When the Lord says something once, we typically listen. When He says something twice, we start to get the hint and search for meaning in the words. But when God says something three times, we need to learn the lesson and apply it to our lives, because He’s trying to show us a vital life lesson.

That’s what happened in Joshua 1. Joshua had just been given a new leadership position. His mentor Moses had died, and Joshua was suddenly the leader of millions of people who had been wandering around a desert for forty years, complaining almost the whole time. Not daunting at all.

But God understood how Joshua must have felt, so He gave him a pep talk.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.” (Joshua 1:6-9 NLT)

Joshua was familiar with God’s presence. He had been one of the first Israelite spies to explore and witness the Promised Land. He had believed in God’s ability to give them that land. He had joined Moses for part of the climb up Mount Sinai, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. He was the first one to see Moses’ radiating face that reflected God’s glory. He was handpicked by God and Moses to be the next leader of Israel.

But when God spoke to Joshua directly for the first time, He had to repeat the same thing three times in that one conversation.

“Be strong and courageous.”

Maybe Joshua was afraid of letting everybody down. Maybe he doubted his own ability to guide these people. Maybe he was worried about what the Israelites would say about him. Maybe, after forty years of waiting, he was starting to question God’s promises.

So, God spoke through all those debilitating thoughts and doubts and replaced them with four words of encouragement: Be strong and courageous.

Joshua would need to be strong and courageous as he led the Israelites to the land God had promised their ancestors years before. He had to be strong and courageous as he followed odd instructions to walk around a huge fortressed city for seven days, while its people jeered and mocked. This required not only physical strength and courage, but mental and spiritual, as well.

Joshua had to obey God, fight for God and trust in God. He had to study God’s Word and meditate on it, because those instructions would give him wisdom and encouragement (Joshua 1:8). When he and, subsequently, the Israelites obeyed, God enabled them to succeed. God didn’t abandon them; He guided them and blessed them.

What I love about Joshua’s story is that he learned the lesson God gave him in the beginning of his ministry and applied it throughout his life. One example of this occurred when he spoke to his people after he and his warriors had defeated the Amorite kings. Joshua used the same words with which God had once encouraged him:

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” (Joshua 1:25 NIV)

Joshua had learned the lesson: God would not fail him. His strength and courage came from the Lord.

But how can these words apply to us? We’re not Joshua, chosen by God to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. We didn’t see the Jordan River miraculously part or watch the walls of Jericho crumble. Yet, these words still hold a life lesson for us.

  • Be strong and courageous. Why? Because you have been chosen by God to lead people to their promise of hope, love and eternal life through Jesus.
  • Be strong and courageous. Why? Because when you obey the Lord, you will be successful in His eyes, even when others laugh at you, gossip about you or tear you down.
  • Be strong and courageous. Why? Because the Lord is with you wherever you go, even when you’re facing a barren wasteland that has sucked out the joy and hope you once carried about God’s promises for you.
  • Be strong and courageous. Why? “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of life, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
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I’m sure you’ve noticed how anxieties crowd out God’s message of peace. We aren’t meant to carry them. We are meant to cast all our cares upon Him.

A wise person once asked me: Can you make this “issue” a “nonissue?” Can you just say, “This really isn’t that big of a deal”? It’s a true friend who gives honest feedback.

Nonissue, Embarrassing Moments, and the Like

Oh no! Over went my glass of iced tea on the place setting beside me. Formal night on my first cruise was in full swing. Men and women were dressed to the nines eagerly awaiting the first course. I was the entertainment.

The waiter tried to be nice but didn’t succeed. It wasn’t hard to miss his displeasure. (A kind word would have gone a long way. See Proverbs 12:25). Already overworked, he immediately devoted his full attention to my unfortunate event.

Since I had everyone’s attention at my table, I had a relevant story to share.

As a stay-at-home-homeschooling-mother of two boys, I often pursued interests outside the walls of my home for sanity’s sake. This included taking courses through my city’s community education. One course I took on the subject of etiquette was especially entertaining, not for the subject matter alone, but for what occurred during the class.

The class was held at an upscale restaurant. The waitress returned with a tray of drinks balanced on her extended hand. She lost her footing; the drinks left the tray and spilled over the table, onto us, and into our handbags on the floor. The class on etiquette had just begun.

Most of us were wet, but the instructor was soaked to the bone. She persevered through the lesson and three-course dinner. She exuded etiquette.

Make Issues Nonissues

To the instructor, this disaster was a nonissue. Her resilience was a testament of grace, benevolence, and years of studying etiquette, no doubt. I watched as she resiliently took life’s (small) blows in stride.

