In my devotions recently, I have been reading through the book of Joshua. The very first passage (Joshua 1:1-9), called “The Lord’s Charge to Joshua” in my Bible, caught my eye for the way it pairs a challenge with a promise: “be strong and courageous” and “For the Lord is with you wherever you go.” These two statements have given me perspective not just on the rest of the book, but on our churches’ lives together, too.
Moses has died at the end of Deuteronomy, and here God calls Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. That would be overwhelming even if Joshua was not grieving the loss of his friend and mentor. A new land comes with new crises and opportunities and unexpected stresses and joys.
On this precipice, God tells Joshua four times “Be strong and courageous.” Moses is a hard act to follow, and Joshua needs to do his best to lead as he has learned. It would be easy to feel weak and wimpy, but God calls for strength and courage. Thankfully, this challenge is bookended by the promise “I will be with you…I will not fail you or abandon you.”
As we haltingly move out of the pandemic to discover what the “after church” will look like, we are on a precipice too. We need to be strong and courageous. We need to consider changes that would never have arisen in 2019. We have options for ministry that were impossible in the “before times.” We will have to make decisions that seem riskier than they ever have before. And God tells us what Joshua heard: “Be strong and courageous.”
At the same time, we can rest in the promise that God will not fail or abandon us. As we step out in faith, Jesus is faithful to his promise to be with us always, even to the ends of the age. It is easier to be strong and courageous when we know that God is walking beside us. Even when our courage leads us to make decisions that don’t pan out as we hope, we can have confidence that the good work that God has begun in us will come to completion in the day of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 1:6).
The new land before us comes with new crises and opportunities and unexpected stresses and joys. Please let the Synod know how we can support you as you live up to God’s challenge and receive the promise of the Spirit’s presence.
Your partner in ministry,
Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD Executive firstname.lastname@example.org phone number 309-530-4578