Be Strong and Courageous

Since first entering recovery over 20 years ago, I have prayed the Serenity Prayer countless times. Tonight I was in a room filled with a couple hundred men who recited the words of this precious prayer in near unison. They knew it well.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer

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Scripture tells us that in this life we will have trouble. It reminds us that we all fall short of the glory of God and that the world we live in is filled with trials, temptations, and tribulations. We can get so overwhelmed by our circumstances and current situation that we forget that there is a God who loves us and who is with us wherever we go.

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 1:9 (NIV)

In Joshua, Chapter 1, while the people were grieving the loss of their prophet and nation’s leader,  I am sure Joshua was mourning the loss of his friend and mentor as well. In the midst of this tumultuous change, God calls Joshua forth to lead the Lord’s people into the Promised Land. God rewinds the tape, so to speak, and reminds Joshua of His faithfulness. The Lord promises that He will never leave nor forsake Joshua or His people.

In light of the troubles and the unknown he faced, the Lord told Joshua not to be afraid nor be discouraged. God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous, for God is faithful, and wherever Joshua goes, God will be there with him.

You will recall from your Bible study that after God used Moses to deliver His people from Egypt, they wandered around the wilderness aimlessly without purpose for 40 years. The entire generation of men who left Egypt during the Exodus would die in the desert, except Joshua and Caleb who did not slander the land by disobeying God. Joshua, a fervent warrior and man of prayer, followed God in faithful obedience, time and time again.

When we walk in faithful obedience to what God calls us to do and where the Lord tells us to go, good things follow. Scripture repeatedly demonstrates to us that blessings flow from faithfulness. While it may not seem easy to be faithful or remain faithful, God instructs us to be strong and courageous for He will be with us wherever we go.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 (NIV).

Through a relationship with Jesus Christ, you and I can know what it’s like to have God be with us wherever we go. While our situation or our circumstances may seem insurmountable to us, God is faithful. He has not left us nor forsaken us. For God, Scripture proclaims, nothing is impossible. Just as God provided entrance into the Promised Land for the Israelites through their new leader Joshua, the Lord offers the Way into Heaven for you and I through the precious shed blood of His son, Jesus Christ. The work is done. All that remains for us to do is repent and believe in the atoning work of the Son on that Cross at Calvary over 2,000 years ago.

The center of God’s will is the safest place to be in the entire Universe.

Be strong and be courageous.

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What Does the Lord Require of You?

Have you ever noticed how Scripture repeatedly shows us two paths–two distinct patterns—that we can choose to follow? One road leads us to God while the other leads us astray, eventually ending in the Lake of Fire.

Jesus loved teaching in parables to help his disciples and other followers come to a greater understanding of godly principles and righteous thinking. I am reminded of one of my favorite parables found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 21, verses 28-32.

In the parable, a father directs his two sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son initially refuses but then changes his mind and does as his father instructed. The second son immediately tells his father that he will go work in the vineyard as his father asked him to but does not go. Jesus asks his disciples which one of the sons they thought did the will  of his father. The disciples correctly reply “The first.”

Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV)

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

While we are quick to note that Jesus, out of his love for others, spent time with sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes, yet we misunderstand his reason for investing time in the lost, the last, the least and the lonely. He did not do so because he approved of their behavior. He did not simply overlook their shortcomings and show them love despite their disobedience without addressing their need for repentance. He loved them, just like He loves us. But in that love, He spoke Truth to them. Jesus spent time with them so that they might see the light of men who shone in the darkness and that darkness could not overcome. Jesus invested time in lost and hurting souls to lead them to repentance and return them to the paths of righteousness God had paved for them.

While God sees us in our rebellion, He loves us, demonstrating that love through giving His only begotten Son as an atonement for our disobedience and sinfulness. God does this not so that we would continue in our walk of wickedness or down our paths of sin, but so that we would repent, turning away from our rebellious disobedience, and return to walking in faithful obedience to Him, as God intended for us to do all along.

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From the first acts of disobedience to the last, God’s heart breaks for us, because our rebellion separates us from Him, just like the second son, through his deception and disobedience,  put an obstacle in the relationship separating him and from his earthly father.

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Even though we rebel and disobey God initially, we can return to right standing with Him, through repentance and by believing in the atoning work of His son, Jesus Christ, on a Cross at Calvary over 2,000 years ago.

God is for you, not against you. He has made the way for you to return to Him through repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Do not let the chains of your disobedience continue to shackle your soul. Step away from your chains, that God has loosened, and begin living a life of faithful obedience to the Lord God Almighty. What are you waiting for? There is no time like right now.

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I’ll be praying for you.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (NIV)