Many of us experience fears about the future, relationships, work and finances, about our health, or about the ones we love, perhaps even fears about our theology and our belief system. Do we have it right, or are we missing something? Fears often emerge and linger because we don’t know how to resist or defeat them. Perhaps we feel helpless and powerless before their threats.
When fears arise, how do you respond? When bills pile up, some of us let them consume our thoughts; others push them far out of our minds. When layoffs are happening at work, and our job is in jeopardy, some of us isolate ourselves; others take the stress out on our family. When health concerns emerge, some of us distract ourselves with shopping or entertainment; others fall back into an old pattern of sin. Fear often leads us everywhere but to God.
When Moses died, a whole nation was terrified. We know God’s people were afraid, because he says to Joshua three times in four verses, “Be strong and courageous. . . . Only be strong and very courageous. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–9). Maybe you can feel their fear in these words. That makes this passage a kind of field manual for the anxiety and fears we face.
Your Worst Fear
What is the first statement God makes to them? “Moses my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). He reminds them of what they feared the most: stepping out in faith, into a foreign land, against massive armies, without Moses. God doesn’t avoid reality, or try to distract his people with something else. He addresses the hard truth with honesty.
But God means for his people to hear words of comfort and confidence. HE, the Lord God, Creator of Eternity is speaking to His People! This is magnificent. Moses is gone, but God is not gone. He is still here guiding these wandering, homeless, landless people!
He calls him, “Moses my servant.” Yes, Moses is dead, but he was only a servant sent by your God — and your God will not die. And his promises will never expire. He says, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them.” Moses may be gone, but God’s promises still live. No matter how bleak the moment, God will never forsake his word to them — or to you.
God does not bring good news that downplays or ignores harsh realities. The news he brings is good enough to confront and overcome the worst threats his children face, like death and war and whatever haunts you.
What surpasses understanding is that we can face certain death and still know we will reawaken to God and The Christ in The Heavenly Kingdom. Other belief systems have no such assurance. Yes, Christians and Jews have been persecuted by the millions and many have suffered and died by violence at the hands of evil persecutors. But they in their last moment could cry out, Jesus Save Me and know He will!
What Does God Say?
As God sent his people across the Jordan River and into danger, he handed them a promise to carry them through the fires: the land is already yours. Yes, great armies await you, and hard battles remain to be won, but this land has already been taken for you. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).
God is always truthful. If we don’t understand the problem is with us, not with God.
God has promised us more in Christ, and with more evidence — at the cross, in the empty tomb, and with the Holy Spirit. Some are still afraid to trust him and step forward. Some let fear silence the clear voice of God in Christ. It’s time this moment, right now, for you to determine that you will not let fear silence God’s clear voice to you.
The Bible is replete with stories of young men who did bold deeds for God’s cause in governing people, through an overheated furnace, and in hand to hand combat surrounded by the screams of men and clanking of armor, spattered with blood they carried on feeding upon anger, using fear to make them move faster and with all the strength their adrenalin soaked muscles could muster. They will rise again soon. They will rise from their death and answer God’s clarion call because they held God in their heart to their last breath.
When you are afraid that you might drown in the river of your finances, or be burned in the fires of affliction, remember that God has said to you, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1–2).
What are the most important words God speaks to Israel’s fears? “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. . . . The Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5, 9). It’s a promise, but not just of land, or victory over enemies, or peace, or milk and honey. It is a promise from God about God.
“I will be with you.” If we really know the Creator of the universe is with us in whatever fears we face, they will not be so fearsome.
My own life has had many fearsome moments through which I sang God’s praises and with His help, overcame sometimes deadly difficulties, just as the Bible stories show us.
Imagine the Apostle Paul and his friend Silas in jail, beaten, wounded, shackled in a filthy rat infested prison, suddenly singing God’s praises! This story is so important to you right now, let’s read it together.
Acts 16:16-40 New International Version (NIV)
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
I never forever that I am alive and working for God because HE made it so. I am not individually favored. It can be the same for you if you will call upon His name and continually be thankful for what he does for you, and for what you have. As it was for Paul and Silas it can also be for you.
Don’t frown because you have to clean your house. Be thankful you have a house to clean! Be thankful you have dishes to wash and a kitchen to comfort you. And… if you don’t, keep doing all you can to do God’s will and the kitchen and home to surround it will come to you.
