In just a few months I’ll be climbing one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States: Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Just thinking about the climb, I feel anxious. I want to make it to the top. I want to remind my body that, even at 40 years old, I’m not done with significant physical endeavors. I want to be able to say that I have put my mind, body, and heart toward a significant goal, and have seen it all the way through. From the inception of the plan to its conclusion and success, I want to see this thing, this climb, all the way through.
In many ways, this is the story arc of Joshua. Although not a perfect man by any stretch, his life resonates with a theme Eugene Peterson described as, “a long obedience in the same direction.” As the torch of leadership in Israel is passed from Moses to Joshua, a daunting task stands in front of this new leader—to transition God’s people from the desert into the Promised Land. Joshua’s legacy stands or falls on his effectiveness in fulfilling this task.
That kind of immense responsibility would cause anyone to have anxiety, and maybe just a little heartburn. The responsibility of bringing God’s people into the rest of the promised land loomed large over Joshua’s life. Perhaps we can understand why he would feel timid and weak. Yet the responsibility of carrying out this feat wasn’t Joshua’s to accomplish on his own. Left to himself, Joshua most likely would’ve had about a zero percent chance of success. Yet the presence of God stood over him all the way along, just as God promised it would:
“Haven’t I commanded you: 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 we read about Joshua’s success in Joshua 23, we need to remember that the victory was not brought about by his own ability or strength. Joshua’s success was the result of his faith in the promises of God and the assurance that He would be present with His people. Every one of His promises was fulfilled; not one of them failed (Joshua 23:14).
Reaching the finish line of our faith may feel like summiting a peak that’s just too tall. Yet Joshua’s life can deeply encourage us in our steps today. We can trust the promises of God to get us to the finish line. The encouragement to “be strong and courageous” comes with the empowerment of the gospel, that Christ has already climbed the mountain for us. The One who defeated sin and conquered death will be faithful to bring us into the kingdom He has prepared for us.
By trusting in the promises of God, we can take that next step in faith, in whatever situation or circumstance, knowing that Christ will not leave us or forsake us, but will bring us all the way to glory. So, believe! Be strong and courageous.
Written by Jeremy Writebol