where did you come from? Physically, you’ve got a heritage. I’m sure it’s not all daisies and roses, but there is something of value there. What has God already given you through your physical family? friends? coworkers? classmates? What’s your culture? What’s more, what’s your spiritual heritage? Ephesians 1:5 tells us that we were adopted into God’s family. If you believe in Jesus, your spiritual heritage is adoption. God, who saw you clearly and knew everything good and bad about who you would be, choose to love you unconditionally and pour out His grace and mercy on your life. Further, Romans 11 says we were grafted into the blessing that God had planned for Israel. As believers in Christ, we’ve been connected into all the Promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). That’s a culture worth remembering and cultivating.
A Connection Worth Maintaining
The second step is also less active: a connection with God. The middle verses of Joshua’s commissioning are ripe with God’s invitation to intimate connection with Himself. He says things like “just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (v. 5) and “you will have good success” (v. 8). At the same time, this connection is contingent largely on one thing: keeping in line with God’s Word. He says, “do not depart from it either to the right or to the left” (v. 7). Remember, Joshua is accustomed to time with God. He’s heard all the words Moses has written down. And God says, “Your success, Joshua, is based on one simple thing: stick on the path I’ve already outlined.” This connection is the single most valuable thing Joshua can hold onto.
It’s also evident that as believers maintaining our connection to God is of the utmost importance. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “remain in me and you’ll bear much fruit” (John 15:5). An orange tree doesn’t have to work hard to produce oranges. An orange branch connected to a tree doesn’t have to work hard at all. It’s a natural result of connection. But if you cut off that connection, try as it may, that branch is not going to give you an orange. 100 years from now, most of what we do will not matter. In fact, 1,000 years from now, the only things that truly remain will be the things we’ve done in love through our connection with God. One of the most beautiful things about this is that it absolutely abolishes the idea that we have to prove ourselves or prove our honor. Instead, we see that our honor comes through Jesus, and we have no need to fight for anything else than that. We’re above disappointment; we’re beyond failure, because our God always has another plan to accomplish His purpose if we are willing to stay in it with Him.
A Courage Worth Acting Upon
The third step, however, is the crucible of life: being courageous. God concludes his time with Joshua with this phrase: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). If you read through the rest of Joshua, you’ll see all of life isn’t peachy keen. Joshua faces many difficult and even terrifying situations. It’s no wonder, God has to say, “Be strong and courageous” a number of different times! And yet in the whole Bible, Joshua is one of the only main characters who has nothing bad written about him. This is a man who knows his culture, maintains his connections, and acts with courage. But not just Joshua, whenever God gives us a command, it actually comes with the seed of grace to fulfill it. God doesn’t ask us to do anything that we’re not capable of because we’re in Him.
So it goes with us: anyone willing to act in courage will be someone who is used greatly by God. Thus, God is inviting each of us to make courageous decisions. Maybe it’s the decision to begin a relationship with Him, or the decision to let go of an idol or sin-pattern holding you back from the Promised Land. Perhaps, there is truth you need to share in love, or someone from the next generation (physically or spiritually) you must invest in. It could even be the decision to leave the safety of your current job for something else God has for you.
Even with all of the great things that happened in Joshua’s life, he was still just a glim reflection in a mirror of what God did through Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:12) as the fulfillment of all of God’s work. Perhaps, one of the most amazing mysteries of our lives is this: “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). If you’re facing something in life, the chances are good that you’ve already been empowered by God to accomplish what it would take to solve that problem or bring that breakthrough. But before you say no because it looks overwhelming, please first take a good look at the culture and connection into which God’s invited you. And then thoughtfully ponder which courageous decision you’ll make today!