“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1
A church leader had these opening verses of Joshua impressed on him by the Lord as he settled into life in a new parish. Little did he know that he would be facing strife, assault, accusation, and anguish in what became a church divided. Sensing from the Lord that he needed to be strong and courageous, that he shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged, he kept on with the challenge of clarifying the core beliefs of the church. Later he acknowledged that he could have handled some things differently, with more loving grace, yet now he delights in a church transformed. Out of the ashes have come sprouts of new growth.
Joshua has a tough act to follow – as do church ministers when taking over the leadership of a church from one greatly admired. Moses has died and now Joshua faces the challenge of his lifetime, to lead his people to claim the land God had promised them. The Lord assures him that he will be with him, just as he was with Moses, and tells him repeatedly to be strong and courageous. Not to fear. To obey God’s commands. To meditate on the Book of the Law.
As we see with Joshua, the Lord promises never to leave us, but we have to step forward in faith. We might face challenges we never dreamed were possible, such as betrayal by our closest prayer partner or a whispering campaign that cuts us to the heart. Though we suffer, the Lord will not abandon us. With God’s indwelling Spirit, he brings comfort, peace and even the ability to forgive those who wrong us. And he will show us where we have sinned, lifting the lid of self-deception and convicting us to repent. May we rejoice in God’s mercy this day.
For reflection: Consider a church leader you know, perhaps your own. How might you encourage and uphold them today?