Words of Encouragement


I love the story of Joshua in the Old Testament. From the story of his youth of spying in the promised land, to the transition to leadership of the Hebrew people, his story is filled with faith and confidence in God.

God speaks encouragement to Joshua a number of times before he takes on leadership. God’s message is, “Be strong and courageous.” God speaks this to prepare Joshua for what is to come. We first see it in Deuteronomy 31.

This happens often in our lives. Before God invites us into something, he prepares us with a message that speaks to our character. He prepares us for what he calls us into. In Joshua’s case, he was about to lead his people, a people who were known not for their courage at this point, but for their grumbling and complaining, into a land of giants.

As I was reading through the first few books of the Old Testament in my devotions recently, I was struck that Israel (at this point in the story) is constantly handing themselves over to their fears. I had always thought of this word to Joshua as a personal word. I had never really thought about the fact he is about to take on the doubts and complaints of a whole nation who is chronicled to be full of complainers.

As I have been looking at this message in the context of Joshua’s life, I noticed that Joshua already looks courageous in contrast to the rest of Israel. He and Caleb were the only spies of the 12 who thought it would be a good idea to take the land God had promised. Their report was one of courage.

I find it interesting that God is telling Joshua to be strong and courageous. God is not implying Joshua is weak and timid. God is preparing him for what he will face. Joshua is about to come in conflict with naysayers and complainers at every turn. He is about to lead the same people who were scared to leave Egypt, wanted to turn around at the Red Sea, wanted to go back to Egypt because of hunger in the desert, and who built a golden calf to worship when Moses was gone too long. Let’s face it, the track record of these people was not one of courage.

Joshua is being told by God before he steps into leadership that he must stand firm, be strong and courageous and know that God is with him because, let’s face it, the people are not always going to be on his side (or ours). This coming season for Joshua is one of intense growth of strength and courage. He is not only needing to be strong for himself but for a whole nation.

Usually this phrase, be strong and courageous, is quoted from Joshua 1:9. But this is just a reminder of what God had already spoken over Joshua. God is not just faithful to remain with Joshua, he is also faithful to remind Joshua of what he has invited him into in this season.

God supplies, in his grace, what is needed for the season he has us in. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. But he is there with us. The season is both for our benefit and the benefit of others.

I love how God leads us. He prepares us for the seasons ahead with encouragement, and walks through it with us, reminding us of what he says and that he is still with us.

I have found it so helpful in my life to reflect on those words God shares that prepare me for the season God is leading me into. It is so important to hear them because it sustains me when opposition comes. My peace is not shaken as I know God is with me and intends something good through it. Those words spoken to me in preparation, like Joshua, allow me to say, oh yeah, God told me to remain strong and courageous. He warned me these people would doubt this plan, but I can’t give in to them.

God is never surprised by what happens, by what we face. Sometimes we act as though things come out of nowhere, and to us they do. But God is never surprised. He may be saddened or angry at something, but not surprised. He is our shelter in the unforeseen storms of life. He prepares us, and prepares a place for us in whatever arises.

God’s preparatory words of encouragement bring comfort and boldness in times of need. For Joshua those words were be strong and courageous. What is he speaking to you?

Words that Change us


An hour before I was to teach a class on how to hear God’s voice last week, I realized most of what I had prepared (although I think it was great) was not going to be most beneficial. I sensed in that moment God wanted people to get a taste of what it is like to hear his voice. So, I scrapped most of my teaching and engaged in exercises of surrender, listening and practicing testing words in groups.

I love receiving (and giving) good teaching. I love to hear others unpack the scriptures, to reveal the heart and invitation of God to us. There is so much I have yet to learn. At the same time, I think we often rely on others to handle our spiritual formation.

Since this moment of surrendering what I planned, I have been thinking how our culture is so reliant on the information provided by others. If I have a question, I ask my phone or look it up in a book. I could even watch one of the 10,000 documentaries that can be seen on streaming services. There is so much readily available information within our culture.

This is true in the church as well. There are multiple books on any subject one could ever want to know. There are Christian podcasts, online sermons, and blogs (yes I see the irony) everywhere you look on the internet. These are not bad things, except they have taken a primary role for many people. There is a place for all of these theological pursuits, especially for people called to certain roles in our churches.

The issue we face is when spirituality becomes more of an academic pursuit than a way of life. Our God is all about revelation. He continues to reveal more and more to his people. But revelation comes with an invitation. We are to live differently, more like Jesus, as God reveals things to us.

There have been seasons of my life where God keeps bringing up the same thing. He does this because I haven’t understood or been obedient to his invitation yet. A new revelation wouldn’t be good for me. He knows what revelation is needed in the moment.

The place we need to start our spiritual formation is in a personal life steeped in scripture and prayer.

This blog entry is less about put down that book, and more about spend time with Jesus. In a university course, there is often supplemental reading that is not required. That is how we must see the other stuff out there. Prayer and scripture in a believers life are the daily necessities, the required reading list. Which list would you go to first in school? Prayer and scripture are where we go to for revelation, to encounter God in an intimate and personal way. It is where we understand the invitation of God daily.

God has a personal revelation and invitation for each one of us, not necessarily in the grandiose Abraham-like calling. But he is inviting us into deeper relationship and to join him in what he is doing. Although God gets our attention through others, we are missing out on so much if we are not taking time to listen to God in prayer and scripture ourselves. Remember, God wants to reveal things to you. He is not hiding it in the revelation of others.

As much as I am talking about personal call and revelation, this is not to be discerned apart from community. We are to be sharing these revelations with one another, encouraging each other, praying for one another, and testing revelation collectively. This is a part of the process of hearing from God. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are supporting each other and looking out for the other’s best interest.

I understand there are seasons of life where the need for the teaching of others is more important. When you are new in your faith there is a lot to learn. In the early years of faith there is so much to navigate through, so many lies to work through, the impact of culture to renounce and brand new practices to learn. There is a reason why the church in the New Testament is instructed not to raise people into leadership too soon. Passion doesn’t cover over the need for spiritual maturity.

I love my literary mentors. Theologians like Bonhoeffer, Barth and Packer have caused me to examine my beliefs and practices in countless ways. They have inspired me and taught me so much. As one that is called to teach and equip others, they have helped me understand more fully spiritual truths I only knew in part before.

Mentors both living and dead will continue to be a part of my discipleship, but there is so much to receive from God himself. He has given us an invitation to “Be Still and know that I am God”. There is an invitation to discover him afresh daily. I want to say yes to this invitation. How about you?