Charles Stanley - Courage For The Difficult Tasks
What do you fear most in life? Ill health, some financial loss, loss of a loved one. What do you fear most? Is it death? Or maybe failure in some particular area of your life. We probably all have areas that we have to deal with. Probably have to find ourselves talking to God about them several times, many times, sometimes whatever it might be, it may be every day. But what are you afraid of? What really haunts you? Well, if you have courage, you can handle anything that haunts you. And that's what I want to talk about in this message. Because this is a very difficult, trying time in the life of our nation. Many people fear many different things, and oftentimes they have right cause. But God wants you and me to live with courage, not fear.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to Joshua chapter one. And as I think back over the years, all the situations, circumstances, challenges that I've been through in life, this is the passage of Scripture I always go back to. Somehow, I end up in this first chapter of Joshua, and since my mother first gave it to me before I preached my first sermon, it has always been there for me. And no matter what the situation or circumstance, I find awesome courage, strength, resilience, encouragement out of this chapter, and I want to share it with you.
So, if you'll turn to there for just a moment, listen to what happens here. Beginning in this first verse, "Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, saying, 'Moses My servant is dead, now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am going to give to them, the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.'"
That was His promise. "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you, I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you, do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then you'll make your way prosperous, then you'll have success". And then He says this, "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".
Now, your first response might be, "Well, I'm not in that kind of a situation. I do have areas of my life in which I feel weak or sometimes fear, but I'm not in that kind of a situation, so what does that have to do with me"? Listen carefully. The principles in this passage of Scripture will take you through anything and everything, no matter what. Now, if I were twenty-five years of age, you may have a lot of reasons to doubt me. But I can give you enough evidence that I can tell you it is true every single time, no matter what you face in life. Because many people are just, they're just fearful of defeat and fearful of failure, fearful of many things. So, I must look at this passage as a message that God is giving us in this twenty-first century, because the truth applies to all of us. Whatever we're going through, the truth applies.
So, when I think about this passage and think about what's happening, let me give you a couple of definitions that might be helpful. First of all, let's define what fear's all about. Fear is that uneasy feeling, and all of us have felt it. It's a dreadful feeling, an internal alarm that goes off inside of us in some fashion when we're facing imminent danger, feel threatened, feel helpless to avoid or to change it. So all of us have felt that at some time or the other. Then of course, there's another word I want us to define. And it may be good to define this one right now. What is the opposite of fear? And that's courage. The quality of mind, the spirit enabling us to meet danger, face opposition, or the challenges of life with fearlessness, calmness, and firmness. So, we have a choice of facing the difficulties we face in life in one of two ways. We can do it courageously or we can do it fearfully.
And God doesn't want His people living fearfully. He says, "I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind". God wants us to be triumphant. He wants us to be courageous and bold in whatever we face in life. And He's made promises to make it possible for us to face anything and everything and still be standing when the battle is over. So, with that in mind, let's look at what Joshua was facing. It would appear to be an impossible challenge because they were moving into a land across the Jordan, where the enemy, there were seven cities there. They were very well-armed. Many of the cities had walls around them. There were many giants there. And besides that, they had chariots. And so, he has the challenge, really, of leading these people into that land. Now naturally, he would have been a little bit afraid.
And I want you to see what God is saying here because what He's saying to Joshua, we have the right to claim these same promises, not in the same circumstances, but the promise and the challenge is there, and we have the right to claim that promise. And so, when I think about that, I want us to begin looking in the fourth verse, "From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory". And so naturally, Joshua would have thought about that and think, "No way can I lead this crowd to do that". But listen to what God said to him, because God, listen, the truth here is as applicable for you and me as it was for him. Listen to what He said in verse five. He said, "Joshua, no man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life," that is, successfully. "Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you, I will not fail you or forsake you".
Now, if anybody ever needed to hear that, Joshua needed to hear that last part, "I will be with you, I will not fail you, I'm not going to forsake you". But here's what I want you to see. The same promise He made to Joshua is the same promise He's made to all of us. What did He say? "I'll not fail you, I'm not going to forsake you". Now, He says, "Here's what I want you to remember, Joshua, be strong," not fearful, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them". Be strong and courageous. If you look around, you might be afraid, be strong and courageous. Watch this, in difficult times, dangerous times, we don't look around. We look where? Up. We look up, amen? That's pretty weak. We look up, amen? Amen. We don't look around. He said, "Be strong and courageous".
