Focal Passage: Joshua 1:1-11,16-18
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how we can grow as leaders. Perhaps you don’t think of yourself as a leader, but undoubtedly everyone is a leader in some capacity. However, godly leadership isn’t something you’re just born with. Certainly, I was a leader in many ways before the Lord saved me, but because of the sin nature with which we’re born, my leadership wasn’t godly. I did what natural-born leaders do—I didn’t lead people toward God. But, when the Lord regenerates us, brings us to faith, and saves us, He begins to develop and fine-tune in us through the ministries of the Word and the Spirit godly, Christ-like leadership that leads others to God. He desires for us to be His kind of leader.
Growing up in South Central Kentucky, I was always big for my age. In fact, my daddy would often apply one of those good Southern idioms to me. He’d say, “Boy, you’re big enough to go bear huntin’ with a switch.” From the time I was in preschool up until I left home, that was usually his response when I’d tell him I was scared of something. He still tells me that from time to time.
Although his response was an exaggeration (perhaps not much of one!), that was his way of getting me to laugh a little and help me see that I shouldn’t be afraid. Not all fear is bad, but if it’s misplaced or overwrought, it will stifle you from being whom God desires you to be, especially in the area of leadership. Leaders, due the very nature of their position, must express godly, righteous fear instead of misplaced, overwrought fear—which is nothing more than doubting God—because many eyes, hearts, and minds are following them.
In our text this week, the leadership of the nation of Israel was in transition. Moses, the great man of God whom God had used to bring Israel out of slavery and into the Promised Land, had just died. It was now time for Moses’ protégé Joshua to take over. God had used Moses to bring Israel to the edge of the Promised Land, and God would use Joshua to take them into the Promised Land. There was only one problem: the Promised Land was inhabited by other peoples. Therefore, Joshua would lead them through many battles against fierce foes.
Just looking at what lay ahead for Joshua, there would be plenty of opportunity for ungodly fear. That’s why God spoke to Joshua time and again these words, “Be strong and courageous,” (Josh. 1:6,7,9,18). This wasn’t the first time Joshua had heard these words from God. Actually, these words were just reminders of what God had already spoken to Joshua through His prophet Moses (Deut. 31:7,23).
But, God didn’t just tell Joshua to be strong and courageous. He gave him a reason. God said, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not leave your or forsake you,” (Josh. 1:5), and “Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Josh. 1:9). In other words, Joshua’s strength and courage wasn’t to be derived from himself. It was to be derived from God’s presence and activity. God was the foundation of Joshua’s strength and courage!
Friend, as you lead in the various capacities that you find yourself in, God is not just saying to you, “Be strong and courageous.” He’s saying, “Be strong and courageous BECAUSE I am with you and working to glorify Myself through you.” Then ungodly fear should flee. May your life and leadership reflect the reality that God is with you and working no matter where you go.
-This article first appeared in the April 27 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the May 1, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at https://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3805. The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.