Have you ever noticed how many times it says in God’s Word to be strong and courageous? Especially in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua? It really catches your attention if you are reading the Bible straight through. Over and over again we find this command being given to someone in relation to a task that they have been called to. Moses says this to the people in regards to their preparing to go out and conquer the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 31:6). Then he says it to Joshua who will be taking over to lead them before God to that land (31:7-8). In turn, God Himself commands this to Joshua, not once, or even twice, but actually three times. All of that too just within four verses (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9)! King David says the same words to his son Solomon, twice, when charging him to build the temple for the Lord (1 Chronicles 22:13; 28:20). And the Apostle Paul ends his first letter to the Church in Corinth with a general call for the congregation to act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13), which are the same words in the Greek translation of what was said to the people of Israel, Joshua, and Solomon.
Coupled along with such a command is a similar one. Do not fear or be dismayed. Being fearful and distressed keeps one from being strong and courageous. We could go so far as to say that fear destroys courage. If you are very fearful of a lion, you are not going to be able to face the beast. Instead, you will want to run away from it. So not only is the positive command given but the negative as well.
The repetition of these two phrases tell us a lot about our nature. If the men they were originally addressed to had such strength and courage needed for the task which they were called, there would be no reason to command them to be such, would there? You don’t have to tell someone to do something that they are already doing. Rather, you need to constantly remind them of something they ought to be doing, especially if they struggle with it. The fact that we see such a command repeated on different occasions to various individuals indicate that weakness, discouragement, and fear are universal conditions. Things that are common to all mankind. In and of ourselves, we are weak and cowardly. We are not as strong as we think we are but are frail and fearful. And such fear holds us back from doing what God has called us to do. Whether that would be a fear of serving in a certain capacity in the church or to spark up that conversation about the Lord with our unbelieving friend or neighbor that we know we need to do.
Thankfully, God does more than just command His people to be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed. He provides a basis for the command. And that basis is the promise of His presence. In just about every one of the cases where these commands are given, God promises to be with the person or persons in whatever the task may be that He has called them to do. This was true of the people of Israel with the task of conquering their enemies to possess the Promised Land. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). As well as with Joshua in leading the people. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8). 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 (Joshua 1:9).
The way to conquer your fear and have courage is through faith in God’s promise to be with you. That He will meet your needs and provide you with the necessary strength to fight the enemy. He will never leave you alone with any task that He has called you to or any struggle that He has ordained for your life. He will be with you every step of the way, empowering you by His Spirit to accomplish it or withstand it. Only in knowing that He is with you and has the strength sufficient for you can you face your struggles courageously. So the next time that you find yourself lacking courage and fearful, remind yourself of His promise to be with you through whatever it is. Hold fast to that precious promise. Conquer your fear through faith in it.
Love in Christ,