Isn’t it easy to be anxious and troubled by the little things in life? Jesus makes an observation about Martha: “You are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). See, He understands human nature; He knows what we turn to. But He offers this antidote: Rest, Martha. Make this “issue” a “nonissue.” Look through my lens.

God Wants You to Pursue Peace

God wants you to see green pastures and calm waters, a yoke that is easy, a burden that is light (Matthew 11:30). He wants you to be delighted with creation (He was!): the sunrise and sunset, the eagle resting upon the tallest tree; the butterfly fluttering across the path; an infant smiling at his parent, and hearing, really hearing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” I like Solomon’s version as well: “There are three things that amaze me—no, four things I do not understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman” (Proverbs 30:19).

The beautiful moments of life are vying for your attention. Even song sparrows, according to writer Ben Mirin, “alter the frequency of their song to become audible amid city noise.”

So Here’s What I Do

I try to take uncomfortable situations and embarrassing moments in stride too. Like the time I prepared a meal for twenty people, and it didn’t quite turn out. Or the time I met Andy Card, George W. Bush’s chief of staff, and embarrassed myself thoroughly. The office manager from the Republican office—where we volunteered—bragged to Mr. Card about my sons’ volunteer work. Thinking I deserved a little recognition as well, I took the moment to shine, but my words didn’t come out as I had planned. I piped up, hand grasping his in greeting, and proudly announced, “And I’m your mom!” meaning rather that I was the boys’ mother. It was an awkward moment that ended in silent nods between us. I’ve since recovered.

I have found that the sooner I make these small, daily annoyances into “nonissues,” the happier I am. These moments have a way of stealing the joy right out from underneath me, and in this case, ruining an amazing night on a cruise. This time, I remembered my “nonissue” mantra.

There is nothing quite so invigorating and joyous as to not cry over spilt milk.



Work Cited

Mirin, Ben. “Obsessions Birding.” National Geographic Traveler. January 2018.

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14).

In 2 Kings Chapter 5, we read the account of Naaman, captain of the Syrian army. He was a mighty man and honorable. Even though he was well-respected with an important position, he had leprosy.

Leprosy was a disease of the skin.  In the worst cases, the victims flesh would rot and fall off. Anyone who had this disease was considered unclean.

Naaman’s wife had a maid that had been captured from Israel. She told them about the prophet Elisha and the healings that followed his ministry . The king of Syria sent a messenger with talents, gold and raiment to the king of Israel in exchange for the prophet to come heal Naaman. When Elisha heard about this, he told the messenger to have Naaman come to him.

When Naaman came to the house, Elisha came to the door and told him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman walked away furious because he expected the prophet to come and pray over him with a great prayer, not send him to the Jordan River to wash. He even questioned why he couldn’t go to another, better river. One of the servants pleaded with him to do as Elisha had commanded. Naaman finally agreed and went to wash in the Jordan River. On the seventh time that he entered the water, he was healed.

There was nothing special about what Elisha told Naaman to do. There was nothing magical about the Jordan River. Elisha didn’t speak a prophetic prayer over Naaman. It just came down to obedience.

God may ask you to do something that you think is foolish just to see if you will do it out of obedience. The answer to your prayer will always be linked to obedience.

About 8-9 years ago, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It got to the point that no one could touch me including my husband and my son. Most of the time, I would stay home.  I would miss church. People shaking my hand or hugging me had become too painful. Many times I would sit at home and cry because the pain was too much for me. There  were medicines to ease the pain, but no cure.  I became depressed and there were times I wished I could just die.

One day, I finally had enough. I had prayed numerous times for God to heal me but I didn’t get my miracle. Our church was having a special service and I wanted to go. That night they asked people to come to the front who needed healing, deliverance, salvation, etc. I made my way to the front and stood over to the side so that people wouldn’t touch me.

The guest speaker came by and asked why I needed prayer. I told him I wanted to be healed. I did not tell him the specific need, just that I needed healing. He asked me to spin around 3 times to receive my healing. At first, I stood and thought to myself, “What does this have to do with me getting my healing?” I finally decided that I would obey and do what he asked. I spun around once, twice, and on the third time the power of God touched me. God instantly healed me of Fibromyalgia and I have not suffered since that day!

There was nothing magical about spinning around.  The healing was released because I was obedient. If I had stopped after the first or second time around, I would not have received my miracle. God wanted me to trust and obey Him.

What is God asking you to do?  Obey.  It could be the answer to your prayer.