Gospel with Wiggle Room
Joshua chapter 1 is a powerful collection of scripture that tell us the story of God commissioning Joshua. He was born a slave in Egypt and was a part of his nations exodus from Pharaoh following the plagues brought about by the hand of God. Following their deliverance, he too wondered the wilderness under the direction of Moses, ate mana, and drank water from the rock. Now we find him at 90 years of age and a pivotal moment in Israel’s history. Moses has died, their time in the wilderness is over, and the time had come to conquer Canaan. Living in Canaan would be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
"Who better to lead the people to their promise than Joshua whose name means God saves."
He understood fully that leadership comes with great responsibility. Joshua had learned from Moses throughout the years to lead, you must abide in the presence of God. Moses was a man continually seeking God’s heart for his very troubled people who treated complaining as a favorite pass time. Joshua had witnessed Moses align himself with the will of God in Exodus 34 with his face glowing from the glory of God. He also witnessed Moses fall out of alignment with God in Numbers 20 when he took credit for bringing water from the rock for the people.
These lessons had to be resonating in Joshua’s mind as God said in Joshua chapter 1 verse 5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life, just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”
God goes on to say in verse 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” Wow, Joshua would be a conqueror hand selected by God for this time in history. It seemed God had written Joshua the spiritual “blank check” of favor and victory.
God, being God, didn’t expect Joshua to do this on his own or without a daily plan. He continued in verse 7 and unpacks the plan through which Joshua would be this great kingdom warrior. “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have a good success wherever you go.” Wait a minute, you mean his leadership success was dependent upon his commitment to abiding in the ways of God (His commandments), aligning himself with the character of God (His law), and advancing through the strength that he would gain through obedience?
"Many times, we overlook the basics of following after God. We get lost in the endless search for His will or the destiny that we hear so many believers speak about. Meanwhile, God is saying to us what He said to Joshua. His heart’s desire is for us to desire Him, it is that simple."
We live in a culture that treats God as an add-on. We don’t lay our life down next to His character and see if they are the same or polar opposites.
"We want to be with Him in His victory, but overlook His suffering and death."
We long for a Gospel with wiggle room, allowing us to keep the things we love without a life of sacrifice. God was saying to Joshua, if you want to lead these people into their promise as a great conqueror you have to keep my commands at the center. He is saying the same to us today, if we want to lead others to Christ, if we want to lead our family to a deeper relationship with Him, if we want to lead disciples of Christ, we must align our life with His commands in order to advance in His victory.
God used the phrase “be strong and courageous” three times throughout Joshua chapter 1. He was repeating this phrase so that Joshua understood his victory in leadership would require personal disciplines. Surely this passage and example is only for those chosen to be leaders in special circumstances, right? What if it is for everyone, because we all play the lead role in our own journey with God. Daily, who else can lead your life better than you can? Hourly, who makes the decision to abide in the presence of God? In the moment, who makes the decision to obey the voice of God? The answer, is “I, do”.
Truthfully, no one influences our actions more than our inner voice. We control the outcome of our day to day impact in the world. When we begin to view God’s direction to Joshua not as a special circumstance but as a general call it changes everything. We begin to feel that heavenly burden to maximize every day, hour, and moment. We experience the power that breaks loose into our life through active obedience to the voice of God.
"The truth is we can lead nations, we can change communities, we can dispel darkness, we can heal the sick, we can speak life, we can mend the broken, we can do all things just as the Word promises in Philippians 4:13."
The key is recognizing our strength and courage to do these things lies in our ability to submit to the character and commands of God through daily discipline. Don’t be like Joshua, instead catch the vision of God for Joshua. A man completely yielded to the voice of God in service to others for the advancement of the Kingdom!