Charles Stanley - Godly Meditation on Courage
The most important activity in the life of a believer is your personal, private meditation between you and God. We usually think in terms of what prayer is all about, but meditation goes a little deeper than that. And so, I hope you will turn with me to Joshua chapter one. And I want us to think in terms of meditation of a single verse. Remember last time we talked about meditation a little different perspective, but today on a single verse. What does God expect of us? What is He willing to do for us when we meditate on a single verse?
So, when we think about meditation, we are thinking about carefully, deeply, and very seriously considering what God wants to say to us in a particular verse. So, I want you to turn to Joshua chapter one. And you recall that the nation of Israel, forty years they spent in the wilderness because they got to this very same spot, disobeyed God, and after forty years of all the adults dying off, now Joshua, Caleb, and the rest of them were set ready to go into the Promised Land.
And so, God said to them in Joshua chapter one, "Moses My servant is dead, now therefore arise, cross this Jordan river, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel". God speaking, "Every place on which the sole of your feet tread, 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, 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".
Then He says, "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you, I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous". And He tells him that three times. "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".
Listen to me, when God tells you something two or three times in a row, you better listen. And the reason He said to him be strong and very courageous because forty years before, they got to that point and they all chickened out and said, "Take us back to the wilderness, back to Egypt", which was a foolish statement.
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to 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 will make your way prosperous, then you'll have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
You heard me say several times, the last verse is the one verse my mom gave me before I preached my first sermon: be strong and very courageous. Don't fear anything, trust the Lord, watch Him work. So, we're talking about meditation. And so, let's think about what that is. And you could define it in several ways, but it's thinking carefully and deeply and personally something that God is saying to you. And when I think about how to define it and how it takes place in our life by reading, and you may want to jot these words down: reading the Scriptures, believing what you read, I'll come back to them, absorbing what you read, applying it to your heart, obeying God.
So, there are five words. Meditation is reading, it's believing what you read, absorbing it, taking it into your heart and life, applying it in your daily life, and obeying God. So, this is one of the most important lessons any of us ever learns in the Christian life. And that is learning to meditate. That is learning to relate to the Lord personally in your walk with Him, listening to Him, applying what He says, making it a part of your behavior, your lifestyle, and your work.
So, three times He says to him be strong and courageous. So, let me define meditation one more time. It is focusing our heart on God and shutting everything else out. When you're meditating upon God, you can't be thinking about something else. It's focusing on Him and shutting everything else out. It's more listening than talking. And when I think about people who go to church week after week after week, never carry a Bible, no notebook, no paper, no pencil, no pen, and sit and listen to somebody talk for thirty minutes and never write anything down, there's something wrong with that operation. Because we're talking about relating to God. And if I should ask you how much of a sermon do you remember?
You may remember a little something here and there, but if you don't write it down, you don't remember it. And so, it's very important. So, it's more important than just listening and talking. It's important enough to write it down so you see it and apply it to your heart. So, think about this. I think about how many people go to church week after week, their goal is to go to church, listen to the music, listen to the sermon, and then go to lunch. That's the way they think.
So, they don't think about I want to listen, I want to apply it to my heart, I want God to speak to my heart this morning. He is going to speak to your heart because you came prepared to listen. You got your Bible open, your notebook in your hand, your pencil. You came prepared to take something away. Meditation involves, for we said reading, believing, absorbing, applying, and obeying. If you don't write it down, you won't remember those things. And the truth is that's true of every message. You come to church week after week after week and you listen to God, you're going to hear something you need to take away with you and apply it to your heart. Something you hear and applying it to your life.
So, in this particular passage, we're just going to deal with one verse. "Be strong and of a good courage. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". So, define courageous. The quality of mind and spirit enabling one to meet danger, opposition, or the challenges of life with fearlessness, calmness, and firmness. You should write that down. What is courageous? The quality of mind or spirit enabling one to meet danger, opposition, or the challenges of life fearlessly, courageously, with calmness and firmness. Be strong and courageous.
You say, "Well, I don't feel very strong and courageous". Well, that's why we're talking about it. And that is set your mind, your heart, your spirit to be strong and courageous. Because all of us at different times in our life, we face it. We face challenges of all kinds. So, to be strong and courageous, fearless because you're obeying God, you're trusting Him. He's willing to do it if you're willing to listen to Him carefully. So, with that in mind, I want us to look at this whole idea of courage. The command. He first gives us a command. Be strong and very courageous because watch this. Forty years before, all their parents said, "No, we can't do this". And so, they died in the wilderness.
