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Jennifer English

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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)
BY JENNIFER ENGLISH
You can follow Jennifer English on her personal blog https://jensrandommusings.wordpress.com/

One bright morning, a young woman was talking with an old friend. After a while, the woman’s friend looked at her and sighed. “It must be so nice to have everything in your life all figured out,” she said.

The woman laughed and replied, “Well, not everything.”

Later that day, the young woman unlocked the door to her cozy apartment and sat by her older sister, who asked about her day.

“It was good.” But neither woman was convinced.

A few moments passed, and the young woman fought an internal battle against surging emotions. “I think I need to talk,” she admitted.

Sobs soon broke loose from the young woman. The tears were watery evidence of a breakdown she had suppressed for hours, days and months. It was a culmination of work stress, emotional stress and — at the crux of it all — life expectations that hadn’t been met yet.

Amidst the tears and embarrassed laughter, she uttered the words that had silently been eating away at her: “I don’t know why [insert here] hasn’t happened yet. I know I shouldn’t think this, but I feel like I haven’t earned it yet. I don’t deserve it, so God hasn’t given it to me.”

The sister held her, lovingly offering support and encouraging words about the promises God had given to the young woman.

Eventually, the young woman wiped her eyes and nose, spent some time in prayer and started writing a story.

Spoiler: I am that young woman, and this is my very true, very recent story.

Another spoiler: I don’t actually have everything in my life all figured out.

Weeks earlier, I read Genesis 22, following Abraham and Isaac as they hiked a mountain to offer a sacrifice to God. Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice the very blessing God had promised to him years before, an angel appeared.

“‘Don’t lay a hand on the boy!’ the angel said. ‘Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.'” (Genesis 22:12 NLT)

While reading this verse, I scribbled a note: What are you withholding from God? The thought intrigued me, but I didn’t get any insights from God at the time.

My breakdown came a few weeks later. As I sobbed, I began to understand what God had started speaking to my heart: It’s okay to be vulnerable.

To be honest, this was hard to admit to myself. I tend to keep things to myself. I don’t like to show weakness. I don’t like it when people see me cry. I don’t like it when people see I’m vulnerable. So, I put those emotions and thoughts aside.

And God was like, “Jen, you’re withholding a part of yourself from me.”

Withhold: To refuse to give; to suppress or hold back.

I wasn’t withholding prayer time, Bible reading, church commitments or anything external from Him. This was emotional withholding.

True friends can talk to each other about anything — be it crazy, stupid or #realtalk. Likewise, if you withhold parts of yourself from a friend, you withhold parts of yourself from that relationship. You essentially build a wall around that part of you, blocking it off from anybody or anything.

And we can do that with God. We can refuse to tell Him about our hidden anxieties and feelings — some of which we might not even know exist. But God already knows.

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:15-16 NLT)

Yes, God in His omniscience understands every part of us. But He still wants us to communicate with Him, to build that relationship. David recognized this in his psalm. After acknowledging God’s power and knowledge, he asked God to examine him.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

Express yourself to God. It’s okay to be vulnerable with Him. He can handle your raw thoughts, your anger or confusion, your disappointment or shame. We can trust Him with our innermost parts.

When we are weak, He is our strength. When we are defenseless, He is our fortress. When we are vulnerable, He is our trustworthy friend. So, stand firm in your faith that you are in God’s plan, obey His voice and pursue His promises.

And remember: You don’t have to earn His mercy, grace, blessings or love. His grace is relentless. His mercy is unconditional. His blessings are perfect. His love is unfailing. And His thoughts are good.

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalm 139:17 NLT)

 

You can follow Jennifer English on her personal blog https://jensrandommusings.wordpress.com/

The world seems to be falling apart. Hate is rampant, pain spreads rapidly, depression smothers and violence rises. All of this junk amasses together until it’s a heavy burden that we, as humans, often feel obligated to carry.

That might not paint the most encouraging picture, but I think it’s a fairly accurate depiction of our times. We need only glimpse at the news to read or hear about the most recent tragedy or law. More and more, I find myself getting so frustrated at the world and at the people who spew hate. But really, more than anything, it hurts my heart, and I sometimes think I can feel my soul deflate.

Even as Christians, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with restricting anxieties, feelings and thoughts — to believe the darkness has won, to have our hope stifled and to allow our light to dim. But it’s in those times that it’s so important to remember God’s promise to us.

“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20 KJV)

I’m sure most of us have heard and read that verse before. But God recently showed me just how relevant those words are now, in 2019. I read yet another news story that detailed a world teeming with hate and injustice, and it really bothered me — my emotions, my heart, my soul, everything.

In that moment, God’s quiet voice whispered to me, spreading through my soul like the soothing Balm of Gilead: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Even when everything seems to be going wrong. Even when good is considered evil, and evil is considered good. Even when you don’t think you can take another step. Even when you don’t know where your next breath is coming from. Jesus said, “Yep, even then. I’ll still be with you.”

Maybe you feel like you’re at wit’s end, unable to continue on, stuck in the mire, about to give up. Maybe you think God doesn’t care anymore or that He’s abandoned you and everybody else on earth.

Maybe you’re discouraged by the perilous times of the last days, where humans are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV)

But Jesus said, “Even unto the end of the world.” And I believe those words hold real meaning for this generation of Christians that are facing the tumultuous times leading up to Christ’s return.

God still cares, and He hasn’t forsaken us.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6 NKJV)

God will not fail you. No matter where you are right now, He sees you. Even though you don’t know what’s in front of you, He does. He is already there. No matter what you’re going through — be it loneliness, discouragement, fear, confusion, disease or whatever — lean on Him. No matter what’s going on in the world around you, He still loves you. He is your peace and your refuge. He is your hope and your salvation.

So, trust Him. Give Him your hopes and aspirations, your wants and dreams, your doubts and worries, your fears and anxieties. Put those in His hands and turn your focus on sharing His joy, love and peace with a world that is hurting and desperate for hope.

 

Article by Jennifer Englishjensrandommusings.wordpress.com