Courage to Go Forward
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do
according to all the law” (Joshua 1:7)
The Lord does not give us information so that we will merely have knowledge. His purpose is that we might act on what we know and thus do what He wants done. The Lord admonished Joshua to be of good courage, and the courage was to be followed by action. Courage of the kind that God was speaking of is not a natural virtue and does not come through a person determining to be bold. There are certain basic factors that must be recognized and obeyed before this kind of courage is present.
First of all, such courage does not exist apart from faith. Faith is its basis. I have to really believe something is true before I can be courageous enough to venture out on the basis of what I believe.
God’s promise was, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you” (Joshua 1:3). That is the promise. Faith lays hold of the promise and is therefore the basis for courage. This laying hold of what God has promised can be called the law, or the principle of appropriation. This simply means that not only must there be the promise of God for us, but we must go and claim for ourselves that which God has promised. Christians have a remarkable promise in Romans 8:32—“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Here is an unlimited supply for whatever is necessary. The same is promised in Ephesians 1:3—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” But in order for us to receive these things, we must first believe what God has said and then accept it or take it. So then we see that while courage depends upon faith, faith has something that is basic to it also.
Secondly, faith has to depend upon the promise made. Someone makes a promise but how sure is that promise? Can it be depended upon? The answer lies in finding out who makes the promise. Those of us who have watched the political scene know that many candidates make promises that cannot be kept. Some promises are kept but many are not. It is easy to make promises, but we need to find out who it is that is making the promises.
It was God who promised that every place in Canaan which the Israelites claimed by treading thereupon, He would give it to them for their possession. The promise of God to Joshua was that as He was with Moses so He would be with His new leader. God promised not to fail him nor forsake him. He assured Joshua, “For the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
God cannot lie, so when He says something, that should settle it for us. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). This is the promise from our God, and He always keeps His side of the promises.
We notice thirdly that faith in the promises is based upon daily meditation (verse 8). We do not know the promises, and therefore they mean nothing to us until we go into the Word of God and learn what they are and begin to meditate upon them. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The book of the law was not to depart out of Joshua’s mouth, but he was to meditate in it day and night. Why? Because there he would find God’s will for him and God’s promises to him.
So it is for us. In the Bible we read God’s promises and find His will for our lives. But we must meditate upon these things and apply them personally. We can read the Bible through and this would give us a panoramic view of what it teaches, but our knowledge must go beyond mere head knowledge. We must stop and master it for the benefit of our own souls. And when we do, we have this promise: “for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” So victory and growth in the Christian life are dependent upon getting into the Word of God and giving our attention to it.
The result of a courageous life by faith is practically unlimited in scope and achievement. Some of the promises in the first chapter of Joshua indicate this. For example, in verse 3 the Israelites were assured that every place they walked on in Canaan was to be theirs. This in itself was ground for courage and assurance to go forward. In verse 6 the land was described as an inheritance. It was something God had already provided for them and would not take back from them. In verse 7 they were promised that they would prosper wherever they went, if they were faithful to what God had provided for them. In verse 8 prosperity and good success were assured them. And in verse 9 they were admonished to be fearless and undismayed because of God's presence with them. No matter what the enemy tried to do, no matter if things seemed to be adverse for a while, Israel was not to give up but to press forward. Success was guaranteed.
The God who spoke these words of promise to Joshua is our God today. We will never grow in spiritual life until we recognize that the God of Moses and of Joshua, the unfailing God, is also our God. He has not changed. So the heart of the whole matter is for us to let God be God in our lives and rule and control us and be Sovereign in His leading and direction.
A little later, after Joshua admonished the people, and possibly in order to avoid pride on his part, he was met by the Captain of the Host of the Lord. Joshua came face-to-face with the real leader of God’s people. How necessary this is for us! Have we seen Him as our life? Have we recognized Him to be the indwelling One who wants to live out His life in us? We must not be satisfied merely to have a ticket to heaven. God wants far more than that. He wants us to be individuals through whom the Lord Jesus Christ can live out His life before a lost world.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).