There is a report of a man named Wayne in Pittston, Pennsylvania, who in 1997 , was bitten by a cobra belonging to his friend Roger after reaching into the tank to pick the poisonous snake up. Refusing to get to a nearby hospital saying, “I’m a man. I can handle it,” Wayne suggested instead that he and his friend go to a bar and share in several pints of beer. All the time he was there he boasted about the bite and how much of a man he was. Unfortunately for Wayne, cobra venom is a toxin in the blood-stream and causes damage to the central nervous system. Within a hour Wayne was dead. Was Wayne a “real man?” Was Wayne courageous and strong?
I’ve been reading in Book of Joshua in the Bible these days. In chapter 1, this “strong and courageous” thing seems to really matter. In just nine verses the phrase comes up three times. Right after God tells Joshua says, “Moses is dead, now you pick up the job and finish what we started here” (my free interpretation), God emphasizes his call to Joshua with the words, “Be strong and courageous.” Each time the commands comes, there is a different element that follows.
“Be strong and courageous; for you shall…possess the land.” (You will accomplish the promise with assurance).
“Be strong and very courageous; being careful to keep my commands…” (Follow my ways).
“Be strong and courageous; for I am with you” (You’re not alone, the Lord your God is with you).
Strength and courage, in this passage, are not linked with doing incredibly dangerous and daring acts nor the performing of amazingly stupid acts, rather they are tied to living for God’s purposes in the world, walking in His ways, and trusting and acknowledging of God’s Presence as the source of strength. Strength and courage, in other words, are linked to my dependence upon and obedience to God.
The fact that this command shows up three times at the beginning of Joshua’s story may indicate just how important it is to the life that God calls me to. What is God calling you to these days? What would it mean for you to be “strong and courageous” as you move ahead?