By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong
For many of us, we entered 2024 with a sense of entering a new season. Perhaps we say the same every year. But somehow, this year for me has ushered a mixed sense of excitement and anxiety. As I reflect on challenges I am facing, and God’s promises of grace and providence, I was reminded of His loving assurance to Joshua.
“Be strong and very courageous. 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.” (Joshua 1:7)
What an amazing promise! This was God’s timely pledge to both Joshua and the nation of Israel at the dawn of their destiny. God is Omnipotent (all-powerful). But Joshua still needs to do his part.
For Joshua, he needed to be strong and courageous because his past dependency was gone. Moses has died (v.1-2), and Joshua can no longer depend on him. Moses was someone Joshua looked up to, to advise him and give him a sense of security. All that Moses was for Joshua had been good. And God instructed Joshua to remember all the laws Moses taught. But Joshua had to move on if he were to embrace God’s destiny for his life.
My dear friends, who or what have you been dependent on in the past? What environment or culture have you grown accustomed to that needs to be changed as you enter this new season? Be strong and courageous!
Secondly, Joshua needed to be strong and courageous because his prospect was unfamiliar. The Lord said, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (v.5) Yet has not God been with Joshua all this time? God has certainly been with Joshua. In other words, it was not God but Joshua’s relationship with God that has changed. Henceforth, he was to relate with God, by himself, as the leader of Israel. This was unfamiliar territory for Joshua.
My dear friends, when we embrace God’s destiny for our lives, it changes our perspectives, our purposes, and our prospects. The future will never be the same. It will be unfamiliar. But God never changes. Be strong and courageous!
Thirdly, Joshua needed to be strong and courageous because the pressure was tremendous. Now the stakes were high, and failure was not an option. Imagine the pressure that now rests on Joshua who has, until now, been just a servant (cf. verses 2-3, 4 and 6). Joshua may have been a fearless warrior, a skilful spy, but from now on, he is accountable to those that came before him (the ancestors), to those who are with him (fellow Israelites) and to the generations to come! The pressure was indeed tremendous.
My dear friends, I sincerely pray that your 2024 is not as stressful as this! But if you are facing tremendous pressures of your own, listen to God’s word for you today: Be strong and courageous! God loves you, and He will strengthen you. Do not be afraid!
Finally, Joshua needed to be strong and courageous because the point of no return has come. Notice in verse 11 how Joshua’s mobilisation was swift and decisive, and Israel’s response was immediate and obedient. Imagine mobilising no less than a few hundred thousand people in a mere three days! It almost seems like the Israelites have been waiting for this moment – the mobilisation protocols were in placed long ago. They were waiting for the command to step into the new season. They were prepared for what is to come.
Everything that happens suddenly begins gradually. The vision and direction of our church leaders did not happen suddenly. It was formed after numerous rounds of planning, discussion, thinking and rethinking, earnest prayers and preparation. The process stretched over years. They did not happen suddenly. Therefore, whenever we do not understand the direction of our leaders, let us be humble, and not assume that they missed it. Instead, let us dialogue and listen to each other with an open heart and discern God’s mind in the transition. Do not resist irrationally or sentimentally. Let us take the time we need, until we are united on the same side toeing the line.
We thank God for those who came before us. We must not forget the legacies they forged. Despite unfamiliar prospect and tremendous pressure, let us put our hands in the plow, and not look back. Be strong and courageous because “God who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Philippians 4:13 assured us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
On behalf of the Church Council, Pastors and Staff, we wish everyone a very Blessed Lunar New Year! May God bless you and your family!