Leadership Lessons from Joshua: Be Strong and Courageous!

(This is Part 3 of a 10-part series exploring leadership lessons from the book of Joshua in the Bible. I wrote this with men in mind, but the leadership principles discussed are, of course, transferrable to women, as well.)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

When God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, they had to travel through the wilderness. God had performed all these incredible miracles – 10 of them, in fact – just to get them out of bondage; and then He performed one of the most incredible miracles of all – parting the Red Sea for them to walk through to freedom. But soon after, they started grumbling and griping, whining that they wanted to go back to Egypt and be slaves, rather than enjoy their new-found freedom with God (Numbers 14:1-4).

How often when God leads us somewhere new do we start behaving like the Israelites, whining that we want to go back to the way it was?

God didn’t just want to deliver Israel from something; He wanted to deliver them to something – to a new and prosperous life in a new and spacious land. But when they arrived at the place God had for them, they were too afraid to enter in. They sent 12 scouts across the border and 10 of them came back, saying, “There are giants in the land. We can’t do it!”  Only two of them – Joshua and Caleb – saw all the goodness God had for them there and believed He would give it to them. But their voices were crowded out by fear, and Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert because they were too afraid to enter into what God had for them (Numbers 13:25-33).

Then, finally, after all the naysayers and pessimists had passed away, it was time for the people to enter into this new land. It is here, at the precipice of the new Promised Land that God commands Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6-9). He tells him over and over again because God knew there were going to be plenty of challenges on the road ahead that might cause him to fear.

According to the dictionary, courage is “the state of mind which enables a person to face difficulty, danger and fear with confidence.” Courage is not the absence or denial of fear, but the ability to look fear in the face and slap it around a few times. As the late theologian Karl Barth said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

God isn’t just telling Joshua to “buckle up buttercup!” He’s telling Him how to be strong and why he can be courageous.

Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7-9)

Here’s the not-so-secret sauce:

  • We build our strength by studying and meditating on God’s Word.
  • We can be courageous because the Lord our God is with us wherever we go.

Now, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

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