Joshua 1:1-9 “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 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 success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
What is courage? What does courage look like?
Team Hoyt has many applications. Today we take the lesson of courage from the father and son team. They have run over 1,000 races together including 234 triathlons (6 of them were Ironman competitions and 7 Half Ironman) and 67 marathons (27 of them the Boston Marathon) over the last 33 years. Their best time in a marathon is 2 hours and 40 minutes, their best time in an Ironman is 13 hours and 43 minutes.They have 2 half marathons this year before they do the Boston marathon in April – it is Rick’s favorite race. His dad, Dick, will be 69 this year, his son will be 48. They did a 3,735 mile journey in 1992, running across the U.S. The courage of the father to attempt whatever he could for his son is inspiring.
There is the soldier on the battlefield. He is in his early 20’s and nothing prepared him for the reality and horror that is war; but he does whatever it takes to get the job done. There’s the young mother left alone with a child by an absent father. She works three jobs and lives on little sleep so that her child may have a good start in life. She also does whatever it takes so her family has what it needs. Then there is the person diagnosed with terminal cancer. It comes suddenly and shocks, bringing emotions and feelings deep and dark. Like Job, though, the response is “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Three situations, and perhaps stereo-typical in the messiness of life, but all illustrating courage and inner strength.
Courage is about working in the present. So often it is the fear of the future or the unknown that holds us back in life; but courage deals with today’s problems. Jesus Himself said to work in today for tomorrow has its own issues.
Courage expresses itself in many ways, but if you want to be all you can be in Jesus, courage has to be a part of your life. What’s the antithesis of courage? Is it fear, is it apathy? It is whatever that prevents you from action, from “doing” something. Quite a few years ago I was in a bookstore in a large mall. I walked around the corner of a bookcase on the wall opposite the cash register. Just as I turned the corner a huge man was putting a book under his coat. He turned and in a few strides was out of the store and gone in the crowd. I didn’t yell, or even move. I was shocked – shocked at witnessing a crime, and I choked. I stood frozen and unable to respond to what was happening at hand. It was one of my more pathetic moments and I still remember today that I did nothing. If it happened today I believe I am in a better frame of mind and would act quicker. At the very least I would call out from the safety of another book case; but then I failed to act.
So, how do we apply courage today? How can we become men and women marked by courage, the ability to act in the face of opposition? The process of change has 3 elements that I know of. There is a commitment, a moment of surrender and dedication. There is then the throwing off of the negative stuff and behavior and a throwing on of the good stuff. Romans 12:1-2 illustrates this when it says “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” “Present”, “do not be”, and then “be”. That is the pattern we see again and again in the New Testament, and it is the process of God working in our life. Let me leave you with 3 commitments, or decisions you and I need to make if we are going to be courageous.
Consider David. We think of Goliath or the lion he killed as examples of courage. We could also think of his reign as king and the military exploits he had; but consider something else – David had the courage to be open and honest with himself about who he was; about his life before God and the people. He knew who he was. How many men do you know could stand up in front of a group and recite poetry, much less write it? Real men – poetry, they don’t usually go hand in hand, but David didn’t care. He loved to sing praises before God and to dance before Him, even though he would be considered foolish for doing so. When the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sins of adultery and murder, he didn’t make excuses or hum and haw; he “fessed” up and said “Before God I have sinned.” When confronted with his fallenness he pled guilty before God and accepted the consequences of his sins.
It takes courage to be real, to be authentic in community. It takes courage to show the “not so polished” sides of our lives. This church is your community and you and I need the courage to be vulnerable and make ourselves accountable to each other. There is power, incredible power when we open up ourselves to one another in the Spirit. I was talking to a lady yesterday about the Your Best You conferences. Her comment was the correlation between how “churched” women are and how closed they are. The more “churched” the women are, the more closed relationally they are. That’s the exact opposite of where we should be. Take courage, and let us all to be real.
Consider Abraham. Here he is cruising through life, successful at what he does when God says, “Move!” Say what? Where, why? “Just move!” So up come the roots and off he goes. Abraham heard God and was obedient to the call on his life. He took the initiative God asked of him and left the familiar and comfort. He had the courage to surrender all he has and was, and to step out, to break new ground, to believe God when He said, “Go” knowing God would provide. So, Abraham goes and gets to a wonderful land that God says will be his and his descendents. Then God says, “Offer you son as a sacrifice to me.” Abraham lived in a time when that was not uncommon. The land he came from practiced that, and Abraham thought the God he served was different. So, trusting in God again, with the courage of his faith, he was just about to follow through on God’s command when God intervened. And Abraham’s courage was counted to him as righteousness – his belief in God’s deliverance pleased God. The Psalmist tells us God is not interested in sacrifice, but in the broken and contrite heart that pursues Him. Do you have the courage to pursue God or is something holding you back? Have you dedicated your family and your money and all you have and are to Him? That is what God asks – everything. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but Thine.” Give up your small ambitions and pursue God. Again and again we see followers of Jesus throwing away careers and money and all the stuff this world holds dear, just so they can do what God created them for. They have the courage to surrender all and follow Jesus. Have the courage to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus.
Consider Daniel. Here he is as a captive in a foreign land, but finding favour with God and moving up in the ranks of government. And there are people who are against him, and jealous and they devise a plan to do him in. He is faced with a challenge – turn away from God or die. He has the courage to stand up for his faith. He had the courage to do what is right regardless of the consequences. Think of this: you have a son or daughter. They have grown up and are now in the exact place of Daniel’s friends Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. How would you want teenage son or daughter to respond to the challenge of bow down or be thrown in the furnace? God does not call us all to stand on a street corner and proclaim the day of the Lord. He does not call us all to sell all our stuff and give it to the poor and live a monastic lifestyle. But He does call all of us to holiness and a life changed by His Spirit. What IS God calling you to do and be. Most often God’s will has to do with being, with who we are in Him and how we live our life before men. Sometimes it is about location and task. Are you up for it? Are you ready for the challenge? Join your brothers and sisters in community and let us make the decision to follow Jesus whatever the cost.