In case you haven’t noticed, we are more than halfway through the month of December. Yes, the last month of the year. And since most are caught up with Christmas festivities and holidays, it’s only a matter of time before they realise that they have run out of year.
For me, it’s been an interesting 2014. This entire year has been a year of transition … stepping down as pastor, and then as dean, developing Archippus Awakening, preaching itinerantly, living by faith all over again, not really knowing what lies ahead nor where I am going. The last phrase might sound a tad irresponsible but I assure you that my eyes are constantly fixed on the Lord for He is the One who led me out and will lead me on. Still, there are many moments of doubt, anxiety and even fear (yes, I am normal). This has caused me to return to and to hold on to a very familiar phrase from Scripture: “Be strong and of good courage.”
Whilst most may remember this from Joshua 1:9, I don’t think it is quite as known that this same phrase is recorded more than a few times as God prepared Israel to transition from the wilderness into the Promised Land, from the end of Deuteronomy to the start of Joshua. A perfect SEVEN times, to be exact. Since discovering this, I have developed a message entitled, “Trekking Through Transitions”. Where I have shared it, it has brought encouragement to many.
Here’s a brief overview of the SEVEN instances this phrase is used with its corresponding principles:
- Deut 31:3-6 We can be strong and courageous because God is the One who goes before us. Keep eyes on Him, not on man. He has been faithful in the past, He will be faithful again and again.
- Deut 31:7-8 We have to be strong and courageous because our obedience will bless and impact others. Our faithfulness to our assignments are for the benefit of serving others.
- Deut 31:22-23 It’s one thing to hear it from others. It’s totally another to hear it directly from the Lord. Write it down. Read it again. And again. Holding on to what He has said directly and personally enables us to be strong and courageous.
- Josh 1:6 We can be strong and courageous because we have a God who keeps His promise. Trace it all the way back to Abraham and know that we are partaker of the same promise as faith descendants of Abraham, in Christ.
- Josh 1:7-8 We must be strong and courageous because standing on and living out the Word of God without compromise requires strength and courage. In times of transition, doubt and anxiety, the tendency and temptation to justify and compromise is the greatest.
- Josh 1:9 We can be strong and courageous because we know that God not only goes before us, He also promises to go with us. And His presence enables us to work from a position of rest.
- Josh 1:16-18 We can be strong and courageous because God will bring others to journey with us, to co-labour alongside us. Don’t fall for the “I’m all alone” lie and trap. Stay in community and draw strength and courage from one another.
Each time I preach this message, I make it a point to preach it to myself first. After all, I also need to hear it over and over again. Whether a short or a drawn out one, transitions are never easy. I believe that is why the Holy Spirit inspired this line, “Be strong and of good courage.” to be recorded seven times that God’s people may be perfectly and soundly encouraged.
In a couple of weeks’ time, we will cross into a new year. Significantly, it will be another milestone for our family requiring more adjustments. Archippus Awakening will step up to the next gear and become, God-willing, more visible. And all this, amidst a very uncertain global outlook (who would have thought that a cafe in Sydney would have come under siege?) and possible economic upheavals.
Oh, how we need to remember these principles that we may be able to apply it in our various situations and transitions. For sure, trekking through transitions involves too many unknowns. That said, I have come to learn that when God leads us into a season of transition, we can look forward to a major and glorious breakthrough at the other end!
Wishing one and all a very blessed Christmas and a glorious new year! Be strong and of good courage!