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Here I sit at Roswell Park in Buffalo. You might know that Roswell is a cancer hospital. People are fighting some very significant battles and some of them THE battle of their life. It is here, I am reminded that my life is pretty blessed and that many others are fighting some pretty tough stuff. I know this; Roswell just puts some life situations in perspective.
Often when people are going through a difficult time or trial they are told “Be Strong and Courageous!” Whether it is our health, our raising of children or grandchildren, losing a job, or going through a divorce. “Be Strong, buck up, you can get through this” is what we are told over and over.
Many of us are up against something big in our lives.
As we read Chapter 7 of The Story we come to realize that the Israelites were up against something big.
They are about to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before. They had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison. Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants.
They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ faith muscles had grown.
Last week as we gathered and shared In The Story Fireside Chat, it was pointed out by one of our attendees that the faith of the Israelites was fairly new. They were brought out of Egypt and ushered into a wilderness. As we read the text this week we are ushered further into the story and generations have passed. Their faith has grown as they have witnessed God at work amongst them, but like us, they still have doubts and complaints of where God is leading them.
You might remember from your reading that there were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. And God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
My guess is you have a few giants in your life too. Some uphill battles that appear insurmountable. A task demanding more than you think you have to give. One too many things on your “to do” list than you have the time or energy to do. Unemployment is staring you down. Depression has a grip on you. Bills have raided your bank account and left it empty. An illness hovers in your life like a threatening storm. You’d rather just run and wander.
Instead, be strong and courageous. You have a Joshua that will lead the way. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is “Jesus.” And he has promised to be with you always (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus knows how to lead you through battles. He had a few of his own while he was on this earth. Enemies attacking him with accusations (Mark 3:22). No home and no bed (Luke 9:58). Crowds and expectations pressing in on him (Luke 8:45). The religious establishment eventually insuring he was sentenced to a brutal death. (Mark 15:14).
Yet he took on the most barbaric giant there is, death, and lived to tell about it. He can help you do the same. You need only be strong and courageous in your faith.