Be Strong and Courageous                                               

We are starting a new worship series today, and like always I’m excited about what we’re going to learn together.  This is a holiday weekend that we all appreciate in our country.  We’re glad to celebrate the blessing of freedom that we have in this great nation.  And we’re glad to remember and honor all those who shaped this nation from the beginning, and those who’ve served and worked and fought so that our liberty would be secure.

The U.S.A. has been blessed for many generations with strong and wise leadership.  And that need is still critical today.  We the people are still looking for and longing for leaders we can trust, those who will stand strong in the face of trouble and difficulty and will remain committed to lead us so that we might remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

We all want good and Godly leaders.  Don’t we?

This last Wednesday in our mid week summer Bible study, we started a summer series in Proverbs.  That’s going to be a lot of fun.  You should check it out. 

Here’s a well-known Proverb that fits our direction this morning:

“When good people run things, everyone is glad; but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.” – Proverbs 29:2

Now I’m sure most of you have an opinion about where the leadership in our country falls right now.  But what I want to do this morning is to turn the focus of God’s Word back toward us. 

Do you realize that you are a leader?

When Annie was in kindergarten and it was her turn to be the star of the week, I told her to inform the teacher, “I was born to be the leader.”  Because I really believe that’s true.

It’s true for Annie.  It’s true for Abbie.  It’s true for me and it’s true for you.

Jesus says to His followers, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

God wants all His people to lead and influence others in the right direction.  You have a role of leadership in your family.  You have a responsibility to lead in your workplace.  And in your school.  And in your friendships.  And out in the community.

“Let your light shine,” Jesus says.  The Apostle Paul says that those who follow Jesus are to live in such a way that they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the words of life and truth.  God intends for you to make an impact for Him in this world.  His desire is that you will lead others to know Him and love Him and praise Him above all else.

Leadership is basically influencing others, and God wants you to influence others.  In fact, you can’t help but do this.  What you say and what you do is going to influence others for good or bad, so there’s no reason at all for you to think that you’re not going to lead anyone.  Everyone influences and leads other people, so it’s important that you learn to lead well. 

This summer our focus is going to be in the Old Testament book of Joshua.  You might know something about that.  Joshua was the man that God had Moses select and anoint to lead the people of Israel after they had left their enslavement in Egypt, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and camped right by the Jordan River just north of the Dead Sea.  This was about 1400 B.C.

Here’s a map of that area:

Joshua was born to be a leader, just like you were.  So we’re going to look into chapter one and learn some principles for Leading Well.

Leading Well

You will lead well if you are willing to serve.

“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua, son of Nun, Moses’ aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them . . . Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” – Joshua 1:1-2, 6

There’s two things I want to say about this.  God wants you to lead and influence others in a good and positive direction.  But you have to be willing.  And you have to understand and embrace the reality that leadership is hard. 

Because sometimes people don’t want to be led.  Isn’t that right?  We all have a rebellious side, a sin nature, that says, “I don’t want anyone to be the boss of me.  I want to be my own god.  I want to make my own choices.”  And that gets played out in our relationship with the only One who is God, and that gets played out in relationships with each other. 

If you look at the record of these people who came out of Egypt, they were difficult!  God says they were stubborn and stiff-necked.  Moses complained and asked God why he had to take on such a tough job.  Leadership isn’t easy!  I think that’s why three times in this first chapter, God says to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous!”  It takes fortitude and toughness and tenacity to listen to God and go the right direction in life and then to encourage others to make the right choices, too. 

Sometimes it’s frightening to have to lead the right way when popular opinion is going in the opposite direction.

I read a story recently about a sergeant in a parachute regiment.  He was a seasoned veteran and one day he found himself sitting next to a lieutenant in the plane who was fresh out of jump school.  The lieutenant looked really pale, so as they approached their jump zone, the sergeant leaned over and asked, “Are you scared, sir?”

The lieutenant replied, “No, just a bit apprehensive.”

The sergeant thought for a moment and then asked, “What’s the difference?”

And the lieutenant answered, “Apprehensive means I’m scared with a university education.”

Dads, you are called to lead your families.  Moms, you are called to lead your children.  Young people, you are called to lead your friends.  Grandparents, you are called to continue to lead your families.  It’s not going to be easy.  Sometimes you won’t know how those you’re leading will respond.  But you still have a responsibility before God to do what He calls you to do.

Okay, the second thing here is that that you will only lead well if you are willing to serve.  You see, too often people think leadership is about position and perks and privilege.  You all know the person who wants to lead so that everyone will be looking at them and listening to them.  They want to prove that they’re somebody.  And no one wants to follow that person.

You know how Joshua started out?  He was a slave in Egypt.  He was born as the property of Pharaoh.  The Exodus on the morning after the Passover was his Independence Day.  After that Joshua served as an assistant to Moses.  One of his duties was guarding a tent.  Then he became a soldier when the Amalekites attacked his people in the desert.  And then he became a spy when Moses sent him as one of 12 men to look over and report on the Land of Canaan.

