Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (Josh. 1:6)

Some sins get us fired; others get us promoted. The most often-praised sin is addiction to achievement: the force that pushes us up the corporate ladder, keeps us working late into the night, and eventually gets us to focus more on what we produce than who we become.

This passage cautions against the promotable sins. God gives detailed instructions to Joshua about how Israel must use their resources to infiltrate the promised land; but even as he does so, he offers the words “be strong and courageous” as a reminder that he cares about their internal resources, too. These words have become a token of bumper-sticker Christianity, read at face value to inspire boldness. But for the Israelites, this command was less about momentary boldness and more about the need to remember who they were.

Rather than being tossed to and fro by concerns about their posture among the nations, the Israelites were exhorted to take heart because their identity (and even their outward success, the passage says) was bound up in their covenant with God.

“Be strong and courageous” is a reminder in both victory and defeat that we are more than our outcomes. When we feel less-than, scared, and against bad odds, God reminds us—through Joshua—to pursue his mission without succumbing to the fear around us, hoping that in the end he will make it right.

When tempted to compete or compare, pause and serve the competition.

Ethan Linder is the college, young adult, and connections pastor at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, where he resides with his wife and son. Ethan enjoys running, reading, and roasting coffee.

© 2020 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.