Be Strong and Courageous: Leadership Lessons from Joshua 1

by Dave Miller


1:1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant:


After 40 years of leadership under the authority of Moses, Joshua was given the responsibility of leading the people into the promise land. Regardless of the circumstances, in this case the death of Moses, when the Lord speaks, you respond in obedience.


2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. 3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will be from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great river, the Euphrates River ​— ​all the land of the Hittites ​— ​and west to the Mediterranean Sea. 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.


The Lord gave Joshua a specific direction and focus to continue the work the Lord did through Moses. When the Lord gives specific leadership direction it will always be in relation to work He has already begun for the purpose of expanding His Kingdom through His people. Since the work is His, the command to lead is an invitation into His purpose. Therefore, leadership in the Kingdom is not our plans, but instead God entrusting his plans to us. There comes with this authority an incredible courage since no one can stand against our God. Therefore no one will stand against us, when we walk according to his way. “I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.” This is exactly the same promise given in the command to make disciples. There is no room for fear to rule among God’s people.


6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their ancestors to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.


Strength and courage are a product of faith in the Lord and His call, His focused vision, and His immutable promise that the He is with us PLUS continual devotion to His Word. Strength and courage begin in faith in the Lord, the call, the focused vision, and His promise to be with us, but continual strength and courage is first fought at the level of devotion and faith in His Word.


The Word of God is the lifeblood of the leader and the continual source of strength and courage. Notice Joshua must have strength and courage to obey carefully God’s instructions given through Moses in the written Word (at this point Genesis - Deuteronomy). Read the Word. Meditate on the Word. Obey the Word. Speak the Word. Without it two things will happen:

  1. You will become timid and indecisive, unwilling to take perceived risks because you can’t be sure if you are walking in God’s desired direction.

  2. The focused vision becomes blurry, so you hesitate to act, instead you worry. You will perceive the world through the eyes of fear and become paralyzed by what might go wrong.

It takes courage to carefully observe the Word of God. The promise of God to be with us is a promise to be with us in His kingdom work, not a promise to be with us in our kingdom’s work. He invites us into His cosmic redemption work, we do not invite him into our self-centered kingdom of one to make things better. Simply put, without continual devotion and obedience to the Word of God, your focus shifts from accomplishing what God said He will do, to expending energy to mitigate and avoid failure.


9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


Strength and courage in the Lord multiplies strength and courage in the Lord. “Be strong and courageous” is repeated three times. It is not a suggestion, it is a command. During decline, God’s people tend to be afraid and discouraged, but God’s leaders have no room for such responses. Set the example. Take decisive action at the Lord’s leading. Listen to his voice and He will be with you wherever you go. Then, walk accordingly.


Dispense with fear and discouragement. When it begins to emerge, “Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.” Otherwise fear and discouragement will take root.


Fear and discouragement will prevent and disqualify you from leadership in the Kingdom. Those who make the hearts of God's people melt, spend 40 years walking in the wilderness so the Lord can find a generation ready to respond to His plan with strength and courage.


10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get provisions ready for yourselves, for within three days you will be crossing the Jordan to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you to inherit.’


Strength and courage affects your actions. When faith in the Lord, His call, His focused vision, and His immutable promise that the He is with us PLUS continual devotion to His Word well up, obedient action is the result. Those actions set an example. Leadership is the responsibility given by the Lord to those who are faithful in the small and with the few, as a gift to His people to keep them expanding His Kingdom.


Joshua was extremely patient, but when the moment came for decisive action, Joshua did not wait. His command to the people? Make ready! In three days we will walk in the promises of God yet to be realized, because those promises are already true. It is time to cross the Jordan.



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