Joshua 1:5-9 – “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you… Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is My command – be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We are sometimes too easily discouraged and too quick to give up. Things don’t immediately go the way we think they should and we begin to lose heart and lose hope. Sometimes we feel defeated before we’ve really begun and start to wonder if perhaps God has abandoned us. But He will not abandon us and He cannot fail us. With all the things He has promised us, we have every reason to be “strong and courageous” - to be bold, firm, steadfast, (and yes) patient. Why then are so many people, even believers, abandoning God-given dreams and not receiving God-breathed promises? Let’s take a look at four major factors:
4 Things that Steal Your Strength and Courage
1. Difficulty and Opposition
a. Human Opposition – Perhaps there are people in your life who have turned their backs on you or have even turned against you. Jesus Himself had to suffer through this during His years of ministry. Scripture says, “even His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5)” and when His teaching got “too hard” for many people they, “turned back and would not go with Him any more (John 6:60&66)”. Besides all of this, of course, there were the Pharisees who tried to kill Him (Luke 19:47, Mark 14:1, John 7:1 - and did in the end. See: Mark 14:55-65, 15:1-25) and there was Judas who betrayed Him (Mark 14:42-46). He was no stranger to human opposition and He Himself said, “if they persecuted Me they will persecute you too (John 15:20)”. Opposition and abandonment are to be expected but God has promised us so many wonderful things. He says, “no one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you… I will not fail you or abandon you (Joshua 1:5)”, “So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6)”, and “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)”
b. Difficult Circumstances – Maybe the problem is not with other people but difficult circumstances beyond our control. This can be even harder to deal with – human opposition can be confronted or ignored, but we can’t always do anything about what happens to us. It’s when we feel powerless in the face of opposing circumstances that we can quickly become discouraged and lose heart. When this is happening, the first thing we must do is remember that Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)” Then we must “cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)”. We must determine to, “Not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. (Philippians 4:6)” Then we must remind ourselves every day if we have to that, “through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive the salvation ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise, glory, and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:5-7)” because, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)”, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)”
c. Spiritual Oppression – Besides human opposition and difficult circumstances, there is a very real enemy out there who does not want you to accomplish God’s will for your life and will do everything he can to oppress you and cause you to give up too soon. He is “the father of lies (John 8:44)” and will tell you plenty of them – through your own thoughts and the lips of others. He has come to “steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10)” in any way he can. It’s more than a battle for your soul – it’s a war for your joy, your heart, your destiny, and purpose in life. The enemy will do his best to steal your joy, kill your heart, and destroy your destiny. Yet God not only has a plan for your life (see again Jeremiah 29:11 above), but God has a purpose to use each one of us in His Great Plan and the enemy will do all he can to keep us all from taking our place and playing our part. Thank God for His Holy Spirit! Because of Him Scripture says, “you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God's Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)”, “because everyone who is a child of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world - our faith. So the one who conquers the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)”. Because of our faith in Jesus we have His promise that, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)”, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity and fear, but the Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)”. Therefore God says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8)”, “For God is at work in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. (Philippians 2:13)”. Because we have the Holy Spirit we can wage spiritual warfare for, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)” Thus we can (in our own life and helping others to do the same) throw down all the lies of the enemy and break off the chains of oppression for, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)”!
2. Extended Waiting – We all know how tired we can feel by simply having to wait - especially for our dreams and the promises we are clinging to. Solomon observed that, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12)”. Yet, waiting is always an essential part of the process. This then is how we should wait, “but if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:25)”. This has become so hard to do in a culture of “get it now and pay later”. We are not used to waiting and grumble when we have to wait in line more than five minutes! Just waiting is not enough (it’s not like you probably even have an option) but we must learn to wait patiently. How do we do that? By trusting, resting, and hoping in God. Scripture says,
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope (or; wait on and trust) in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
– Isaiah 40:28-31
Then, when the waiting is just feeling too long and we wonder if change is coming we must remember that, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10)”, and so, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, (in the meantime)as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:9-10)”.
3. Narrowed Vision – Even those who start out with big ideas and dreams, firm in their faith and confident in God may find their vision narrowed by the opposition and waiting already mentioned. People and the enemy begin to tell us that we’re not good enough (not smart enough, brave enough, mature enough) to accomplish or receive what God has placed in our hearts. We begin to focus on our own limitations and the limits of our circumstances. We cannot see how things will turn out because we begin to limit God according to our own understanding and imagining. This is when we must constantly remind ourselves that, “God is able to do abundantly above all we can ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (Ephesians 3:20)”. Notice those last two words “in us”. Yes, “all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27)”, and He can and does intervene directly in our lives and circumstances. Most of the time, however, God does His work in and through us. There are definitely some things that only God can do that must be done without us, but there are also many things that God would prefer to do in and through us, but we must be available to that – we must have the faith for it. We must stop limiting God with what we think He can do or will do for us. Be bold enough to ask that the sun stand still for you (see Joshua 10:12-13).
4. Compromise – Mostly this has to do with obvious moral compromise. God warned Joshua, “…Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:7-8)”. God’s promises are always for those who obey wholeheartedly and honestly (Isaiah 1:19) not halfheartedly or halfway. Any willful and continual sin will forfeit the blessings of God on your life; God makes this clear through all of Scripture. Even Moses did not get to enter the promised land because he did not obey God completely in one instance (See Numbers 20:2-13). You can believe and wait for a financial breakthrough all you want but if you are misusing what you have (like not tithing and giving) then you cannot reasonably expect to get what you are asking for. The other way that we compromise is by trying to get it our own way. Taking matters into your own hands doesn’t usually turn out well, but that’s a whole other sermon altogether! (Read Genesis chapter 12-18&21.) God’s ways (and yes, His timing too) are always better even if we never understand the reasons why He does things the way that He does for He says, “My ways are higher than you ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)”.
