” 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”
The first time I saw my husband, he was on stage, performing in a college production of Jane Austen’s Emma. A week later, I walked into a Christian ministry group on our college campus and saw him for the second time, leading worship at the front of the room with his guitar. One more week after that, I was at the front of the room myself, playing the piano for that very same worship team. That was over 13 years ago and for all those years, this same man has been my worship leader. He still is every single Sunday morning at our church.
When you follow one person for all those years and know them so well, it becomes easy to trust their leadership, to anticipate what they are going to do, and to follow their cues. Some people have commented before that they think it’s so cute how I watch my husband intently while he’s leading the music, eyes full of doting adoration. Now, surely some of that is from love, but there’s something else, too. I’m watching his hands to see what chords he’s playing on the guitar and watching to see when he steps close to the microphone to sing. I’m following the leader.
A few months ago, for one brief day, I had to follow a different leader in a worship program and it stretched me a bit. Without even practicing together, I had to sit down at the piano and follow the speed of her hand directing me and the sound of her voice leading me. It took effort and concentration on my part to accompany someone new.
That experience made me wonder how Israel must have felt after following Moses all over the wilderness for 40 years and then waking up one morning to find Joshua in charge. It must have been more than a minor adjustment to follow the new guy.
And then I wondered how Joshua himself must have felt about receiving the baton from Moses. What did he think about being the follow-up act to the guy who marched the people out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought the Ten Commandments down after a mountain meeting with God? If God asked me to do that job, I honestly might have passed on the offer.
After all, Moses had almost passed on God’s offer of ministry to him. Years before at the burning bush, when God called Moses to lead the Hebrew nation out of Egypt, Moses actually said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). He felt ill-equipped for a job so big. He said he had “never been eloquent” and was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:13).
Ultimately, Moses was a powerful leader for the wayward nation and saw God more intimately than almost any other human ever has. But that weakness of his, that tendency to wonder if God could come through against overwhelming odds caused problems for him later on.
When the Israelites arrived at Canaan about two years after taking that first step out of Egypt, God told him to “send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites” (Numbers 13:1). Moses’s instructions to these 12 spies, though, were a little more hesitant than God’s. He said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? (Numbers 13:17-19). Does it seem like Moses is wondering just how possible the conquest of Canaan would be? Sure enough, ten of the twelve spies came back announcing that there was no way they could take over that land, no matter what God had promised.
All the spies except Joshua and Caleb.
You see, Joshua believed that if God said it, then it would happen. He placed his confidence in God’s ability and not in his own. The first time we read about Joshua in Scripture is in Exodus 17:9-10: “Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’ So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered.”
Notice that Joshua just obeyed. He didn’t argue about the task, tell Moses why he was incapable of performing it or explain why someone else would be better equipped for the job. And any of those responses would have made sense. As far as we can tell, Joshua had no military or leadership training. One day, Moses just walked up to him and said, “make an army and defeat the enemy”—all in one day’s time. Talk about impossible expectations! Yet, Moses told him what to do and Joshua did it.
Maybe that’s why after the Israelites spent another 38 years of running circles in the wilderness, God chose Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land. Because this time God told Joshua what to do and Joshua did it—without arguing over insufficiency or asking God to send somebody else.
God gave Joshua one consistent message when he called him to be the new leader for the nation. Three times in Joshua 1, God says, “Be strong and courageous” and ultimately tells Joshua, ” 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” (Joshua 1:9).
And Joshua believed God and obeyed Him—no matter how ill-equipped he felt for the task. Instead of focusing on his own weaknesses and insufficiency, he focused instead on God’s powerful ability and faithfulness to His promises. He believed that God equips those He calls.
Priscilla Shirer in One in a Million writes:
Is there something in your life right now that God has called you to do, but you just don’t have the courage to engage in? What do your excuses reveal about yourself and how you feel about God? For each of Moses’s excuses, God had a response. It took time, but He assured Moses that human inability could never override God’s divine ability to work through him and to accomplish His purposes. How much different, though, to be a person like Joshua who doesn’t need coddling and explanations? Look what God can do through someone who receives His instructions not just personally . . . but fearlessly.
If God has given you a child to care for, He will equip you in your ministry to that child. If God has asked you to teach, He will equip you as a teacher. If God has asked you to be a caregiver, He will equip you with strength and compassion. If God has asked you to be a witness for Christ to an unbelieving family, He will equip you with a testimony of grace and give you courage to be a light in a dark place. If He has given you a vision for a ministry far beyond your ability to produce, He will equip you with the skills and ministry partners you need in every situation.
We simply need to trust in a God whose word is always true. If He said it, we can believe it. No, we’re not capable enough to be used or sufficient enough for the circumstances we face. But He is. Therefore, we don’t need to be afraid or discouraged because “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King