Our God does everything he promises, in every circumstance, at all times. When life gets hard, he is training us to lean harder on his word and to depend upon him. Remember; I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 New International Version (NIV)
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Soak in His Words
But God does not only give his people promises in their fear. He gives them marching orders. He doesn’t just tell them everything will be alright, but calls them to follow him into the fire. He calls them to ride the promises of his strength and help and provision and deliverance into faith-filled action — often, in daunting circumstances.
And his clearest instruction to them is the hardest, humanly speaking: “Be strong and courageous. . . . Only be strong and very courageous. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–9). Strength and courage are not tasks or chores; they are mental and emotional realities beyond the realm of our immediate control. Our hearts can’t be told to be strong and courageous.
Or can they? The Lord gives them a second command,
“Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good 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.” (Joshua 1:7–8)
I have underlined because I want to express: What makes Jewish people so strange to many is that even now some 4,000+ years later, Orthodox Jews still read the law, study and debate the meanings of the law, and keep the law. They may be wrong about their interpretations. Jesus admonished them to follow its intention but always continue to keep the law. The law is eternal. Those who say you can replace the law with something else are mistaken!
It is My Personal understanding that we can be forgiven when we cannot keep the law or do not understand it. But we should do our best to follow God’s Way and the examples set before us in His Holy Word. To “keep all the law and the prophets” means to follow God’s commandments and remember the admonitions of the prophets. At its most simple, Love God with all you are and the love and treat your neighbor as you would love and treat yourself.
We can’t simply tell our hearts to be strong or courageous as God does. If you want to find strength when you feel weak, or courage when you feel ashamed or afraid, meditate on what God has said, and do whatever he says. Let his promises, his commands, his works, and his ways wash away your fears and insecurities.
As you strive to know and carry out God’s will, a strength and courage from above will kindle a fire within you, by the power of His Holy Spirt and you will do your duty, whatever it may be, wherever it may take you.
Strengthen Someone Else
The next time we find the words “be strong and courageous” in the book of Joshua is at the end of the first chapter. After Joshua had heard from the Lord, he went to deliver the message to the people. They responded to him,
“All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:16–18)
The once fearful people became God’s means of courage for someone else — in this case, for their new leader Joshua, for their new Moses. And “the Lord your God” became their God! They finally set aside their idols and evil ancient Egyptian and Sumerian traditions and followed the true and living God.
Who in your life is facing daunting circumstances or overwhelming trials, the kind that would tempt them to doubt God’s promises and faithfulness? Who around you needs to hear you say, “Be strong and courageous”?
You are the first one that needs to be reminded that God has spoken
Hebrews 13:5 New International Version (NIV)
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”[a]
You will naturally pass your wisdom on to others when it has become part of you. Words are nothing until they become part of your thinking, your being, your life, “who you are”. When you absolutely know God is with me, then others will see it, feel it and when you explain they will understand it, given time for them to incorporate the idea into themselves.
Referring to the earlier mentioned Joshua 1:16–18 God spoke those words and they were not only for those people. God speaks eternal words and they are for eternity, for all people! In the same way, God through His prophets speaks, admonishing people to destroy their idols and follow His commandments until one day they wouldn’t even imagine doing anything else!
What actions do you do without any variance? Do you always do a quick arithmetic check in your mind when you pay and get change back? You don’t wander around town naked do you? You dress, of course. You wouldn’t do anything else. And perhaps you always wash when you wake and then dress. You wouldn’t imagine doing anything else. And you always wash hands and utensils and all other things used in food preparation – well I hope so. (I wrote a booklet on kitchen hygiene years ago.) You shouldn’t imagine doing anything else!
So, in the same way we have this snippet
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Don’t imagine anything else. IF you have called upon God and continue to seek His face and his Ways, he will be with you even to the end of the age, which appears to be very close. By my calculation year 2022. By a friend’s calculation something more like 2025. Christ will reappear to vanquish his enemies and bring peace and His Kingdom from His parallel universe here to Earth!
He shall be with us to the end of the age and beyond, into “forever and ever.”
When you know these things without even questioning them you will impart wisdom by your life example to others.
Admittedly, some are not so observant, they must be told. And some when told ignore it all anyway, to their eventual peril. In any event, remind others what God has promised, and then call them to follow him with strength and courage and joy — and by God’s power, to be free from fear.