You see, Joshua was willing to take on the tasks that God laid before Him.  He didn’t start out seeking to be the Leader of the people of Israel.  But he was a leader and influencer all along the way, and God shaped and prepared him for this critical role at just the right time.

This fits so well with the teaching of Jesus, who said, the one who wants to be a great leader among you must humble himself and become a servant.  Even his first disciples had the wrong idea about what it meant to lead. 

If you want to lead well, you must be willing to serve.

Leading Well

You will lead well if you are faithful to God.

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will never leave you or forsake you . . . Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you.  Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” – God’s words to Joshua recorded in Joshua 1:5, 7-8

The first thing I notice here is the faithfulness of God.  He says the same thing to Joshua that Jesus says to His disciples, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”   I’m with you.  You are mine.  You can always count on God to give you what is needed to do what He calls you to do at the right time.  There is no question that God is going to provide.  That’s a settled issue.  The question is - are you going to meet God’s faithfulness with your faithfulness?

Faithfulness means devotion.  Moses had a tent that he would go into to meet with God.  Joshua would wait outside, and the Scriptures say that Moses would talk to God face to face.  Then Moses would come out with His face shining with the glory of God, and He would go down to the camp and meet with the people and tell them what God had said.  But Joshua would stay at the tent.  He would stay close to the place where God had revealed His presence.  Joshua also was the one who got to go up on Mt. Sinai when Moses was meeting with God to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law.  It was during those times being close to God that Joshua grew to love the Lord and became devoted to Him. 

Faithfulness means devotion.

Faithfulness also means obedience.  This week as I was thinking about what God said to Joshua, it really struck me.  “Be careful to do everything written.  Obey all the law.  Do not turn to the right or the left.”

That’s not the normal practice, is it?  People like to pick and choose which parts of this we will adhere to. 

Do not murder.  Do not steal.  Do not commit adultery.  Do not take the name of the Lord in vain. Do not judge.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Speak the truth in love.  Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. 

It’s common among even those who believe themselves to be Christians that we make choices about what parts of this we are going to believe and practice.  And when we obey only part of God’s Word, then that shows respect for that principle or instruction, but when we do not obey, it shows a lack of respect or trust in the God who has given the Word.  “I like this that you say here, God, but not this.”  And who becomes the Authority in that situation?

God says to Joshua and to us, take care to live according to it all, and then you will be prosperous and successful.  You will be blessed as God intends.  Your leadership will produce a good harvest.

You will lead well if you are faithful to God.

Leading Well

You will lead well if you empower others.

“Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready.  Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.” – Joshua 1:10-11

Here’s what I want to say, you can’t lead if you’re traveling all alone or if you do all the work yourself.  Leadership means that you travel with others.  You share the load.  You help others rise up and become all that God made them to be.

Someone shared a proverb with me about 20 years ago that I’ve always remembered:  He who thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following, is only taking a walk.

You see, achievement is not leadership.  Achievement is based on what you can do, how far you can go.  Leadership, however, is judged by how much progress you can make with others.  Encouraging and empowering others, telling them what they can do, and helping them achieve and accomplish the work that God has laid before you all, when you do that, you are leading well.

Leading Well

You will lead well if you hold others accountable.

“To the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses gave you: ‘The Lord is giving you rest and has granted you this land.’  Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers.  You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as He has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord is giving them.  After that, you may go back and occupy your own land.” – Joshua 1:12-15

Joshua made sure that the two and a half tribes honored their commitments to God and their brothers.  People grow in the areas where they are held accountable.  Again, this is hard.  We resist accountability.  But children need accountability.  Workers need accountability.  We all need it, with God and with others.

God built this in to His relationship with His people.  He is a covenant God.   He says, I will never leave you or forsake you. I will love you with an everlasting love.  And this is what it looks like for you to receive and return my love.

From the beginning, we have been a covenant church.

You will lead well when you encourage and empower others, and when you hold them accountable to grow and mature.  You do it for their good.

Leading Well

You will have led well if others reach the place God intends.

“The people answered Joshua, Whatever you have commanded us, we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.  Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.  Only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses.” – Joshua 1:16-17

The commitment was good.  But the true test was ahead.  How would the people respond under pressure?   How would Joshua lead them into the Promised Land of Canaan?

God is calling you to lead others along the right path in this life and ultimately into His kingdom.  Your children, your family, your friends, others along life’s way. 

The Scriptures tell us that when we stand before the Lord, there will be a great multitude praising God, so large that no one can count the number. 

Part of your joy for eternity will be sharing God’s goodness with those people that God has placed in your life right now. 

And a good part of the happiness that God will give you in the here and now is leading others in that journey toward God day by day. 

God says to you as He said to Joshua:

“Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people.  Do not be terrified, and do not be discouraged.  For I,  the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go.”