4 things to Remember
Now that we know what robs us of the strength and courage God says we are to have, there are four things for us to remember that will restore it to us. They are:
1. The Lord Sees – God knows and sees everything we are going through as we strive to follow Him. Scripture says, “The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them… and now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:7-10)”. Nothing escapes His notice. Scripture also says,
“O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.”
– Psalm 139:1-4
Because we can know that God sees everything and knows everything that goes on in the world and our lives, we can follow Him in confidence. Scripture says, “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (1 Peter 4:19)”.
2. The Lord Hears – Not only does God see us, but He listens to the voice of His people who love and follow Him. Scripture says, “The LORD is not too weak to save or his ear too deaf to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)”. He says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:12-14)”. God hears us when we cry out to Him. Scripture says, “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:17-18)”. God responds according to the good plans He has for us and will provide all that we need to live a life to His glory (2 Peter 1:3-4). Scripture says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us —whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)”.
3. The Lord Helps – God has given us talents and abilities that are to be used for His glory (see Matthew 25:14-28, Luke19:11-27). More than this, He has given to His people spiritual gifts so that we can use them in the building of His kingdom (see Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 1 Peter 4:10-11 for various lists of the spiritual gifts). No matter what gifts He has given us or what God may call us to do, we can be sure that He will enable us to do it so that we can say with Paul, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)”. We don’t have to be afraid no matter what comes our way – whether opposition or circumstances, trials or tests, for “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)” When we ask Him for help in doing His will we can be certain that He will give us all we need. Scripture says,
“I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”
– Psalm 34:4-7
And though He does not promise to always deliver us out of everything, He does promise to bring us through anything. He says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9)”
4. The Lord Rewards – Sometimes it’s not enough to know that God sees, hears, and helps us, because sometimes we wonder why we even bother. This is especially true when we don’t see that what we’re doing is making any kind of difference – in our own life or for others. No matter what we are doing, there are always times when we wonder if it’s making that much difference. In those moments, passion fails us and determination is all we’ve got. This is when we must remember that, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people. Remember that you will receive your reward from the Lord, which He promised to His people. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)”. Jesus says to us, “Yes, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:12-13)”. And though we may wonder if it’s worth all the effort, Paul assures us that, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19)”. What is this glory he refers to? Or the reward we can expect? James says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)” We can be sure that this is only the beginning of it for, “as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)".
Trust in Him
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)”. We must “stir up” or “fan into flame” (2 Timothy 1:6) ourselves and the gifts that God has given us daily so that we don’t lose passion, lose heart, and give up. It is all too easy to get distracted by the world, worn out with useless busyness, and become stagnant with the every day and mundane. We must be vigilant in our personal and spiritual lives if we are to do all that God has for us to do, all the “good things that He planed long ago for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)”. Trust in God and not yourself. As Scripture says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7)”. For Jesus says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:7)”
Depend on Him
When we are seeking to follow God’s will for our lives, we must completely depend on Him. Scripture says to, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Depend on LORD; trust in Him and He will take care of you. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act… (Psalm 37:4-7)” and that we must, “Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)” for “the LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)”.
The godly are those who walk in obedience to God – who strive to follow Him in everything and have committed themselves to Him. All of God’s blessings are for those who seek to obey Him with all their heart. Scripture says, “The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. (Deuteronomy 28:12-13)”.
Unfortunately, in this life we have never truly “arrived” and if we are not moving forward then we are moving backward. This is why we must always press on. As Paul said, “My friends, I don't feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I press on… (Philippians 3:13-14)”. We must remember that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2)”. If we will press on we can, “eagerly expect and hope that (we) will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)”. Then we will be able to, “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10)”.
Stand Firm on the Rock
We must let nothing keep us from obeying God and seeking to always follow His will and plan for us. Don’t fear men but fear God for Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him (Luke 12:4-5)”. Therefore, stand firm on the truth of God’s Word for it is your only sure foundation. Remember the parable Jesus told, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:24-27)”. Therefore, hear and do God’s Word.
Point to Ponder: Have you allowed opposition, waiting, narrowed vision, or compromise to steal the strength and courage that you need so that you can do what you know God has called you to do or to hold on in faith to the things that you know God has promised you? Do not let the world and the devil keep you from walking in God’s perfect plan for your life. Don’t allow the troubles of this life to rule your life or you will regret it for the rest of your life. Jesus promised abundant life (John 10:10) and He meant it. You must fight for it, but don’t let anything keep you from living it. Therefore, be strong and courageous and never give up! Your miracle could be right around the corner. You could end up changing countless lives!
Let’s pray, “Father, thank You for Your Son who lived and died and rose again to give us new and abundant life (John 10:10). Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who enables us to live that life and to walk in Your ways and according to Your will and Word. Father, we commit ourselves to You and through the blood of Your Son we receive life – real life, abundant life. According to Your promise we receive the indwelling and empowering presence of Your Holy Spirit. Awaken in our hearts the desire to fulfill Your plan for our lives and help us to keep our passion stirred up within us. May we determine to believe and cling to Your promises. May we be determined to walk in faith and to live out all that You have planned for us. May we not turn to the right or to the left (Joshua 1:7-9) but may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) that so that we won’t allow the enemy to discourage us but let us hold tightly to the faith and hope we profess for we know that You are faithful to Your promises (Hebrews 10:23) no matter what we see, think, or feel. We know that You will give us all the grace that we need for this life as we depend on You. May we rely only on You and see You manifest Your glory in the lives of each of us. Amen!”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)”