The soldiers of an infantry unit had been in the field for two weeks when the Sergeant announces, “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“First the good news. Today we’re going to change our underwear.”
The troops start cheering wildly.
“Now the bad news,” continues the Sarge. “Smith, you change with Jones. Andrews, you change with Murphy…..”
Change. It’s challenging. Often unnerving. Sometimes undesirable. Even disgusting, like in my terrible joke. But change occurs.
It seems our country is changing at warp speed. Morals. Laws. Values. Attitudes. Traditions. They are all changing.
So, how do we deal with change that can be frightening?
There’s a great example in the Old Testament. Moses had led Israel for 40 years. From slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness wanderings, to the brink of Canaan, the promised land.
Now Moses was dead and Israel had a new leader, Joshua. They were about to cross the Jordan River into a new land. Much had changed both for the nation and for Joshua who was once Moses’ assistant but now is in charge.
On the brink of this exciting new task, God encourages Joshua in one of the great verses of the Bible, Joshua 1:9.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As they were about to traverse territory, engage in new experience, and encounter enemies of God’s people, they were buoyed with this wonderful promise. It is one that should empower and ennoble us as we deal with change.
(1) Be strong.
Strength to face unfavorable changes comes from God. The apostle Paul exhorted, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:10). When others are weak and wavering, muster the will to stand up and speak up for Lord.
The words of our 30th President Calvin Coolidge have never been more appropriate: “We do not need more national development, we need more spiritual development. We do not need more intellectual power, we need more spiritual power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.”
(2) Be courageous.
Strength and courage are naturally coupled together. Courage is virtue. Valor. Moral excellence. It is bravery. Boldness. Alertness. And steadfastness.
Three times in the text, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. It is the same advice Moses gave Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6. And it is the counsel we need in times of troubling change.
God can give you the strength, but as one poet put it, “courage must come from the soul within, the man must furnish the will to win.” In a world gone mad with lust and license, we need the courage to resist ungodly changes.
Parents need the courage to say “no” amusements that will harm their children spiritually. Young Christians need the strength to withstand peer-pressure and the courage of their convictions to live godly in an ungodly world. Preachers need the courage to preach the whole counsel of God even when it’s unpopular. And Shepherds need the courage to lead God’s people in paths of righteousness regardless of political pressure.
(3) Remember God is with you.
Joshua’s strength and courage was fortified by the knowledge of Jehovah’s presence. There is no need to fear. To be discouraged. Or dismayed. The Psalmist is right. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps 145:18)
In the midst of unsettling change, be not afraid. Be strong. Be courageous. Trust God. He is there for you.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman