Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid; neither be though dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Let’s start with a little background on Joshua. He is an Old Testament saint who was appointed by God, through Moses, to take the Israelites into the promised land. Moses forfeited his chance to do the same when he struck the rock at Horeb instead of speaking to it, as God commanded. (Numbers 20:11-12, 26:65)
Joshua showed himself to be faithful when he and Caleb confidently reported that the Israelites, with their God, could easily enter the promised land. (Numbers 13:30, 14:6-8) So we see that Joshua is God’s appointed leader to succeed Moses, (Numbers 27:18,22-23).
What does the Lord expect of His leaders? In other words, what are the identifying or primary marks of a good leader for God? How does this differ from the world’s conventional definition of leadership?
I believe Joshua 1:9 provides insight into these questions. I will also contend that God’s commands to his leader Joshua are applicable also to anyone in any leadership position, whether it is in the church, your family, a group at work or any other situation you can imagine which requires leadership to be assumed. I’m not saying it’s a formula for success; but the obedience to doing things God’s way is the key element for which we are striving. Results-oriented success measurement is NOT how Christians ought to measure their acts of faith! Compare your behavior to scripture and rest in the promise of God to not forget your labor of love.
I think if you asked most Americans what makes an effective leader, you would be able to get a general sense of what people believe. I don’t think if you asked 100 people, you’d get 100 DISTINCTLY different answers. I think a common denominator in all the answers will be something to the effect of: “A leader must be self-sufficient, intelligent, insightful and likable.” Surely, there will be those who don’t agree with this definition in its entirety, but many will agree on several points.
But I will maintain that the human definition of a successful leader is not the same as the definition you would get if you searched the Bible; that the qualities which God desires in his people are seemingly opposite of the qualities upon which men place value.
First let’s consider the command given to Joshua: be strong and courageous. First it is interesting to note that God has repeated this to Joshua. This isn’t a one time event; he is repeatedly being exhorted to be strong and courageous. (Deuteronomy 31:6,7,Joshua 1:6) Leaders must be strong and courageous. Men are to be strong and courageous.
Adding to the positive command to be strong and courageous, God commands that Joshua avoid fear and dismay. What does this mean? That is, I am sure we understand what the words mean: strong, courage, fear, dismay: but what does that look like? How do we apply this to our lives? In other words, if we really believe God commands us in the manner described above, how should we live in order for that faith to manifest? In this case, Joshua is expected to act like a man who is not paralyzed by fear. He is to be immobilized by his own steadfastness when appropriate, unable to be moved by opposition and outside influence. Yet he must be completely mobile when appropriate, never paralyzed by fear, never trembling from intimidation. To be dismayed implies that your ordinary ‘course ‘ has been derailed, in a sense.
Don’t we all experience this? Have you, dear Christian, ever been dismayed? Have your decisions ever been driven by fear, instead of courage? How many times have you planned the conversation with your boss in your head about your rate increase, only to avoid the conversation? What lengths have you gone to in order to keep peace with others, even when you disagree with their conversation? How many times have you planned to boldly proclaim the gospel to a group, or even a single loved one or acquaintance, only to find yourself happily discussing the latest sports score or current event, careful not to even drop a hint of spiritual talk?
You, like myself, are more often than you realize, driven by fear. Your thoughts and deeds are aimed at self-preservation and seeking comfort. You partake in worldly sin and claim liberty. You participate in the world’s sinful activities and call it outreach. You fail to evangelize and say there wasn’t an “open door.” You don’t stand up for God’s laws and you call it tolerance or respect. You avoid confronting falsehood in the workplace and label it prudence. You attempt to sway others’ opinions with the arguments of man instead of the Word of God and consider yourself relevant.
You are a coward, like I am. You are a sin-cursed, self-seeking child of Adam, and you still carry with you the nature we inherited from him. You, like me, do not live each moment as if the God of the universe is watching. You do not live each moment as if you love the God who’s holy hatred for sin caused the greatest atrocity in the history of time, the murder of God himself, Jesus Christ.
We are cowards. You and me both. And if it is a pattern in life, your problem might be bigger than you think, to steal phraseology from the Lawman, Tony Miano.
Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
If you find yourself to be any of the things described, your biggest problem may be a need to repent and believe the gospel!
So how do we overcome this fear? How do we “be strong and courageous?” How do we avoid dismay and walk in the strength and confidence of God? Again, dear brother or sister, turn to scripture as your guide. “for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” You can be courageous; and you can be not afraid because God is with you. Mouse over this list of verses and take time to see what God has said with such amazing frequency:
Deuteronomy 4:31, 31:6, 31:8, Josh 1:5, 1 Samuel 12:22, 1 Kings 6:13, 1 Kings 8:57, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Nehemiah 9:31, Psalm 27:9.
It’s staggering. God has promised NOT to leave his people, nor forsake them. That is the essence of the Lord thy God being with thee, whithersoever thou goest! He is with you, dear Christian; He loves you and will never leave you. What about the New Testament? Does it testify to the same as the Old? See Hebrews 13:5 and
Matthew 28:20 b …and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Emmanuel, God with us! What a wonderful gift! Do not fear men; do not fear the power of the devil or his demons; do not fear your own sinfulness. Instead, focus on the steadfast love of God who has promised to be with you. The God who already knows your trials and tribulations before they occur: the God who is with you wherever you go!
So what qualities does God expect in a good leader? Is reliance upon yourself, with an unwavering confidence in your intelligence and plans, the primary, or even secondary, requirement? I tell you the answer is “No.” You will find nowhere in scripture an instance where God selects his leaders or his servants that way. God’s only use for His creatures is based solely on their deep need for Him. Reliance upon God is the mark of a good leader. A Godly leader, and ultimately an effective leader will, without exception, be utterly needy as it pertains to the provision of God. His confidence will be focused on God’s faithfulness and power, rather than in himself. (Philippians 3:3)
A man who believes that God is with him ‘whithersoever he goest” will not act out of fear of the rejection of men. He will not be dismayed when his plans are derailed. Instead, the calm confidence that the sovereign God of the universe’s plans can never be thwarted will be the persistent theme in his heart which will provide the strength and courage needed to endure affliction, accept rejection, and proceed in the face of failure.
Please, if you did not already, go back through the post and mouse over the scriptures and read them. They are vital to the post and more important than anything I could write.
Tamara Slack says
A word I needed today. Thank you, Michael.