And so, Joshua is reminding them for you, you don't want to happen what happened to your parents. So be strong and courageous. The repetition of this command three times in those few verses. What does the repetition or command imply? It implies the nature of the test. You're going to face something that's going to challenge you. And so, He's saying to Joshua get ready. That is, make a decision now that you're going put your faith in God. All of us face situations and circumstances oftentimes in our life that if we're not grounded in the Word, our first response is to fear. Oh God, what am I going to do? What caused this to happen? We begin to ask questions. Be strong and very courageous.
So, when He says very courageous, think about these two qualities. Courage is where, listen, courage is where there's the absence of fear. Be strong and courageous. Determination, that is resolution, energy, firmness, endurance. That is be strong. And so, people will say, "Well, you know what, I just don't know whether I'll be able to face so and so or not". Yes, you can. What He said to Joshua He said to that whole nation: be strong and very courageous. Do not be afraid. Set your mind and heart on who God is and what God is willing to do in your life.
So, I think many times people face situations and circumstances in life that if they just had that one verse: be strong and courageous, don't fear anything, set your mind upon God. But oftentimes situations arise, and our first response is fear. Our first response ought to be, "Okay, God". Be strong and courageous, which simply means I'm setting my mind upon God to face this with me. "Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". And if you started every day of your life with that verse, things would change. Your attitude would change. Your disposition would change. Your actions would change.
Watch this, you have a promise from God. Because He promises to be with us whatever the situation is. So, here's the command to be courageous. So, we say, "Okay, what about this courageous business"? Well, it's found in this chapter five times, really, if you put it all together. And the children of Israel, they've been delivered from this bondage, all those years watching their parents die off because of their fear. Because watch this, they could see the Promised Land. They could see everything that Moses had told them about. When they got there because, as Joshua explained to them, there's going to be a battle.
We're going to have to fight our way into this, but remember, we came out of Egyptian bondage, and God led us out of Egyptian bondage, and the reason some of you were born in the middle of a wilderness is because your parents disobeyed God. Be strong and very courageous. That one verse is enough to take you through anything in life you face. Think about this. "Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". You can take that verse all the way to the grave because it is a promise that only God can keep.
Somebody else can say, "Well, do this, that", but this is Almighty God, the sovereign God of the universe. He's the one who's making a promise, and you and I know that God doesn't make promises He doesn't keep. And so, the basis of our courage is not how strong I am. The basis of our courage is God, who said be strong and very courageous. Fear not for the Lord your God is with you. That should eliminate the fear. And people every day face all kinds of situations and circumstances that would cause them to fear. You go to the doctor and he tells you you have this or you have that and we can't promise you anything.
Well, if you listen to their calculation about how long you have to live or what's going to happen to you, what about God? God is the ultimate one who determines our life and how we face the circumstances of life. It's our responsibility to be rooted in the truth. So, every believer has the privilege of quoting that verse for themselves. And so, His task for them was to conquer, and they knew they were going into battle. And then Joshua and Caleb had to say to them, "But listen, God will take us through this. He will give us victory".
So, think about this. Oftentimes the difference between your success in anything and your victory in or over it is how you believe about it and what you believe about God. Be strong and very courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. What's the basis of that? For the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go. This is why it's important to understand and get a clear picture of who God is.
And I wonder how many people go to church week after week after week, walk away, never give God another thought? Be strong and very courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord your God... who is the Lord in your life? Who is God in your life? What is God like in your life? If you have a poor understanding of who God is, you'll have a poor understanding or experience of what courage and real trust and faith in God's all about. If you understand who He is, He's the sovereign ruler over everything.
Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. For the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go. And nothing is too great for God. There's nothing you face that He can't handle. And so, this is, listen, God understands our fears. This is why, in these short verses, three times He said to him be strong and very courageous. Why? Because He knew that Joshua and Caleb and all the rest of them, they were human. And think about this. They had the history of knowing that all their parents were scared to death, turned away from God. Why did He say it three times? Because He knew that even Joshua and Caleb would have their fears if God didn't continually remind them.
Now, God didn't say to them what He was going to do. Now, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to have you surround the city of Jericho and all you have to do is just shout and blow those trumpets and the whole thing's going to fall down. You're not even going to have to fight. No. When they crossed the line into the Promised Land, they were going to battle.
Now, watch this carefully. They were going to battle. They expected hand to hand combat. They didn't have tanks and airplanes. Hand to hand combat, swords and spears, horses and chariots. They expected to go to battle. But God honored their faith to be willing to fight those battles by doing what? When they came to Jericho, which was a walled city, very walled, very protected, and so what did God say? Climb the walls? No. Be strong and very courageous and watch what I do. All I want you to do is I want you to march around that city six times. On the seventh day of you marching around and blowing trumpets, seventh day just relax and watch what I do. And He knocked the wall down, they went in and conquered it.
Here's the problem we have some time. If we can't figure out how God's going to do something, we don't believe Him. The only thing God may say to you facing a challenge is be strong and very courageous, put your trust in Me. Rely upon Me. Just see what I do, don't try to figure it out. And because we can't figure out how God is going to do things in our life is why we disobey Him sometimes.
