Living With Faith Requires Courage
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua stands in front of the River Jordan as God’s newly appointed leader of the Israelites who left Egypt over forty years earlier. God has asked Joshua to lead the Israelites to the promised land of milk and honey, across this River Jordan.
Many years earlier, Joshua as a young man, stood on these same banks as part of a group of twelve sent by Moses to investigate and see if it was safe to cross the River Jordan. Joshua, and Caleb, advised Moses that they should proceed across the River Jordan, but the others convinced Moses they shouldn’t cross. The others were fearful and told Moses there were giants to overcome and they would die on the other side. Refusing to go, even though crossing the river meant going to the place that God told them this was their promised land. The Israelites fear caused them to doubt this promise.
So God left them wandering in the wilderness for forty more years and each year members of the original group died without receiving God’s promise. After forty years the only people that remained of the earlier group were their descendants, and a few others like; Moses and Joshua. As they approached the River Jordan for the second time, Moses knew he would not be going to the promised land. Moses would see the promised land, but he would die on top of a mountain that overlooked God’s gift. And Joshua became the leader, appointed by Moses through God.
Now Joshua stood on the banks of the River Jordan, getting ready to lead the Israelites across. There was to be no large investigation of the other side, just Joshua’s belief that God would protect the faithful. As he had seen God do many times before in the previous decades. Before Joshua began to cross the mighty river, he had God’s simple directions; Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This second crossing was far more dangerous than the first. The River Jordan was flowing at flood stage and would be almost impossible for the Israelites to cross. God told Joshua to have the priests go first and carry the Ark of the Covenant. God also told Joshua, when the priests stepped into the water the raging waters of the River Jordan would stop, leaving a path for the Israelites to cross. An added leap of faith for this generation of Israelites.
This group of Israelites were braver in their faith than their predecessors; they crossed over and settled the land. Although they faced many obstacles in their settlement, God protected them and was true to the promise he made to Joshua; for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go. Their courageous faith allowed them to reside in the promised land of milk and honey.
At this point, you may ask why didn’t the first group trust God and cross over even though they had also seen so many of God’s miracles. On their journey from Egypt, God had Moses part the Red Sea and released them from Pharaoh. In the wilderness, he gave them manna from heaven to eat and produced water from stones. Despite all God had done for them, they made the critical mistake of letting fear become bigger than their faith.
The River Jordan is a real place and for many, it is symbolic of faith. Over the years many have used this story to inspire themselves to cross over their own personal River Jordan. In fact, when you look up the River Jordan in Wikipedia, part of the description is about the symbolism of trusting God.
This story easily extends to future readers of the Bible to imagine and connect with their own life challenges. This story is about combining courage with your faith in trusting God. A courageous faith that prevents us from being left wandering in our own wilderness.
So while we can wonder why the first group didn’t trust God and cross the River Jordan, instead we can focus on our own personal crossing of the River Jordan. What is it in our own lives that is our current River Jordan? Is it a long put off task? Perhaps it is something bigger, like drug addiction or alcoholism. There are always difficult times and things in our lives that require both our faith and courage to conquer.
Whether it is large or small, not crossing our personal River Jordan leaves us in our personal wilderness, like the first group of Israelites who approached the River Jordan. We know what we must do, but don’t believe we are courageous enough to cross. In these moments we forget the promise of God; to not be afraid; to not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This is the challenge of faith; not letting our fears drown out our trust in God. Faith without courage prevents us from receiving God’s bounty and plan for our lives. It is simple to think and say; or even to advise others, to trust God. But when we are standing on the shore of our River Jordan, even at flood stage; the decision to move across requires a courageous faith.
Inevitably it means letting go and just crossing. It means remembering the times God was with us in the past. Sometimes it takes a friend to encourage us. Regardless, our personal River Jordan must be crossed, or we are left wandering in our wilderness, adrift from God.
Ironically, the moment you cross over, you immediately feel relief and are rid of your fears. Many times you may be left thinking what was the fuss all about. This crossing strengthens and revitalizes us. Most importantly we will know God was with us.
And this is the essence of our relationship with God; letting our fears go to accept God’s promised land of milk and honey.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman