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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Courageous Heart

Evgeni Dinev @
 Have you ever felt like you were standing at the edge of a cliff, ready to take the plunge over the edge into the unknown? I have. It was a hot summer day and I had been standing in line for what seemed like forever. There was a line of people in front of me and more behind me. I was with a couple of my friends and we talked and laughed as we waited and moved forward, slowly foot by foot, climbing upward. Despite the conversation and laughter I was nervous. At the end of the climb, I would take a plunge that I had never taken before and I could feel the butterflies swarming around in my stomach. Finally, we reached the top and it was my turn. I sat down on the little rubber mat they gave me and pushed off laying down as I had been instructed. I shot forward and plummeted toward the earth as I followed the path of the twisting, turning tube, pushed onward by the flow of water and gravity. At times I was frightened that I would flip over and get a nose full of water, at other times the rush of excitement was amazing. At last I landed in the pool of water below. I had finished my first water slide adventure. I had stepped into the unknown and although it was 
scary it was also worth it.

          I think Joshua felt like he was standing on the edge of a precipice when we meet him in Joshua 1. Moses, his friend, his mentor, his boss, had just died and God asked him to take over leading the people of Israel. He’d been with Moses for 40 years. He’d seen the miracles God has performed through Moses. He’d been up on the mountain with Moses.  He’d been Moses’ aide and he’d seen so much, but now it’s his turn. Now the responsibility to lead this people, this nation of over a million, into battle, into the land God has promised them is his. 
          What was he thinking as he faced a future without his mentor Moses? What was he thinking as he faced leading a group of people who had been less than cooperative and obedient? What was he thinking and feeling as he stood facing his step forward into the unknown? Someday we will be able to ask him those questions, but for now we can only speculate. For now, we can only imagine what he was thinking and feeling based on what we think and how we feel when we are faced with stepping out into the unknown.
          Joshua didn’t know what the future looked like. He knew where God was taking them, but he didn’t know just what the process for getting there would look like. Often we don’t either. God gives us a burden, a vision for a work He wants to accomplish through us, but He doesn’t give us all the details. 
          As we stand at this place waiting to step off into the unknown, we often experience fear, nervousness, doubt, and discouragement. God gave Joshua the prescription to counteract those feelings. God said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).
          Be strong . . . not do strong or do strong things or act strong, but . . . BE strong. BE courageous. God doesn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts here, rather He tells us what to be, and what not to be. “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, . . .” Then He tells us why we can be these things, “. . . for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Oswald Chambers wrote, “We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” 
          It is God who gives us the grace and the strength and the courage to step off into the unknown or to face the unknown when it is thrust upon us. We can be strong and be courageous when we are certain of God, when we are dwelling in Him, remaining in Him. 
          Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived a few hundred years ago, made it his mission in life to practice the presence of God. (There’s a book about him called Practicing the Presence of God if you want to know more.) He chose to spend every day as if God were walking through it with him, to focus his thoughts on God all day long, to pray continually.  By practicing God’s presence he made his dwelling place in God.
          “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2). We are not strong and courageous because we never face difficulty (we wouldn’t need to be strong or courageous then), but we can be strong and courageous IN difficulty because of our God who never leaves us or forsakes us.
          May you find strength and courage in the great I AM because He is strong and courageous.  May you be able to face each circumstance with strength and courage because I AM will never leave you or forsake you.


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