Well, I can't figure that out. They couldn't figure it out. And I'm sure with all that tribe of soldiers must have thought when Joshua said here's what we're going to do. Walled city, Jericho, major area, big, a big barrier between them and the whole Promised Land, he said we just going to march around it. We're going to do what? We're just going, in fact, we're going to just march around it seven times. March around the city? This is not the way we've done battle. Be strong and very courageous and watch what I do.
When He says be strong and very courageous, remember this: Holy, Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God knows exactly what He's going to do. This is what causes a lot of people to stumble. God'll tell you to do something and you say, "Well, I prayed. Now, I believe this is what He said, but I can't figure that out". Don't try to figure out what God's going to do. If God gives you clear direction about something, your responsibility and my responsibility is to be obedient, not necessarily understand it.
And I've watched enough things in my own life to know that's the way He operates. And that is just do what He says and your first few steps may be very, very scary. But if you obey Him, be strong and very courageous. Do not fear nor be dismayed. Don't be, "Mmm, mmm, mmm". Just be strong and very courageous.
Now, watch this. You know what that is? That's an attitude. You just think about your brain. You can think positive. You can think negative. You can think all kind of things. Here's what He said. That's a walled city. They're walled in and very protected, but God's going to give us that. And I'm sure they must have said, "Walls are mighty high. How are we going to do that"? And this is where we get in trouble.
When we ask God for something, and usually our next response is, "Well God, how you're going to do that"? That's not my business. If He tells you to do something, you obey Him on the basis of what? Who He is and what He said: be strong and very courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. That's the important part. The Lord your God is with you. So, my responsibility is not to know all the details. They would never have believed those walls are going to fall down simply by marching around it. Because they were used to hand to hand combat. It was all a big, bloody mess when they went to battle. Be strong and very courageous. Any circumstance, any situation that you and I face, the answer is still the same. Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou discouraged, dismayed, the Lord your God is with you wherever He sends you.
You should write that on the table of your heart. You should think about it any time you face any situation or circumstances. And so, when I look at these verses and see what He told them, what He was cautioning them, don't do this, don't try this any other way. Look what happened to your parents. God set them free with all those miracles and what happened? They got to the Promised Land, and right across this line was the Promised Land, and they said, "Mmm, we can't do it". Because they were looking through the eyes of doubt and unbelief. Whenever you look through the eyes of doubt and unbelief, you're going to fail.
When you have the privilege of looking through the eyes of faith and courage, be strong and of a good courage. Don't try to figure it out. They would never have figured it out. You mean we're just going to stand here and we're going to march and we're going to shout and these walls, that just doesn't happen. It doesn't happen when God's not in it. by faith, we're trusting God. He may challenge you to do things you think, "Well, how's that going to work"? If God tells you to do something and you're confident of what He's saying, you just obey Him. To meditate upon the Word is to think about it, as we said a few moments ago, and I think I gave you about five words: to read it, to believe it, to absorb it, to apply it, and to obey it.
Now, you can say, "Well, I read it, I believed it, but mmm, I don't mmm, well, mmm, I'm not too sure". No, no, no. Applying it and obeying it. We're talking about living a godly life, living a successful life, and living joyous life and a confident life and an assured life and a happy life. You can go through all kinds of difficulty and hardships and problems with confidence and joy in your heart when you're trusting God and believing that He'll do what He said.
So, I think about what you're facing in your life, and probably most people in here are facing something. And so, ask yourself the question: am I trusting God? Am I really believing Him? And the issue is am I willing to do exactly what He says, how He says do it? And all of us have different situations and circumstances in life that we think about. Because everybody has their own life, their own challenges, and their own situations and circumstances they face. But think about the power of the Word of God. The Word of God in these simply few verses, the promise meets every single different need that is lived out this morning in this group.
Be strong and very courageous. Are any exceptions to that? No, Sir. No exception. Be strong and courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord your God is with you. Let me ask you this: what more do you need than the promise the Lord your God is with you wherever you go? What more do you need than that? And yet, there are some people who would say, "Yeah, but you don't know my circumstances". I know who does. God knows everybody's circumstances. He knows where you came from, knows your strength and your weaknesses. He knows your unbeliefs. He knows your beliefs. He knows what you struggle with. He knows everything about every one of us. And does this work for everybody? Everybody.
Be strong and very courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. And what puts us all in one pot? The Lord your God is with you, period. Who is you? Every single one of us. You see, it all boils down to this: I believe Him or I don't. And when God spoke to Joshua and Caleb, they never could have conceived that thousands of years later, we'd be saying to each other what God said to them: be strong and very courageous. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. It is an awesome promise given by an awesome God who tells no lies, who makes everything possible within His will.
