Strength, Confidence, and Courage

Courageous-posterAfter the death of Moses, Joshua took the leadership reins of the Israelites and guided them along the path to the Promised Land.  In one of his first speeches, he admonished them, saying: “Only be strong and very courageous to ensure that you obey all the instructions that my servant Moses gave you—turn neither to the right nor to the left from it—so that you may succeed wherever you go (Joshua 1:7).”

Joshua’s call to courage reminds me of the words of Alfred North Whitehead: True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.

Some people act courageously because they assess a situation and move forward with confidence in their abilities.  There are others who are just as confident, but for a different reason; their available resources give them a sense of boldness.

David is a good example of both forms of courage.  In Psalm 27, he said: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of? Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence in the Lord.

Courage, as David used it in this Psalm, is resource-based. He speaks of his trust in the presence and power of God.

Earlier in his life, David displayed courage that was focused more on his own ability.  This was the  skill he used to kill the wild animals as attacked his sheep.

There may be times when you doubt your ability, but you should never doubt God’s availability.  Just as God was present to walk David through the trials of life, He is present for you as well:

  • God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble—Psalm 46:1
  • God is the shield of Your salvation, and His right hand will support you—Psalm 18:35
  • God will deliver you because He delights in you—Psalm 18:19
  • The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and He saves those crushed in spirit—Psalm 34:18

While there’s not a single one of us who can look to the future and know for certain what challenges await us, each of us can be confident in knowing that God is waiting to guide us.

Solomon believed this, and he wisely said: “The heart of man devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps . . . He that follows after righteousness and mercy shall find life, righteousness, and honor.”

Hold-up Time

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When you hear someone speak of a “hold-up,” you probably think in terms of the chart below.

 

Wichita Annual Crimes

VIOLENT                  PROPERTY               TOTAL

2,871                               21,198                     24,069

Annual crimes per 1,000 residents

7.43                                 54.86                       62.29

From the statistics above, it’s obvious that some people will try to “hold-up” their way of life by beating you down.  There is, however, another meaning associated with the phrase:   “Hold-up” can also mean to support or to hold-up in prayer.

In Exodus 17, you can see the physical and spiritual aspects of this are revealed.   The Amalekites, a group of nomadic raiders, had attacked the people of Israel.  While Joshua engaged the enemy in a physical battle, Moses, along with Aaron and Hur, fought a spiritual war on a nearby hill:  “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.”  Moses eventually became so weary that he couldn’thold-up his hands, so Aaron and Hur responded by holding up his arms until the Israelites were able to finally defeat the Amalekites.

When Paul described a well-armed Christian, he also asked the Ephesians to “hold-up” his needs in prayer:

Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women.  And pray for me, too, that I may be able to speak freely here to make known the secret of that Gospel for which I am, so to speak, an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may speak out about it as my plain and obvious duty (Ephesians 6; J.B. Phillips).”

To quote Paul, I would ask that you “pray for me too.”

 

 

Note:  The resource for the crime stats is:  http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ks/wichita/crime/

Take Time To Read The Fine Print

read-booksFrom the time I first learned to read, I’ve had a love for books, and an article I read in WSJ Online, reminded me of the importance and great benefit of reading.

The author, Jeanne Whalen, believes that reading just 30 minutes a day will:
• Improve your ability to concentrate
• Reduces your stress levels
• Deepen your ability to think, listen and empathize

Whalen isn’t alone in touting the benefits of reading:
• The Journal of Neurology cited a study of 300 elderly people that suggested regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, can slow the onset of memory loss.
• Developmental Psychology (1997) showed a correlation between a student’s first-grade reading ability and his 11th grade academic achievement

As I read this article, I thought of the promise and encouraging words that God spoke to Joshua (1:5-8): “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only 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. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Mark Twain once said: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” It is to your advantage to take time to read. I have often been blessed by reading a good book, and every time I read The Good Book, I am doubly blessed.

I conclude with a statement made by David Josiah Brewer (1837 –1910) who was an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 20 years: “No nation is better than its sacred book. In that book are expressed its highest ideals of life, and no nation rises above those ideals. No nation has a sacred book to be compared with ours. This American nation from its first settlement at Jamestown to the present hour is based upon and permeated by the principles of the Bible. The more this Bible enters into our national life the grander and purer and better will that life become”

The Choice Is Yours

path_choicesOne of the more interesting individuals of the Bible is Joshua. Moses mentored him, and he thought of Joshua as his “right hand” man. After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the Hebrew nation, and he led them into the Promised Land.

As his life was winding down, Joshua called on the people to make a commitment: “If you have no desire to worship the Lord, choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the Lord (Joshua 24:15)!”

As I read this, my attention is focused on six words: “choose today whom you will worship.” Each day of your life begins with a set of choices:
• Will I get up when the alarm sounds or will I hit the snooze button?
• Which set of clothing will I wear?
• Which pair of shoes will I slip my feet into?

Throughout your day you make many other choices and some of these are significant decisions. Let me suggest a few:
• Will you choose to yield to temptation or will you refuse to compromise?
• Will you cheat on your spouse or will you choose faithfulness?
• Will you get caught up in unnecessary conflict or will you choose peace?
• Will you rudely treat people or will you choose kindness?
• Will you seek revenge or will you choose to offer forgiveness?

When it comes time to make an important decision, you need to be cognizant of an important principle: The voices you listen to influence the choices you make.

The words of Solomon emphasize the importance of making the right choices in life: “Let your heart lay hold of my words; keep my commands so that you will live. Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding (Proverbs 4:4-7)!”

The choice is yours. What will you choose to do today?