Permit me to carry these thoughts back to The Bible for a few more moments of consideration. From this reference I found something valuable. https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/god-says-i-will-never-leave-you-nor-forsake-you
“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Let’s examine two accounts, from the Scriptures, that will give us the comforting reassurance that God and Jesus Christ will “never leave us nor forsake us.”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego
The first example is found in the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was ruler over one of the greatest empires in world history. Nebuchadnezzar felt the need to unify the various peoples in his empire that stretched from Babylon to Egypt. To unify these various cultures and peoples, he decided that a state religion was needed. He erected a huge statue that the people could worship as the symbol of his wondrous empire. Any person who would not worship that image was to die in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-11).
However, three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who had been taken captive from their homeland of Judah, refused to worship the image. They were to face a literal fiery trial (Daniel 3:12-15). The three young men spoke with one voice—they were placing their faith in the true God and would submit to His will and not that of King Nebuchadnezzar. If God wanted to intervene and spare them, so be it; if not, and God allowed them to die, they would submit to the will of God through this trial (Daniel 3:16-18).
Enraged at the lack of submission of these three foreigners, King Nebuchadnezzar had the fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. He was determined to set an example of these young men (Daniel 3:19-24).
Salvation From the Fiery Furnace
Note how God allowed these faithful young men to be put to the test, to be made to endure the full measure of the trial—but also notice something that should encourage each of us as we face our “fiery trials.”
When in the midst of the burning fiery furnace it was noted that the three young men were not alone as they faced the trial of their lives! Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “I see four men walking about unbound and unharmed in the fire and the fourth looks like a divine being” (Daniel 3:25, Tanakh version).
What was the result of this trial? King Nebuchadnezzar recognized that it was the true God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who had done this mighty feat. The great God of the universe was then magnified by decree throughout the empire and the three young men were then promoted (Daniel 3:26-30).
These young men were doing God’s will and teaching an entire nation to follow the true and living Heavenly Father, the true Lord God rather than an imaginary god and bow to this statue and manmade gods and idols.
Let’s look at Acts Chapter 6 and 7 to see that in both cases men were used in a way to admonish the most powerful rulers to change their ways and follow the true and living God and not to vary from His Ways.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Understand now, Stephen was singing music to their ears when he told them in his first portion of his speech about their forefathers. I wish you would open your bible to Acts 7 and read all the way to line 51, or find it online here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+7&version=NIV
Finally Stephen tells these leaders of Jerusalem that they are falling into the same misbehavior as their forebearers of the past. They were not amused by his admonition. This was their position of authority and now a man on tribunal was not begging for forgiveness. He was telling them the truth they hated to hear. They erupted into violent anger!
Verse 51 Stephen finally speaks God’s word right to them and we next see their response.
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
This was before Rabbi Saul met the long dead Jesus on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1-19
Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen, even at the moment before a rock hit him and the lights went out, just before his death was still calling to The Lord. What a brilliant example to us! That was nearly 2,015 years ago! It still stands as an history making event and a message from God for each of us!
The web page article to which I referred earlier ends this way:
To encourage him, God allows Stephen to see a vision of heaven, the glory of God, and note—Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56)!
We humans are inspired and moved by what we “see.” Stephen was allowed to “see,” in vision, the glory of God, which he knew he would experience at the time of his resurrection. He was also moved be “seeing” Jesus Christ fully engaged and standing with him during the moment of his greatest need!
Truly, these two stories illustrate the simple yet powerful fact that God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, will “never leave us nor forsake us.”
When your life looks hopeless, that is part of God’s training. You are being reminded again to look up, to expect to see God and know that He will be with you always.
Let’s finish with the wisdom of one of the great late 1800’s old masters of theology, Oswald Chambers from this page: https://utmost.org/the-never-forsaking-god/
The Never-forsaking God
He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5
What line of thinking do my thoughts take? Do I turn to what God says or to my own fears? Am I simply repeating what God says, or am I learning to truly hear Him and then to respond after I have heard what He says? “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
“I will never leave you…”— not for any reason; not my sin, selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never leave me? If I have not truly heard this assurance of God, then let me listen again.
“I will never…forsake you.” Sometimes it is not the difficulty of life but the drudgery of it that makes me think God will forsake me. When there is no major difficulty to overcome, no vision from God, nothing wonderful or beautiful— just the everyday activities of life— do I hear God’s assurance even in these?
We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the fearsome and difficult days and ways of our lives.