Four times in Joshua chapter one, the great leader was exhorted to be strong and courageous. I find that interesting. Why would this be such an urgency? Because apparently, Joshua wasn’t very heroic then. The nation of Israel was about to head into the Promised Land. This military campaign was something they had not done before, and Joshua was charged with leading them. The possibility of fear was substantial. The danger was immense. The unknown was profound. God’s odd battle plan of marching around Jericho to take the city seemed ludicrous. Wouldn’t an artillery bombardment and Marine frontal attack make more sense? The “What ifs” were compounding by the moment. So, I can see that even the most extraordinary leaders might be scratching their heads with sweaty palms on occasions of such high stakes. But God showed up, encouraged Joshua, and shortly after that, they were victorious.
While I don’t know many people today who have been given such tasks by God, I do know fear and people who wrestle with fear. I once read that the only fear people are born with is darkness and loud sounds. So it appears that the rest of our fears are something that we pick up along the road of our lives. Sometimes we fear because of what has happened to us in the past or because of concern for the apparent impending future. Whatever the reason, as we press into Jesus, while fear may be a natural emotion, faith can be a reality and empower us forward.
Here are four places to start this journey forward from fear.
- Own it.
We must stop playing games and call the situation what it is. Anytime a guy says something like, “I’m not afraid of anything,” I know he’s either in denial or arrogant. Everyone experiences fear from time to time. The problem is not in the initial emotion but in what we do with it. Fear in and of itself is simply an alarm system telling us that something is wrong. When we ignore fear and refuse to deal with it, we move into the position of allowing it to control us. A starting place is, to be honest about where we are so that once the truth is on the table, we can deal with it and go forward. Not dealing with fear can also have ripple effects on the lives of others around us. No matter how hard we sweep it under the rug, like mold in a dark place, it will continue to grow and consume us until we call it out and own it.
- Remember God.
When the emotions are high and the faith is low, it’s easy to forget the power of God. It’s easy to get into a place where all the promises and provisions of God feel light-years away. Thus, we need to be reminded and remind ourselves of what God has already done. We need to take stock of what we know and not what we feel. Joshua remembered the promises made to Moses by God and how God kept His word. A practical application would be to go through the Bible and record the promises of God. Another helpful task is to take out a sheet of paper and recall the times when God had come through when we needed His intervention in various ways.
From here, we can start to reprogram our thinking. Paul put it this way in Philippians 4:8; “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Simply put, when we remember how big God is, how He has provided in the past, and what He’s promised for our future, we can regain the strength and trust to push forward in the present.
- Step Out.
We cannot stay put. Yes, there are times when being patient for a season and waiting on the Lord is the right course of action. But yet, there are other situations when not moving forward is a sin. Not making a decision can sometimes, in and of itself, be a decision — a bad one. If the answer is not clear from God, then we can first ask if there is something in our relationship with the Almighty that we need to repent of. If we secretly engage in online porn, office gossip, or cheating the numbers to improve our reports, the time to clean that mess up is now. Today! From there, we should ask for the wisdom of the wise. What is the guidance from more spiritually mature Christ followers? This is why we must ensure that we are tight in a local church family.
Eventually, we must remember the proverbial Nike commercial and “Just Do It!” Sometimes we know the right course of action, but we get bogged down on the “what ifs” that may or may not happen. We know we must quit a job because the boss is crooked, but we fear our financial future. We know we must muster up the courage to invite that Christian lady we work with for a date, but we’re afraid she might say no. Whatever the issue, we cannot allow possible adverse outcomes to dictate our actions. If we are clear on the right course of action, we must step forward and let God take care of the future. Ultimately, we need to consider the cost of non-action, which will leave us in the same place a year from now.
- Look Up.
This one can be fun. Instead of anticipating a negative response to our taking the plunge, why not look toward a positive future? God kept His promise to Moses and Joshua, and the Walls of Jericho came down. God rewarded Joshua when he stepped out. Yes, it was hard work. But the work of faith paid off. By reprograming our thinking, we can begin to see a positive future. By taking steps of faith in our marriage, family, business, church, and lives, we can look forward to a positive outcome once we reach the other side of the fear tunnel before us.
We can also look beyond ourselves. Here I’m thinking of the legacy that Joshua left to his children. They saw their father press forward despite his fear, which positively affected their faith. The reality is that people are watching how we handle fear today. How we take fear today will influence how others handle fear tomorrow.
Every time I enter fear discussions, I always remember one of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, who, on the 23rd of April 1910, while giving a speech in Paris, France, noted:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
In that short section, Roosevelt did not describe a man with no fear but rather one who pressed forward no matter what. We face more than an arena, but a world set before us by the God of all Creation, and He has called us to step out and make a difference.
What “Jericho” are you facing today? Call it out, remember your God, and look forward to a great victory.
Who can you also encourage today?