The last time I saw my grandfather alive he made fun of me for being a pastor. You’ve probably heard the jokes or even made them yourself. “What does a pastor do all week anyway? You only work like one hour.” I wanted to tell my grandpa we have two worship services on Sunday morning, and they go for three hours by themselves....
Joshua summarized the conquest of Israel with this line: “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45).
Years earlier, when Joshua stood at the edge of the Jordan preparing to cross into the land of Canaan, God strengthened the new leader with three resounding promises. The first referred to God’s plan, the second to God’s power, and the third to God’s presence. It was Joshua’s confidence in the reliability of God’s Word that carried him through intense warfare and the eventual conquest of thirty-one kings. He was able to “be strong and courageous,” because he believed and acted on his faith in the promise that “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
As the eleven apostles prepared for Jesus’ departure and stood at the edge of their assignment to bring the gospel to all nations, the Lord strengthened them with a strikingly similar promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The assurance of our Lord’s presence with us, reinforced by the certainty of his promise, empowers us to play the role assigned to us in his plan.
The central and recurring promise God made to Joshua was of his presence: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). It was that promise that undergirded the other two about God’s plan and his power.
Apart from God’s presence, there is no power, and all other plans fall apart. But when we know that God is with us, we can serve as channels of his power to accomplish his purposes.
For Joshua, this meant facing impossible odds and literally conquering giants. For the apostles, it meant facing persecution and (for most of them) martyrdom, as they preached the gospel.
For us, it means:
- Waging the daily battle with sin
- Trusting in God’s plan even when it doesn’t make sense to us
- Being bold in our evangelism
- Devoting our lives to the completion of our global mission
Our commission is to make disciples of all nations. Jesus’ promise to be with us gives us an unshakable certainty that our efforts – indeed, our warfare – are not in vain. Just as God promised Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot” (1:3), so Jesus promised to build his church “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
The gospel is relentlessly and unstoppably advancing to the ends of the earth. “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Just as God’s plan was to give the land of Canaan to Israel, so God’s plan is to give the nations of the earth to his Son as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8).
And God always supplies the power to accomplish his plan. To Joshua he said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). To his apostles, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
God’s people will be his witnesses. Nothing can stop that; the plan is in place. The Holy Spirit has been poured out in power. In him, believers house the glorious presence of God. So let’s move forward, as Joshua did, empowered by the promise. Let’s “be strong and courageous” to proclaim the gospel wherever God has us and to bring this message to the nations!