“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors’” (Joshua 1:6). Last time I discussed that strong and courageous leadership starts with submission to God. This time, I want to discuss how strong and courageous leadership means standing strong and being courageous in the face of adversity.
To recap, God forbade an entire generation of Israelites from entering the promised land due to their lack of faith and unbelief. They wandered the desert for forty years as the last of that generation died off. At the end of that time, the Lord calls on Joshua to lead the next generation of Israelites into the land that was promised to their ancestors (I went into more detail in my last post, and I encourage you to go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t yet).
You need to keep in mind the type of people Joshua “inherited” as a leader. Their parents were whiners, complainers, unfaithful, doubtful; I mean the list could go on and on. After forty years of wandering around listening to the previous generation bicker and complain, their attitude had to have worn off on their kids, right? After the Lord told Joshua to lead with strength and courage, to keep the law Moses had given the nation of Israel always on his lips, meditating on it day and night, he convened the whole assembly of Israelites together. He told them what the Lord had told him, and this is how the Israelites responded:
Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:16-18).
Only be strong and courageous. Jericho was the first city the Lord told Joshua to conquer. However, there were specific rules that needed to be followed. For example, Joshua commanded:
The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury. (Joshua 6:17-19)
However, greed filled the heart of Achan, and he took some of the devoted items. And just as Joshua warned, the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. As Joshua and Israel approached Ai, Joshua sent scouts to observe the inhabitants of the land. When the scouts returned, they told Joshua that not all of the army had to go, “for only a few people lived there” (Joshua 7:3). Joshua orders only a couple thousand men to go to battle. However, their army was decimated. The book of Joshua says, “At this, the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.” Not very strong or courageous.
Joshua finds himself face down at the ark of the Lord complaining to the Lord saying:
Why did you ever bring these people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this, and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What, then, will you do for Your great name?” (Joshua 7:7-9)
What happened to “be strong and courageous”? What happened to trust in the Lord? The Lord’s response is priceless. “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies” (Joshua 7:10-11a, 12). The Israelites created the problem, but more importantly, one man caused the problem; Achan. Ultimately, Achan’s sin is found out and he and his family are destroyed. (Side note: Listen and obey what the Lord says, or our destruction is ever before us).
It took one battle loss for Joshua to lose his courage and strength. He started to whine and complain, just as the previous generation did. He thought it would have been better to stay on the other side of the Jordan than to listen and follow the Lord. In the face of adversity, Joshua lost his composure, his strength, and his courage. Instead of humbly seeking the Lord, he complained to the Lord about his situation. And what does the Lord say? “STAND UP!”
Anyone in leadership will tell you that adversity comes with the position. However, we have two choices when adversity comes our way: Fall on our face and complain, or stand up and humbly seek the Lord’s guidance. Joshua is called to lead with strength and courage. As stated in my last post, we know that starts with submission to God. It is then followed by standing firm against adversity and humbly seeking the Lord. It is important to always remember the command the Lord gave to Joshua:
Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. THEN you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8)
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It is a position that takes strength and courage. Adversity will come, and when it does, don’t fall down in a pitty party, or start thinking the grass was greener on the other side. Stand up, humble yourself, seek the Lord, and be STRONG and COURAGEOUS!
As always, stay humble and serve well!