Now, look in verse seven, if you will, because, notice how He said it. "Only be strong and very courageous". God is making a point. He knows the challenge. He says, "Be strong and very courageous to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you". He didn't say, "Be strong and courageous, and here's My blueprint for victory." He didn't say, "Here's the war plan". He says, "Be careful to do all the law which Moses My servant commanded you, do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you have success wherever you go". You want to succeed in school. You want to succeed on your job. You want to succeed financially. You want to succeed in every way of life. He says, "Be strong, courageous, and very careful to do according to all that I have said through the Book of Deuteronomy, the law of God, the law of Moses".
Now, in order to do that, He says, "Here's what you must do. Listen carefully". He says, "Here's the key. The key is keeping focused on the truth, which is the Word of God". And notice how He says it, "Be strong and very courageous, be careful to do according to all that's written into law". He says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth". Let me ask you a question, it's real simple. How many days go by in any given week that you don't open the Word of God? Days go by, you're busy, you got things to do. You say, "Ah, but you're the preacher, you have to". No, I don't have to. But even when I'm not preaching, I'm opening the Word of God. Listen to what He says, "This book of the law," which would be the Bible to us, "shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. If you'll do that," He says, "and you'll have success".
Somebody says, "Well now, what's this meditation business"? Let me just say this to you. It is the simple key to accomplishing anything and everything God sets before you. You say, "Well, that's too simple. Does God want to make it complicated? No! But notice what He said, He said, "I want you to meditate on it day and night". Watch this, in essence here's what he's saying. A little, brief skimming of it's not going to cut it. I want you to meditate on it day and night. In your devotions in the morning, and read the Word of God a few minutes, or whatever it might be, before you go to bed at night. But He said, "Meditate on it". The key here is meditate on it day and night.
So, I want to give you five essentials of meditation. First of all, it involves reading the Word of God. Secondly, believing what you read in the Word of God. And thirdly, absorbing it, which means I've got to think about it. Absorbing it means that I think about it. It means that I apply it to my life and it becomes a part of my way of thinking and my way of living. So, we absorb it. We understand it. We apply it to our life, and we obey it. He said, "You must be careful to meditate upon it day and night". In essence, here's what He's saying. You want to have success? Meditate upon the Word of God day and night. That doesn't mean you got to give God four hours in the morning and four at night in a closet somewhere trying to find... no, that's not what it means. Meditation is just what we said. It's reading it. It's thinking about it, absorbing, in other words, in fifteen minutes, God can do a big work in your life by meditation upon the Word of God.
You say, "Well, that was to Joshua". Why did God put it in the Bible? It, listen, it isn't just the message that Joshua... listen, it is a principle that applies to everybody. It doesn't mean that you're doing the same thing. It doesn't mean that you'll accomplish as much as Joshua. None of us would do that. But listen, it's, watch this, it's your world. Your world may be that big, but the issue's the same, that if I meditate upon God's Word, watch this, here's what you're saying. I'm acknowledging God that I'm not smart enough to live this life myself. I need Your help. I don't have enough strength. I don't have enough smarts. I'm acknowledging that I need You, that I honor You, and I'm acknowledging You as my God. You have the right to tell me what to do and how to do it. And Lord, I'm committing myself to be obedient to You.
And so, meditation is the key. It's the key to everything He'd said to him before then. He says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth," you can't skip it, "day and night, so that you may be careful according to do all that is written in it, then you make your way prosperous, then you will have success". And look at this last verse. He says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or dismayed, for the Lord," Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, "the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
Now, let me ask you a question. How do you beat that? How can you beat that promise? Think about what clear instruction He said. He said, "Here's My law, and what I want you to do, I want you to meditate on it day and night. Listen, He didn't say, "I want you to memorize this or memorize that," no. He said, "I want you to read it. Meditate upon it day and night. I want you to get it on the inside of you. I want you to absorb it so that you are thinking, watch this, you're thinking, Joshua, like I think". And what happened? You know why God was so particular about that? I'll tell you one reason, a couple of reasons. Number one, He knew what Joshua was going to face. And He knew what the challenge was going to be. And He knew how doubt would rush into his mind.