Whatever you're facing, so do exactly what He says, and what's the issue? Meditating upon this Word day and night. Whatever situations, circumstances you're facing, here's what you do. You come to God each day, and, Lord, you said, here's what you said. You said be strong and very courageous, that You'd be with me in this, I'm going to trust you.
You say, "Well, how many times do I have to say that"? Every day. And depending upon the nature of it, several times a day, or many times a day, whatever. One thing for certain, God will not fail you. He can't because He's God. He may not have worked the circumstances out exactly like you think He would, but He will. And what He said to them, I mean, the reason this is in the Word of God, this is how we are to live out our lives. Meditate upon the Word of God day and night. And notice He says twice, be careful to do it.
So, there's nothing missing in God's Word. Be careful to do it. To meditate upon His Word day and night. And so, the consequences, He said I'll make your way successful. In other words, whenever you and I turn to God, we have the promise that Holy, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God will be with us no matter what. Do you believe that? Some of you do. If you really believe that, say amen. Right, amen. That He will be with us no matter what. Now, God knew that Joshua's faith would be tested.
And think about this. God didn't say to Joshua while he was still on the boundary line into the Promised Land and he was still in the wilderness area, He didn't say to him, "Now Joshua, here's what I'm going to do. You're going to be in the Promised Land about two weeks. And then here's what I'm going to do. You coming to Jericho, I'm going to level that city". He didn't tell him that. When he drew his sword and crossed the line, the only thing he knew is that there would be hand to hand combat against spears, chariots, swords, knives. But death, they'd face death.
That's the only thing he knew. But he also had this, when He said be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. For I will be with you all the way, every step of the way. He didn't tell him how. He didn't tell him all the things he was going to face. The only thing he had, watch this carefully, is, watch, are you listening? Say amen.
The only thing Joshua and Caleb had was their faith. That's all they had, their faith. They may have had long swords and long spears. But the truth was all they really had to fight with is their faith. So, think about this, the same faith that God gave to Joshua and Caleb is the same faith that you and I have, only we've got it better. We have the Lord Jesus Christ who walked ahead of us, who demonstrated God's love for us in a way that Joshua and Caleb did not know when He went to the Cross, and He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us.
And so, you and I are so blessed that we have God living on the inside of us. And we have the Word of God, the promises of God. And He said to them, "For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". Think about this, you and I have the same privilege Joshua and Caleb had when He said, "I'll never leave you and nor forsake you. I'll be with you every step of the way". We have the same promise.
So, when you think about challenges that you face in life. The answer's the same, be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou discouraged or dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you. Not out there somewhere. And you see the problem with the rest of those who died in the wilderness, God was somewhere, but it wasn't with them. That was their attitude. And they wanted to go back into the wilderness, back to Egypt.
Can you imagine such absence of faith after all that God had done? All the miracles in Egypt, bringing them through the Red Sea. When God stacked the water on both sides, allowed them, in other words, when you think about all the things that God did for them, and then they come to the Promised Land, "Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, we can't do that". And they hadn't even heard about Jericho. "Mmm, mmm, we can't fight them". Many of God's people live in utter defeat as they face their daily work in life because they won't believe what God said. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth". Now watch that part, that's verse eight. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth". Why would He say that to Joshua and Caleb? Because He knew what happened to their parents. They weren't listening to the law of Moses. They weren't listening to God. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, you shall meditate on it both day and night, so that", in order that, "you may be careful". Not just give it a glance. "Careful to do according to all that is written in it, then you'll make your way prosperous, then you'll have success".
It isn't just breezing over it. Let's put it this way. It isn't just getting up in the morning and saying I'm a little bit late this morning, but Lord, I say I'm going to read a passage of Scripture. Oh, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want and He makes me lie down". Thank you, Lord, I probably going to have a hard day today. But that's all the time I have. What does that sound like? "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful, careful to do according to all that is written in it, then you make your way prosperous, then you'll have success". Notice what He said, "Be careful, then you'll make your way successful".
Now, you may be sitting here and you're not a Christian, does that apply to you? You have no promise. You're living your life without God, you have no promises except that one day you'll stand before Him and give an account for your life. No promises. You say, "Well, can't I pray"? Only if you pray, first of all, a prayer of salvation.
So, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can forget all of this. Doesn't apply to you. You say, "Well, but doesn't God hear everybody"? No. If you're willing to come to Him confessing and repenting of your sins, yes. After that, the Word of God is open to you. I challenge you to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and start living a courageous, bold life. Then everything changes. And I trust you'll do that.
Father, we love You and praise You. Thank You for making Your Word so simple, so plain that even a child understands this. Give us wisdom, Lord, to understand and the courage to be obedient. And we'll praise You forever, Lord God, in Jesus's name, amen.