Summary: Lessons from the life of Joshua
In this series we’ve been looking at heroes because the stories we tell and the people we lift up and celebrate tell us a lot about the lives we seek to lead and the people we long to be. There are numerous stories in Scripture of people who have been embraced and celebrated because of their faith and the impact of their lives. They lived stories worth telling. Throughout this series, we’ve been looking at their stories to see what we can learn from them for our lives. The hero we’re looking at today is Joshua. If there was one word to describe Joshua, it’s courage. The word courage shows up five times in the first 18 verses of the book of Joshua. If we’re going to talk about courage, it’s important for us to have an understanding of what we mean by that word because often we confuse courage with bravery. Bravery is having the guts to do something that involves risk. Bravery is the ability to confront pain or danger without any feeling of fear.
Courage is different. It comes from the Latin word for ‘core’ meaning heart. Courage literally means strength of the heart. It is having the strength to do what is right in the face of fear, undertaking an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and unavoidable presence of fear. More than a quality, it is a state of mind driven by a cause that makes the struggle all worth it. It is the willful choice to fight, regardless of the consequences. This is why we love our heroes so much, whether that be on the silver screen, in literature or people in our communities. We celebrate them because they have the strength to do what is right in the face of fear and great danger. Courage is absolutely essential if we are going to live a life worth telling, namely because of the ever present reality of fear.
Most psychologists believe that fear is one of the biggest drivers in our lives. In fact, studies have found that fear is the basis of our first memories. How many have as one of your earliest memories getting lost, or being afraid of the dark or another experience shaped by fear. One of the biggest challenges of living a story worth telling is the affect fear has over our lives. How much of what we do or don't do, say or don’t say has to do with fear? The fear of what other people think about us, the fear of rejection and the fear of failure all impact us. How many of you have regrets and what role did fear play because you didn't do what you knew you should do? How many of you feel stuck right now? How has fear has been holding you back?
The kind of stories we love involve both risk and sacrifice and that brings up fear. If we’re committed to living a story worth telling, then fear is going to be an ever-present reality in our lives. The question becomes, “How can we have the courage to do what we know needs to be done?” The story of Joshua has a lot to teach us about that. Joshua succeeded Moses in leading the Hebrew people out of the wilderness and into the promise land. Israel has been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because the previous generation allowed fear to get the best of them. They were afraid to fully commit to and trust God. They were afraid of the people in the promise land. They were afraid of the unknown. This journey before them looms larger than life. All of this together impacts them. When Moses sent in 12 spies for reconacense, only two of them, Joshua and Caleb, came back confident they could take possession of the land.
In our Scripture today, the Hebrew people are on the edge of the promise land and Joshua is the chosen one to lead them into it. Our Scripture today could be described as God’s pep talk for Joshua. Obviously, Joshua is dealing with a lot of fear. Who wouldn’t be? If not, God would not have to tell him many times not to be afraid and be courageous. Imagine for just a moment what he was facing. He’s has to fill the shoes of Moses, who defeated Pharoah, a god, Moses who parted the waters, who met with God face to face and then led the people for 40 years. And what’s worse, even after he accomplished this, Moses couldn't lead the people into the Promise Land. And now a group of former slaves are supposed to go into this new land and defeat the people inhabiting it who are living in fortified walled cities? So what do we learn from Joshua?