So, here's Joshua with the command, then God says, "All right, I want you to take Jericho. It's a walled city and they're fully armed. And you all have pitchforks and pocketknives and so forth, and that's the way it is. And so, God says to him, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to assemble the army, and I want you to march around the wall one day". And Joshua probably said, "And do what"? God said, "Don't do anything. Just go back to your tents. Second day, third day, fourth day, fifth day, sixth day, seventh day. I want you to march around it seven times". And probably Joshua said, "And then what"? And God just used one word, "Watch". And what happens? They did it. The walls fell down. They conquered Jericho, big success.
Think about this, how many blessings do we miss because we think we've got to figure it out? Joshua would never have come up with that strategy, never. Suppose Joshua would have said, "There's no way we're going to attack Jericho without climbing the walls and killing them". God said, "Be careful to do according to all that I've told you. And what I want you to do is something that sounds very ridiculous. All you do is line them up and march". What battle was ever successful for just lining up people and marching?
Watch this, we have to be wise enough. That's why. It often takes just pure gut-courage to be obedient to God, because it doesn't make sense sometimes. And so, people who are courageous enough, bold enough, and people who are willing to trust God, and that's why He says, "Meditate on the Word of God day and night," because it's meditation on the Word. We said, "Absorb it". You know what, we absorb it, it absorbs us. And so, we get courage and strength and we're willing to trust God and be fearless and bold no matter what God requires of us.
So, living in the days in which you and I live, I think that is very, very important. Now, I want to give you a statement I want you to write down. God'll never give us a schedule so full that there's no time for Him. Write it down. God will never give us a schedule that's so full, that is, that we don't have any time for Him. So therefore, we have no excuse for lack of meditation upon the Word of God. And I'll say again to make it clear. Doesn't mean you sit down and memorize a verse every night. No, you just simply read a passage of Scripture. And if you're not used to doing that, I'll give you a good start. Start with the Book of Psalms. Just read the first Psalm. Then tomorrow, read the next Psalm. And when you get through the Psalms, that'll take you a while. In fact, several months before you get through the Psalms. Start with the Proverbs. You can read one Proverb every day, takes you just one month. But you won't be able to do that because it's so full of rich, rich, rich, rich, rich stuff from God, you don't want to read a whole chapter.
You know what? If you just listen to this message, take it to heart, God will change your life. God is ready to give you the best. The question is, are you ready to trust Him for it? I want to give you a challenge. You you ready, listening? Say amen. Read the first nine verses for the next week until next Sunday twice a day. Now, how many of you don't have time to do that? That's right. You say, "Well, I don't need to read it every day". Yes, you do. Every day and every night. Something will happen to you. I promise you it will. You'll want to give a testimony next Sunday morning. "Have I not commanded you to be strong, very courageous"? To face anything and everything and be sufficient for all things because of Him.
If you're not saved, look what you're missing. And I pray that you'll be honest enough to confess your sinfulness and your pride, that you think you could live your life and be a success and do what God wants you to do without asking Him. You may be successful in the eyes of the world, but a total failure in the eyes of God. God's best is a free offer of salvation, the price being paid by Jesus at the cross when He shed His blood at Calvary. And I trust you'll be wise enough to ask Him to forgive you of your sin, surrender your life to Him and tell Him you want His best. Amen?
Father, how grateful we are You can pack so much in so little. Such an awesome challenge, such an awesome opportunity, we thank You for it. Now I pray, Lord, every man, every woman here, oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, put it in their heart this morning to read these first nine verses twice a day for one week. Lord God, if they go to bed at night, Lord, and they haven't done it, wake them up. If they start out in the morning and ignore it, remind them of it. You said, "Be careful to do according to all that is written in it". And so, we want to say thank You this morning for Moses and for Joshua. And thank You, God, for giving us this awesome passage of Scripture that we can live by, face anything and everything, live by it every day, every night. In Jesus's name, amen.