Those of you who follow my blog site, know that recently our granddaughter Ashlyn and her husband Josh had a handsome little baby boy named Sawyer Joshua Murphy. Little Sawyer was a WARRIOR for The Lord from the time that God formed him in his mother’s womb until he went home to spend an eternity with our Heavenly Father eighteen days after his birth due to heart and lung issues. Sawyer’s story so positively affected the lives of tens of thousands of people across the world for The Lord for months as Ashlyn so transparently and courageously shared the story of their family through The Murphy Family blog site. During even the hardest and darkest of days, Ashlyn and Josh stood fast in their faith in Almighty God and trusted His Word that promised to Joshua of old (and to each of His followers): ” … Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.” (Joshua 1:9)
How is it possible that two relatively young Christians can continuously exhibit so much Christian faith and genuine courage as they face such difficult times? How did they muster the strength to continue in the face of such heartbreak? What can we learn from the experience of this young couple that will strengthen us so that we can face similar difficulties that lie ahead? Do we have to face life’s trials on our own? And after the immediate trial is over, how do we gain the courage to continue?
Let’s examine in more depth the scripture passage that Ashlyn and Josh relied upon so heavily to sustain them during their most recent difficult days.
Joshua 1:1-9 (RSV) – After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, 2 “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphra′tes, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Fear is a crippling emotion. The Bible teaches that God does not want His followers to dread what they are now facing or will face in the future. God is on our side and because of His loving-kindness (mercy) He will take care of us regardless of the circumstances. God gave us the emotion of fear for a good reason and it is natural for all of us to feel afraid at times. But God never meant for his followers to allow fear to control them. When fear takes control it often supersedes our ability to reason and overshadows our faith. God felt so strongly about not letting our fears control us that He gave us His promise and commanded us to “Be Strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed … (Joshua 1:9).” Whether it is a commandment or not, how do we stay strong and face undesirable and unknown circumstances without fear? The Bible teaches that the Christian has a distinct advantage over the non-Christian in that the Christian has God on their side … just as Joshua had God on his side.
Joshua had long ago left the bondage of Egypt along with Moses and the Children of Israel. Through the leadership of Moses God had provided the Ten Commandments and had safely led the Israelites through the desert to the outskirts of their future home. Constant complaining, bickering, disobedience and outright rebellion by the Israelites filled their forty-year journey and delayed their arrival. Moses had petitioned God more than once to have mercy on the Israelites and forgive their unfaithfulness. God was faithful and granted Moses’ requests. Then came the incident related in Numbers 20:2-11 (ESV). The Children of Israel camped at Kadesh where water was scarce for them and for their animals. “And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron (vs. 2).” Moses and Aaron humbled themselves by falling on their faces before the hostile people and the Lord “and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle (vs. 7-8).” Probably because of his anger with the people at their continued hostility and quarrelsome spirit, instead of God’s command to “tell the rock” Moses “struck the rock” “… and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.” In his anger Moses had disobeyed God’s command by striking instead of telling. While God still brought forth the water, Moses sin of disobedience would not go unpunished. As his punishment, God told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land and that the mantle of leadership would be passed to Joshua. (Deuteronomy 3:23-28).
Moses died in the wilderness and Joshua was now in charge. God told Joshua to lead the Israelites against those who already occupied the Promised Land and take it from them. But there was a huge obstacle. The Promised land was full of experienced warriors. Joshua had every human reason to be afraid. How in the world would he be able to assemble an army from a group of whiners who had never fought a battle in their lives?
This is how! Joshua believed and trusted in God’s promises! Specifically, God promised Joshua that “5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” God continued the promise by saying (vs. 7) “… be strong and very courageous.” God told Joshua to follow His instructions specifically … not wavering to the right or left … to obtain the results God promised. Success was also dependent upon Joshua continuing to faithfully meditate on and obey the Scriptures (vs. 8-9).
You see, God wanted His divine wisdom, not Joshua’s human logic, to guide the campaign to take the Promised Land. Dependence on God requires our trust in Him and not in ourselves. On his own, I am absolutely sure that Joshua would never have derived such an unusual plan to take Jericho! Come on … march around seven times and then blow the trumpet and watch the walls fall down? Doesn’t sound like a way to defeat mighty warriors to me! But who am I to question God? Why would I depend on my own courage and strength when the God of the Universe who spoke us into existence said that He is Our Source of Courage!
For the purpose of this article I like this explanation of courage offered on the InTouch Ministries website:
“Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables us to meet danger, opposition, or the challenges of life with fearlessness, calmness, and firmness. Someone who has courage may still feel afraid but–through the power of God–can act with confidence.”
God is the source of the Christian’s courage. You can rely on God to keep His promises. God promised Joshua that He, and He alone, would be the source of Joshua’s courage. Joshua could depend on God and so can you as a Christian. Strengthen your courage through a regular prayer life and Bible study. Don’t just ask God for courage. Ask Him for help to interpret His leadership. Meditate on His Word with a calm spirit and a pure heart. Make sure you are following God’s plan and not your own. Recall previous instances when God has been faithful to see you through difficult circumstances. Know that God has everything, yes EVERYTHING, under His control! Turn your eyes and heart away from the circumstances and towards Almighty God! With God as Our Source of Courage, we have nothing to fear!
Ashlyn continues to relate the story of The Murphy Family, their faith in God, and their courage at her blog site. Little Sawyer is now with the Lord in Heaven and is perfect in every way. Through the heartbreak I see Ashlyn and Josh’s courage growing as they face the future with hope and trust in Almighty God’s plan for their lives. To God be the Glory!
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I am saddened for your sweet grandchildren. I pray God’s comfort and peace in the midst of this storm.